January 9, 2013 by Willy Cardoso
I wanted to start the year with a very positive, motivational, ‘nice’ blog post. But maybe next year.
Here’s the story:
Brazilian prostitutes will be given the chance to study English for free in order to better communicate with international clients during the upcoming World Cup.
Lots of people, many English teachers included, making fun of the situation, showing disapproval, contempt, and indignation. Where did I see that? On Facebook of course, the public forum of irrelevant banter of our time, where everyone has the chance to speak out, where the true democracy of communication happens. Where else?
Disapprovers and mockers attacked all sides of the story. Firstly, of course, is the old ‘this country is [fill in the blanks]‘. Then the prostitutes, who are uncommonly included in societal debates of this kind, with remarks like, ‘why would they need this when there are many other important things to invest on?’ Needless to say, there were also plenty of words against the government.
Let’s talk about the latter. The government, in this particular case, has absolutely nothing to do with the prostitutes taking English lessons. To start off, the initiative was taken by the local Prostitutes Association of Minas Gerais (a Brazilian state), not by the Ministry of Prostitution. Another important thing to consider: Everything will be done on a voluntary basis.
We can ask a couple of questions here:
- What are other professional associations in Brazil doing to improve the level of English of their associates? – I don’t know, but if I was a member of the prostitutes association, I’d be quite happy with the initiative and think my association actually does something for me.
- If different news had come out (which it wouldn’t have) about, let’s say, a Taxi Drivers Assoc. doing the same thing, would it cause so much scoffing? — No! Everyone would applaud.
And then people say, but taxi drivers are providing da-di-da-di-da-di-da, you know?
I say, it doesn’t matter. Here are some things we could discuss in this debate:
- Do people condemn language tuition to executives of tobacco companies? (this is just an example ok? I could’ve also said corrupt politicians) Of course not, especially because they might pay well for such service. Are they doing any better to society than prostitutes? Well, they’re all fucking someone in their own way, but draw your own conclusions.
- If you are a teacher and you’re willing to volunteer, would you teach prostitutes? Why (not)?
- Trying to formulate a hierarchy of priorities about who needs English and who doesn’t, in this case, is pretty useless. If you’ve ever travelled to a country where you didn’t speak a word of its language, and got a taxi whose driver didn’t speak a word of yours, I can bet you managed to make it to your hotel. Do taxi drivers really need English to work during the World Cup? — I don’t know, maybe some do, a whole bunch don’t. Nonetheless, when I was in Brazil in July I saw some newly published books of ‘English for Taxi Drivers’ and stuff like that. If you ask me, I think some people will make lots of money out of the situation (the World Cup) while others will keep on not learning English. Like it’s been forever.
Back to prostitution, an important fact:
It is not illegal in Brazil. Exploitation and pimping are.
Not that this information has anything to do with language lessons.
Some questions I asked myself after reading this news:
- In Brazil, how many soap opera heroines were prostitutes? — I don’t know, I don’t watch soap operas, but I can bet highly there have been a few. And there are few things more pervasive in the Brazilian culture/mindset than soap operas.
- Could learning English raise the profile of these prostitutes hence making them earn more? Or, could English, in case they learn it, give them other job opportunities, e.g. hotel receptionist?
- Why some people read online tabloid newspapers as though they were serious papers? Meaning, they take a shit piece of news and want to respond to it like it was something worth discussing? (a bit like I’m doing now)
- Why do some teachers who are apparently for democracy, equality, humanist ideals and other buzz, react so negatively to news like this? (the answer to this one is pretty easy)
I do appreciate humour by the way, and many of the comments on the topic were pretty funny, like ‘imagine the words they’ll practice’, ‘repeat after me: penis, penis, penis’, ‘lots of oral practice’, etc. Ok, funny! But it kind of makes me sad a few seconds later that the other half is just speaking contemptuously about the whole thing, especially when they are teachers!
So if you are a teacher, do you thing any demographics should be excluded from learning a foreign language? I’d be interested to know which.
If you’re a Brazilian newspaper or person and wants to take it on the preparations for the World Cup, have a go on your tax money being stolen in fraudulent overpricing of public constructions, and leave the prostitutes alone.
If you’re an international newspaper publishing the story, with your subtextual tone of ‘haha look at what those third world idiots are doing’ (well, you wouldn’t be reading this blog, but), maybe you should mind your own gun-killings, obesity problems, or what have you, and … yeh, leave the prostitutes alone.
Well, it seems I asked many questions here, so if you feel like discussing any of them, or anything else, please leave a comment below.
The news in Portuguese: from Folha de S.Paulo The news in English: from CNN.com