World Cup And Olympics Take Brazil Back To School

By Dialogo
August 10, 2010

I think this idea of promoting the study of another language, will have a favorable affect on the socio-economic reality of the Brazilian people, and consequently the end-users, that is the foreigners that visit Brazil, it is a motivating and creative way of improving the educational and cultural level of a people, that will also bring economic benefits, and have an impact on their standard of living. Congratulations on that initiative. I find the advance work laudable in preparing tourist assistants in dealing with people for such a great sporting-tourist event like the World Cup 2016 will be. With the necessary time they will be able to practice and expand their knowledge in the foreign languages they will learn. Don’t forget that Brazil is a cosmopolitan country so two or three more languages aside from their native language will be very beneficial for them. I applaud such an idea and practice if it is successfully accomplished it will offer much to the tourist and its own citizens and it will be exceptionally welcomed.
On its way to hosting the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, Brazil has to go back to school.

As major investments are being made in construction, remodeling sports arenas, infrastructure and public security, Rio de Janeiro’s government also has decided to offer its workforce language courses and tourism training.

According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), Brazilians had an average of seven years of schooling in 2008, and about 10% of the population was illiterate.

The combined gross enrollment ratio for primary, secondary and higher education in Brazil was 87.5% in 2008, according to the United Nations’ Human Development Report. In contrast, the United Kingdom, which will host the 2012 Olympic Games in London, has a rate of 93%.

And in a country where many hardly speak their mother tongue – Portuguese – in a grammatically correct way, speaking a foreign language is a privilege of only a few.

However, an initiative by the city’s Rio Tourism Company (Riotur) will offer additional educational opportunities to those involved in the tourism industry.

The Rio + Hospitable program will help professionals working in the gastronomy industry (bars, restaurants and kiosks), hotels and tourism (receptionists, travel agents, guides and information desk attendants), transport (taxi and bus drivers) and security (municipal guards and tourist police units).

In addition, 18,000 bus drivers and their assistants will be able to study either English or Spanish. The Federation of Enterprises of Passenger Transport of the State of Rio de Janeiro (FETRANSPOR) will start offering the language courses in November.

FETRANSPOR’s goal is to benefit all of its 40,000 workers in the state of Rio before 2014.

Estácio de Sá University was chosen to hold Rio + Hospitable classes, which initially will be offered from Aug.16 to Oct. 30 to 4,000 professionals working directly or indirectly with tourism.

The program received R$1.5 million (US$862,000) in funding from the Ministry of Tourism, and enrollment and attendance are free of charge.

The 28-hour course includes group exercises, audiovisual resource training and fieldtrips to touristic spots. Lessons on interpersonal and intergroup relations, communications, ethics, professional behavior, history of the city and protecting the environment also are included in the curricula.

“For some students this will be their first opportunity to attend a higher education institution,” says Divina Marcia Santos, coordinator of the non-credit courses at Estácio de Sá.

“Often they are required to speak in English or Spanish and are extremely shy to answer,” says Ana Rosa Bonilauri, director of FETRANSPOR’s corporate university. “Our goal is that they learn at least a little English and Spanish, enabling them to conduct simple conversations while guiding and showing tourists Rio’s main spots and the places where the games will take place.”

Students will use educational DVDs to study at home, but they also will be helped by Spanish and English instructors as needed.

The duration of the course will depend on the student, but FETRANSPOR estimates an average of two months each. At the end of the program, students will take a test to be certified.

Nine years of schooling are required to be a bus driver or an assistant in Rio, but transport companies accept applicants who have been in school less time.

“Many foreigners take this line (Copacabana),” says fare collector Debora Mendonça de Oliveira. “Just today I had a passenger who couldn’t understand anything I was saying, and I couldn’t understand him either. So, I’ll enjoy the chance of learning another language, not only for the two big events in Rio, but in an attempt to make my life better.”

Government officials expect that by 2016 there will be an increased demand for skilled workers. The 2014 World Cup is expected to generate 170,000 jobs – 100,000 of them in tourism, according to the Ministry of Sports.

The city of Rio is expected to receive 79,000 foreign tourists for soccer’s biggest event, according to Riotur. For the 2016 Olympic Games, Riotur estimates 196,000 visitors from different countries.

“It’s very important to begin now training the professionals who will work directly with the tourists,” says Antonio Pedro Figueira de Mello, Rio’s Secretary of Tourism. “We believe we will create a culture of good service, building a positive image that [shows] the carioca (people from Rio) are the most hospitable [people] in the world.”