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Guide to Living and Teaching English in Brazil

July 16, 2013

About Brazil


Brazil - the name has long conjured up colorful images of soccer and carnival, beaches and rainforests, the many faces of a vibrant and multicultural nation. Brazil is of course one of the countries that make up the BRICs acronym and as such has a rapidly developing economy and a massive population of almost 200 million. More recently the country has been the scene of socio-political unrest and protests against corruption and the vast expense of staging the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics against a backdrop of widespread poverty and illiteracy.

One indication of the country's educational woes are reflected in its low position in global rankings of English language proficiency. A 2012 EF survey of global standards ranked Brazil at #46, in the lowest category of "very low proficiency." It lags behind the rest of Latin America as well as the global average, with the expected large variation between the urban centers and outlying rural areas. The problem is largely attributed to "the poor quality of public schools across Latin America combined with unequal access to education" and generally low levels of literacy in the native language.

The problem continues into adulthood - a 2011 survey found that only 11 percent of Brazilian job candidates could communicate well in English, and only 3.4 percent of all candidates could speak fluent English. A 2009 study found that 24 percent of Brazilian professionals speak fluent English, and that only 8 percent of Brazilian executives speak fluent English. A large majority of corporate Brazilians report that they have lost out financially due to the language barrier in international business.

This of course means lots of potential for EFL teachers, particularly in the lead up to the major sporting events. Getting a visa that allows you to work legally in Brazil is difficult (see below), so a sense of adventure, quick wits, and a thick skin will certainly increase the chances of success. As in most countries, having some friends or connections on the ground makes a huge difference when getting over the initial hurdles, looking for a job, and generally getting established.

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