Tonight England are playing Brazil at Wembley. I wish I could be there, because I love football and especially the way it’s played in Brazil. But there’s a lot more that we at NILE love about Brazil and the involvement we have had with language education professionals from Brazil for over 20 years. Since 1995, NILE has worked with teachers and trainers from over 70 countries, but every year we have faced new challenges and new inspiration in our collaboration with ELT in Brazil, partly because of the fact that Brazil is so big and varied in its many dimensions and partly because it’s so far away. Despite that, Brazil has been part of our NILE working lives for over 2 decades, since a first group of university teachers of English came to NILE from North-East Brazil in 1996. Since then we have worked with thousands of Brazilian teachers both here at NILE in Norwich and in Brazil.
Over the years we have developed a range of networks and contacts involving both the public and private sectors, working with and through the British Council, with the FCO and DIT in São Paulo, with regional education authorities, with ‘culturas’ in Rio, São Paulo and the North-East, and with ABCI, the national association of ‘culturas’. We have developed very close relationships throughout Brazil, with ‘Friends of NILE’ now in a range of professional organisations and in cities and regions as far apart as Brasilia, Fortaleza, Recife, Salvador, Rio, São Paulo, Maringa and Curitiba, all of which I have had the pleasure of visiting and working in recently. We have been represented with NILE speakers at every BrazTESOL Conference in the last 20 years, at every ABCI and LABCI event and at many more national and regional events, where we have learned a lot about ELT in Brazil and hope we have contributed to professional and institutional development there. And we have centres for the delivery of our MA, the MA in Professional Development in Language Education (MAPDLE), in the prestigious ‘Culturas’ in Rio and São Paulo, which has meant that we now have lots of Brazilian teachers doing the MA with us, and very successfully, too, with the latest results described by our external examiner as really impressive.
The last year has seen a further strengthening of ties, with NILE support for teachers across Brazil through our global partnership with Macmillan Education and NILE’s involvement in an initially advisory role in a number of potential major teacher training and teacher development projects. I was myself commissioned by the British Council and English UK, because of my extensive knowledge of Brazil and ELT in Brazil, to produce a major report on English in Brazil, which involved a fascinating combination of desk work, reading national and international reports and a series of interviews in Brazil with key players in and commentators on the past, present and potential future roles and significance of English in and for Brazil. It was a really interesting but also a really difficult job, involving the interpretation of a huge amount of often conflicting evidence. But the report, initially asked for in November 2016, exactly a year ago, was produced and launched at the English UK Conference in Bristol in May this year and was well received. I learnt a huge amount more about Brazil. I feel sure that despite present difficulties and uncertainties, particularly on the economic and political fronts – lots of people said to me that Brazil is holding its breath – Brazil will have a great future and that English will have a big role to play in that.
I’m just back from a week in Austria, following a 2-week tour of Brazil for NILE and Macmillan, speaking at conferences and running workshops, and I was strongly reminded of how big Brazil is. I did some 25,000 kilometres for my Brazil trip, always by plane, while in Austria it was short train journeys. I’ve learnt this year that the population of São Paulo is twice the size of the population of the whole of Austria. I sometimes wonder how anyone can manage to effect beneficial change in such a huge country, for example in the fields of language education and teacher development, but I hope that NILE will be able to make a big contribution to some plans that are being discussed at the moment. We want to see ELT in Brazil continue to develop impressively across all sectors – as you’ve probably realised, NILE and I are Brazilophile. But tonight, when we meet in the beautiful game, I’m still hoping for a rare England win.
President and Founder, NILE
14th November 2017