English Next

To launch the recently published book “English Next” by David Graddol, British Council
Sao Paulo organized a video-conference debate with a SP panel of three experts (Lynn Mario de Souza from USP, Claudia Costin , ex- secretary of Culture for the State of SP and now vice-president of the Victor Civita Foundation and Guy Gerlach from Pearson Education). A similar panel in British Council Rio led by Janaína Cardoso (President Aplierj) interacted with an audience of 25 people on both sides, who was invited to join the debate and add other issues to the main points :

  • English is becoming less and less the property of native speakers. Language norms from the English speaking world are becoming less and less relevant as English becomes a component of basic education in many countries.
  • within a decade, the traditional private-sector market in teenage and young adult EFL learners will decline substantially leaving younger learners in schools as the only market requiring English teaching.
  • the competitive advantage which English has historically provided its acquirers will ebb away as English becomes a near-universal basic skill. As more and more people speak more than one language, the monolingual native speaker is faced with extinction.

It is an interesting study but I feel it is mostly seen through British and European lenses. In Brazil, we are still struggling with literacy in our own mother tongue at a very primary level – students read less and less and many teachers from both the public and private sector are not recognized for the work they do. Many are not properly trained to face the challenges of the 21st century. Claudia Cosin mentioned that the PISA survey placed students of the Brazilian private sector (which covers the upper middle class and la crème de la crème) among the last in an international ranking of more than 50 countries. PISA assesses

how far students near the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in society. In all cycles, the domains of reading, mathematical and scientific literacy are covered not merely in terms of mastery of the school curriculum, but in terms of important knowledge and skills needed in adult life.

What I really enjoyed after the debate was meeting and chatting with people I had not seen from university years, way back in the 80’s : Dr Heloisa Collins from PUC Sao Paulo and Betty Pow, coordinator for the Braz-Tesol Pronunciation SIG. I also renewed contact with some teachers I met during the Hornby Summer School – Teresa and Alexandre.


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