PAIVA, V.L.M.O.; PAGANO, A.S.English in Brazil with an outlook on its fucntion as a language of science. In Ammon, Ulrich (ed.). The dominance of English as a Language of science. Mouton de Gruyter.2001. p.425-445
English in Brazil with an Outlook on its Function as a Language of Science
1. English in Brazil
One might argue, as Pennycook (1994) does, that the spread of the English language and Anglo-American cultures throughout the world is the result of an effort of British and American governmental agencies, universities, religious organizations and publishing companies. Historically, the dissemination of English is linked to the political and economic policies of Britain and the United States through diverse projects of colonial and postcolonial expansion in search for new sources of raw materials and trade. Gradually, however, English has come to be adopted as the lingua franca of information flow and exchange in most of the western world, a role that has been substantially growing within the present context of globalization and increasing international links between western and non-western cultures and peoples.
Greatly propelled by the revolution in mass media communications that began in the 1950s with television broadcasting and advertising and already in a new era of dissemination through the Internet, English is now an international language and has become the language of scientific knowledge production and technological progress. Being a tool for intellectual, cultural and commercial contacts, English has literally invaded every country in our planet. Fairclough (1989:21) reminds us that a language has been jokingly defined as ‘a dialect with an army and a navy.' Further exploring this war metaphor, we can certainly add that each sign, be it a sound, a word, an utterance or a long text, can be seen as playing the role of a soldier in this linguistic invasive movement, a movement that operates in multiple directions and reveals a complex rationale. Word borrowing or loans is one of the most visible processes in sites of language contacts and interactions.
English vocabulary borrowing is nowadays a world phenomenon. In Brazil, English words can be found literally in every nook and cranny: advertisements, billboards, brands and labels, shop names, restaurant menus, foreign and national songs, T-shirts, buttons (in Brazil, button is spelled as bottom and pronounced likewise), packages, movies, soap-operas, bumper stickers, cartoons, comic books, graffiti, TV, radio, newspapers and magazines, and also in our oral and written interaction. In this bilingual environment, knowledge of Portuguese, the official language in Brazil, is no longer enough to understand our everyday context. The most famous Brazilian dictionary of Portuguese, popularly known as Aurélio, only registers 373 words borrowed from English or 'anglicisms', but many more terms can be found on the streets. In São Paulo, the biggest Brazilian metropolis, 15 % of the names of bars and shops are in English and signs such as sale, 30% off, open, fast food and delivery can be easily found on shop windows.
Learning English in private courses is a customary practice of the middle and upper classes in Brazil. In São Paulo, there are 3000 English courses and in Rio de Janeiro, a school named Cardinal New York recently built a four-store building where English will be the official language in its premises, from the parking lot to the administration offices. The school hires Americans and also Brazilians who have lived in the United States in order to create an environment aiming at promoting monolingual interaction in the foreign language and reportedly speeding up learning. Another evidence of the power of English worldwide and particularly in Brazil is interaction on the Internet. According to Pedrosa (1999:39), 80% of its content is written in English. Most Brazilian homepages have a version in English, which is definitely the language of the information society. To talk about computers and to surf on the Internet, one needs to master a wide range of English words. As we pointed out earlier, English is today recognized as the lingua franca of the 20th century and is likely to continue to play this role into the next century, as it has become the means of communication of innumerous cultures. Consequently, the penetration of English terms and vocabulary together with the foreign cultural values and notions they carry can be predicted as an increasing phenomenon in our Brazilian society.
2. The Brazilian public opinion
Occasionally, the Brazilian press points out the influence of the English Language in our linguistic habits and shows a deep concern for linguistic and cultural identities. These articles argue that there is an improper use of borrowed words either in oral or in written language. They acknowledge loan words as part of a necessary process for language development, but point out the replacement of our own words by imported ones as a highly undesirable practice. They blame those who, in the name of a misleading globalization, adopt English words instead of using their natural counterparts in Portuguese. This condemnatory tone is reflected in the picture below taken from one of those articles.
Fig. 1 Portuguese under Threat(Moreira 1999).
In a similar tone, VEJA, the most widely read Brazilian magazine, published an interesting piece of news in October 1999, its first sentence reading Be careful with anglicisms. The text is addressed to those who are looking for jobs and advises them not to overuse words borrowed from English or anglicisms because, they argue, what was in fashion at the beginning of the decade is now considered a ridiculous practice. The text advises the reader, for instance, not to say vou deletar uma idéia (literally, I am going to delete an idea), deletar being a new Portuguese term coined after the English computer term 'delete'. However, despite these and other admonitions, the phenomenon of English word infiltration seems to be on the increase in everyday life in Brazil.
