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« A Tale of Two Rios | Main | Brazil-U.S. Exchange: Empowering Underserved Youth through Social Media »

January 20, 2013

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PTRio

Distance learning is not the best way to learn a foreign language. Locating qualified teachers will not be easy, though there is a good source for language teachers in the private sector currently teaching language courses. Lasting past 2014? Well, I suppose that may depend on the demand, though good ideas in Brasil often fail to make it past the end of an election campaign.

Almost all studies show that learning a foreign language is best done prior to age 7-10. Or, by immersion. Granting online access to foreign language courses to "high marks" university students is a fine thing, but unfortunately most studies show it will not be very effective. Even if children only learn basics, it paves the way for further learning later in life. That is one reason I oppose dubbing all the television shows and movies here, with no ability to watch a program in its native language. Having a variety of languages for each TV show or movie is an excellent way to introduce languages and create demand for learning foreign languages. Multiple languages are almost always available for all movies now, the cable or broadcast network only needs to make them available.

But, the bottom line appears to be that the money would be far more effectively spent teaching languages to children, rather than adults.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_language

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/language-best-learned-by-age-7-study-shows-1.1319397

http://www.helium.com/items/1377046-best-age-to-learn-a-foreign-language-birth-infancy

http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/language/best-foreign-language-for-kids-to-learn/

Here is an argument to the contrary. http://esl.fis.edu/parents/advice/myth1.htm http://esl.fis.edu/parents/advice/myth2.htm

A3maniac

As a self-taught English speaker with a "valley girl" accent, I must say that I absolutely agree with your assertion that the education needs to start at an earlier level.

Having said that, I studied at one of the best private schools in Porto Alegre, and my English teacher was still TERRIBLE. At this particular school, kids were introduced to the subject still in the kindergarden, however, the quality of the teacher made it so the classes were useless. I wonder how the public system would fare against this, and if we even have enough manpower to integrate English to the curriculum from a young age.

I also worked as an ESL teacher later, during college, and I can tell you many of my colleagues were not knowledgeable enough to teach. Being foreigners, sure we would make mistakes, however, some of the instructors made me second guess our ability to expand the number of English speakers.

Personally, I started teaching myself English at the age of 6, and it took me a good 10 years before I could call myself fluent. It took a lot of work and dedication, and this is because I WANTED to learn. I cannot imagine what it's like for people who have the language forced upon them. I imagine some people will dislike it as much as Combinatory Math. :)

Rio Gringa

A3/Fernanda, thanks for the good points. And of course, there are those like you who are self-taught. It's amazing.

When it comes to a good approach from the policy side, I agree that it's complicated. The problem with unqualified teachers is a big one, which is why I think it's interesting the government is going with distance learning, presumably to avoid this problem. I'm a big proponent of immersion, but that's really difficult to do on a large scale.

Considering how many foreigners would jump at the chance to live in Brazil (and how many are living there teaching off the books anyway), it would be great if there was a govt program to allow foreigners to teach English in the short-term. Places like South Korea, Japan, and even Chile do it. Brazil could, too.

Lisa Kauffmann

This language situation will be a challenge during the World Cup and the Olympics. English language schools are everywhere here but they are financially out of reach for the majority of Brazilians. I taught English for a while at Berlitz and I really enjoyed creating lessons that had meaning and context for the needs of my students. I was the only native English speaker at the school and was always in demand. I agree that there should be a program for foreigners to come for say 6 months to help fill the gap of unqualified teachers. Who would say no?

People here want to speak English and I love to teach them a few words so they can start their journey.Immersion is better than distance learning when it comes to languages. Watching the news in English is also a good way to get one's ears familiar with the language.

I learned POrtuguese in a year by watching the 8 oclock Jornal Nacional and the novela and by practicing with anyone who would want to talk to me.

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