SÃO PAULO, Brazil – As the country increases its investments in preparation for the 2014 World Cup, more Brazilians are enrolling in English courses.
At least 600,000 foreigners are expected to travel to Brazil for the World Cup, spending an estimated R$7.2 billion (US$4.2 billion), according to the Ministry of Tourism.
The problem is that only 3.4% of Brazil’s 190 million residents speak fluent English, according to employment agency Catho Online.
In order to train those who will be welcoming this influx of visitors, the Ministry of Tourism has created the online English course “Olá, Turista!” (“Hello, Tourist!”).
Between September 2009 and December 2011, 80,000 receptionists, waiters, hotel workers, salespeople and other professionals from the tourism industry received free classes.
Mary Bezerril, the manager of the Lua Cheia hostel, located on the beach in Ponta Negra, Natal, Rio Grande do Norte, took advantage of the opportunity to improve her English skills.
“We get a lot of foreigners here,” Bezerril says. “Learning another language allows us to be more confident.”
In anticipation of the increased demand expected for 2014, two more floors are being added to the hostel, which can accommodate 52 visitors.
About 3,400 kilometers (2,112 miles) away, Donizete Rodrigues also took advantage of the program. He manages the Marimar Hostel, in Ilha do Mel, Paraná, 100 kilometers (62 miles) from Curitiba – another 2014 World Cup host city.
Bezerril and Rodrigues spent 80 hours in front of the computer, studying English. They took an online exam to test their knowledge and receive certificates.
“With this event, we’re hoping to triple the number of foreigners in Ilha do Mel,” Rodrigues says.
In January, the Brazilian Support Service for Micro and Small Businesses (SEBRAE) launched the “Taxista Nota 10” (“A+ Taxi Driver”) program. The goal is to offer free English or Spanish training to 80,000 taxi drivers by 2013.
Those who enroll in the course receive materials by mail, including a workbook and audio CDs. After 120 hours of independent study, the students take exams at local branches of the Transportation Social Service (SEST) or the National Transportation Training Service (SENAT). Those who pass receive certificates in the mail.
Large-scale events are also increasing demand in the language school market. The segment is expected to grow between 30% and 40% by 2016, according to the consulting firm Netplan.
In the World Cup host cities and Rio de Janeiro, which will also host the 2016 Olympic Games, enrollment has already increased by 60% in 2011 in the chain of CNA language schools.
CNA has 700,000 students enrolled nationwide.
In March, the chain launched “CNA Hello,” directed at professionals from the service and tourism industries. The course lasts six months and will be offered at all 701 of the chain’s schools.
“The students will learn, for example, how to greet a tourist, how to help them in a store, how to give change from a purchase, etc.,” says Leonardo Cirino, CNA’s director of marketing.
The profile of English students has also changed – businesspeople are no longer the majority, according to the language schools.
“As these big events approach, the services sector started to seek out English classes,” says Sérgio Barreto, the director of research and development for the Ometz Group, which manages the Wise Up chain of schools.
As a result, in March the chain will welcome the first students in its Pu2gether course, which lasts for one month. Unlike the school’s regular 18-month, classroom-based course, this new approach will offer satellite-transmitted lessons via TV.
At the online school Education First Englishtown, which developed the “Olá, Turista!” website, 20% of the students mention the upcoming sporting events when asked why the enrolled.
“The job opportunities for people who speak English are increasing and the salaries are going up,” says Julio De Angeli, vice president of Education First Englishtown for Europe and the Americas.
Meanwhile, the Multi Group, which is the largest language education conglomerate in Brazil, introduced the “Brasil 2014” guide for independent study in January.
“The book offers more than 2,000 phrases, verbs and expressions that are used when speaking with a foreign tourist,” says Carlos Wizard Martins, the company’s president.
In order to practice pronunciation, the “Brasil 2014” guide comes with a pen that scans barcodes in the book and repeats the words and phrases in English. The package costs R$199 (US$116) and is on sale at the group’s 3,500 locations throughout Brazil.
With the eyes of the world on Brazil, even schools catering to other types of students are getting in on the action.
CEL®LEP, which caters to the business segment, launched the “Os gringos estão chegando” (“The gringos are coming”) campaign, warning about the opportunities that could be lost by not speaking English.
Given estimates that the World Cup will pump R$183 billion (US$106 billion) into the Brazilian economy by 2019, CEL®LEP’s warning is justified.
Bononi, who has a degree in Business Administration, began studying Systems Analysis and Development this year, and he intends to pursue a career in the field of information technology.
“With these events confirmed in Brazil, there will be a boom in technology and development in the coming years,” he says. “And knowing English is a must.”