Intellectuals form two opposing groups when it comes to this issue. The first group views word borrowing as a consequence of language natural development caused by our interaction with other nations. They argue that anglicisms enrich a language and do not represent a threat to its structure or lexis. They base their arguments on the history of the English language itself, which enlarged its vocabulary with Latin and Greek-rooted words in the past and continues to do so through borrowings from modern languages such as Spanish, Hindi, and many others. While reaffirming the naturalness of this process, supporters of this view, however, are against the overuse of English words.
The second group wants to protect the Portuguese language and control the invasion of foreign words. A member of the Brazilian Federal Parliament, Aldo Rebelo is the author of a law project aiming at protecting the Portuguese language from foreign words. He contends that Portuguese must be used in public documents and events and also in mass media, product handling and shipping. If this law is implemented, all unnecessary or misleading use of foreign expressions will be treated as violations to the law as their effect on the Brazilian cultural patrimony is deemed harmful and undesirable. Violators will be subject to fines amounting to 6500 dollars, besides other civil and penal sanctions for the crime of disrupting the language. Rebelo states that his aim is not only to get the law passed but also to organize a national movement in defense of the Portuguese language. His project, he claims, must not be seen as xenophobia, but as an initiative to protect Portuguese against the corrosive bilingualism that is defacing it and making Brazilians believe that it is ugly, limited and vague. Portuguese, he contends, has sufficient linguistic resources to describe the scientific discoveries, inventions and changes that transform the world. Needless to say, Rebelo’s controversial project has divided the public opinion and almost every week one can find an article on this issue in the press.
Control and punishment are certainly undesirable and negative practices when we deal with complex cultural phenomena, as is the case of linguistic contacts and exchanges in our modern societies. 'Tyrannical English', as Swales (1998:125) puts it, no doubt proves a serious obstacle to efforts to develop and sustain scholarly varieties in smaller scientific communities like Arabic, Hebrew, Malay, Philipino and Swahili while also threatening scientific communication in major western languages other than English. However, we can argue that English is sometimes the only means of communication among researchers from distant nations and cultures. Similarly, the constant process of word borrowing from English can no doubt bring about considerable negative side effects for a language, the lesser of which is lexical impoverishment. In Brazil, for example, the practice of naming new concepts or even existing ones with English words (e.g., the adjective diet, borrowed in spite of the existence of the Portuguese term dietético) not only hinders natural processes of word coinage in Portuguese but also leads established word formation processes in the language into oblivion. On the other hand, it might be argued that word borrowing leads to the enrichment of a language and the strengthening of its capacity to interact with other cultures. Historically, this has been one of the main outcomes of travel enterprises and contacts. English, for one, can be said to have shown a reasonable degree of receptivity to other languages (see Swiderski 1996), borrowing and incorporating words from the many tongues that it has come into contact with throughout its history. Moreover, this incorporation of foreign words is usually followed by its transmission to other languages and tongues. In this sense, Swiderski (1996:11) explains, English appears to be playing on a much wider scale the role Portuguese once did with respect to English and other languages, that is, incorporating words and disseminating them in other cultures and societies. Swiderski is clearly referring to the expansion of the Portuguese language through Portugal's colonial enterprise, a comparable case to English and other European languages' dissemination. In this sense, it is useful to remember a further aspect of colonial Portuguese, which is its affiliation to a violent program of imperialist conquest. Making use of the war metaphor too, Houaiss (1983:50) characterizes Portuguese as a language that triumphed in Brazil by eating other languages and killing other cultures. This is certainly an issue that needs to be brought to the fore in the debates about national identity, with a view to problematizing the idea of the Portuguese language being the sole and legitimate means of expression of the Brazilian nation.
3. Signs and wonders
Most of the research traditionally done on linguistic borrowing deals with the word as the operational unit of analysis. In this section, we would like to approach the subject from a different point of view and include as linguistic borrowing any realization of a foreign language sign in a discourse event, be it a morpheme, a phoneme, a syntactic feature or a text.
To illustrate our approach, we will take English language signs commonly used in Brazil, including those that users produce or receive under the belief that they are English signs in a process that makes them feel they are affiliated with English even though they cannot understand those signs. As a theoretical support, we are going to draw on Peircean Semiotics.
We can begin by classifying the English language signs found in Brazil according to Peirce’s first trichotomy of the sign in itself. They are:
3.1. Loan-signs in the form of qualisigns, that is, a quality, which is a sign and appears to us as mere sensation. As examples we have Portuguese words pronounced as if they were English, for example, americano /æ m¶ ricæ nu/ and Manuel /manwell/, both found in a pop song by the Brazilian composer and singer Ed Mota. Another example can be found in a play named Amante Inglesa (English Lover), a play all spoken in a "fake English", (i.e., the actors utter a sequence of sounds which resemble English but have no meaning in themselves). Only the context, facial expressions, intonation and other paralinguistic features convey meaning to the text, as the uttered signs do not belong to any natural language.
3.2. Loan-signs in the form of sinsigns, that is, an actual object or event which is a sign). As examples we have names of shops, restaurants, pubs (such as Gang, Mr. Blue, Grill, Pier); names of buildings and shopping centers (such as Golden Center, The First Place, Central Park, Santana's Contemporary Free Home, Elite Free & Flex); names of several kinds of products: food (such as Cream Cracker, Diet Coke, Brownie); cleaning products (such as Thunder, Comfort, Mr. Magic), beauty products (such as Clearskin, Lip Perfector, Moon Drops). We can also find messages written in English on bumper stickers (such as Fasten seat belts and, believe it or not, Fuck you!), on buttons as (I am married, not dead), in souvenirs (such as I love Rio); in T-shirts (such as Marvelous Moments or Green, I want you alive [the latter worn by former Brazilian president, Fernando Collor de Melo, in a public event]); in advertising (such as Complete the day with Black & White); in names of magazines (such as Playboy, After Eight and Movie); expressions in oral interaction (such as yeeees, okay, good bye), in graffiti (such as KILL AND CRIME painted during a revolt on the walls of a juvenile hall building for delinquent teenagers and published by the newspaper Correio Braziliense in October 27th 1999, page 12), and also in a series of articles written in English and published by several Brazilian academic journals. Other examples can be found in a list of English words, syntagms and sentences spread over a great number of lyrics in Portuguese. Some examples are: "Nosso amor é do tipo one way" [our love is a one way type]; "Quero passar um weekend com você" [I want to spend a weekend with you]; "Vivo num clip sem nexo" [I live in a meaningless Video-clip]; "Vê se me entende, olha o meu sapato novo/Minha calça colorida, meu novo way of life" [Try to understand me, look at my new shoes/My colorful pants, my new way of life]; "I don’t want to stay here / I want to go back to Bahia /Eu tenho andado tão triste"; "Quero ser feliz, bye, bye tristeza" [I want to be happy, bye, bye sadness], "Nem sempre é so easy se viver" [To live is not always so easy].
Fig. 2 Graffiti on the walls of a juvenile hall building for delinquent teenagers in Brazil
3.3. Loan-signs in the form of legisigns (signs which are laws, usually established by society). Three kinds of legisigns can be usually found elsewhere: 3.3.1. the genitive case, as in Delfim's boys (in a newspaper report), Kit's Cozinhas Planejadas (in the telephone directory) or Juca’s bar (a bar in Belo Horizonte); 3.3.2. the anteposition of the adjective as in Tropical Bar (instead of the Portuguese syntax Bar Tropical); 3.3.3. word-formation rules which eventually produce words which resemble English, as the meaningless examples DIRD and SEIL found on T-shirts.
The use of discursive practices such as those described above are widely spread among the different social groups in Brazilian society. The purpose for which they are put to use and the way in which this is done, however, can be roughly mapped to vary according to the aims or desires underlying the constitution of each group or class.
Members of the Brazilian economic and intellectual elite have traditionally used English words as a strategy to differentiate themselves from the so-called middle and popular classes. By using in their language English words and concepts that they acquire thanks to the advantages of their privileged social and economic status (travels and study abroad, foreign language education in private institutions), members of the elite signal the boundaries of their social space and display their symbolic strength. For the great majority of the Brazilian population, however, the English language signs are just manifestations of "firstness", that is, mere phonological and morpho-syntactic qualities. The interpretants for those signs are rhemes, that is, open possibilities of signification. Thus, the English language signs that surround the Brazilian people who cannot speak English are perceived as rhematic iconic qualisigns. Those signs can only yield the sensation of being in contact with the English language as far as no relation among the signs and the objects they represent is established. A good example illustrating this was found in a Brazilian soap-opera. A female character joins a group protesting against a neighbor. When she produces a sign that reads ELZA, GO HOME, she is asked what it means, to which she replies that she does not know. She says in Portuguese: I don't know, but I saw it once on TV and I liked it very much. A similar phenomenon takes place when songs in English are played. Although most of the audience does not know what the lyrics mean, they enjoy the melody of the words wrapped with the sound of the musical instruments. A Brazilian composer, João Bosco, for example, once said in an interview that when he was young he used to go to the movies and enjoy the sounds in American songs, although he did not understand them. The sounds remained in his mind and he tried to reproduce them in some of his songs. As a result some of the lyrics he composed are mingled with meaningless paralinguistic sounds that resemble English.
This apparently clear-cut division of Brazilian society into elite and popular classes is actually an overly simplified way to approach the incorporation of English signs in Brazilian society. Like most modern Latin American societies, the Brazilian can also be characterized, using Canclini’s argumentation (1992), as a hybrid culture, a complex network of social groups that continually negotiate their identity and space. Group affiliation sometimes produces crossings and intersections of what are traditionally considered different social classes, as is the case, for example, of groups based on gender affiliations. These different groups can also be considered in terms of ‘discursive communities’, a term we borrow from Swales (1990), that is, groups who share aims, rules of interaction, and rhetorical principles for communication. In this sense, it is interesting to notice the role English plays in different communities in Brazil for which English words are part of their jargon of communication, such as homosexuals groups, academic circles, computer users, Internet chatters, etc. Used in diversified contexts by different types of users and varying in their form (qualisigns, sinsigns and legisigns), English signs can be seen as fulfilling a role that transcends the mere adoption of foreign words in an effort to share in the process of consumer modernity disseminated by mass media. This is particularly true of the role of English signs in Brazilian music, a discussion we propose to undertake briefly before focusing on the role of English in science and education.
4. Brazilian popular music
Rap music, among other modern urban forms of musical expression, is an interesting example of the complexity of English vocabulary borrowing in Brazilian society. In this type of music, English language signs are for most Brazilians only rhematic iconic qualisigns. Receivers of this music, teenagers imitate the sounds of the original lyrics of the rap songs without necessarily understanding the meaning of what they are singing. When these same songs are played in their instrumental versions, they create new refrains in Portuguese following the rhythm of the original song but replacing the lyrics with funny or nonsense Portuguese and pseudo-English, that is non-English words that sound like English. You talk too much, for instance, becomes taca tomate, which can be roughly translated into English as Throw tomatoes. The Brazilian rock band Kid Abelha also plays with analogous sounds in both languages (e.g., "too much/tomate") in their song called Tomate which says Too much, um falso cometa ... [Too much, a fake comet]. This kind of pun produced by similar sounds from different languages is a resource also used in the production of Portuguese phrases that may be sung following the rhythm of some English lyrics. Thus, Tell me once again becomes Telma, eu não sou gay (literally "Telma, I am not gay") and Yellow river becomes E ela é horrível ["And she is very ugly"]. Playing with the words of a foreign language, however, is not the only function of English in this context. In fact, the use of English words and the choice of particular musical genres as is the case, for instance, of rap or heavy metal rock have a further role for teenagers who seek to assert their identity by affiliating to the tone of protest and challenge of conventional society implicit in those musical movements.
But the presence of English in Brazilian music dates back to previous decades, as was the case of samba, another musical genre. Some Brazilian samba lyrics, mainly the ones from the thirties, a decade influenced by the arrival of the talking motion pictures, criticized the excessive use of English words in daily conversation. Some of the lyrics of that time reveal their authors’ prejudice against the lower classes as far as the use of such words is concerned. As the lower classes were the target of criticism because of their failure to speak standard Portuguese, there was also a strong bias against their attempt to borrow English words. Examples can be found in verses such as the following ones: Amor lá no morro é amor prá chuchu / As rimas do morro não são I love you [Love in the slums is very intense / the slum rhymes are not I love you]; or Good-bye, good-bye boy, deixa a mania do inglês / Fica tão feio prá você, moreno frajola / Que nunca freqüentou os bancos da escola [Good-bye, good bye boy, get rid of these English words / they don’t suit someone like you who has never been to school], both from the thirties; or one recorded in 1986 by João Nogueira, which says Tem gente que qualquer dia / Fica mudo de uma vez / Não consegue falar gringo / Esqueceu do português [Some people will eventually become dumb someday / They cannot speak English / and have forgotten Portuguese].
Why do they need to learn English if they can’t even master their own mother tongue, Portuguese? was a common question posed by certain sectors of Brazilian society in connection to the lower classes’ aspirations to learning that foreign language that was increasingly permeating their everyday life. A fallacy traditionally used by those who wish to perpetuate their privileges and the boundaries of their social space, the question continues to be posed today not only in certain social sectors but also in educational policy and planning debates, revealing profound misunderstanding and an outdated view of the role of foreign languages in education, a problem to which we shall return later in this article, when discussing English within the context of science and education in Brazil.
If the point in learning English by the popular classes is still a controversial issue, for the middle classes in Brazil learning English is undoubtedly regarded as a basic need. Again this concern is reflected by Brazilian music, as in the Tropicalist song, BABY, by Caetano Veloso, that reads: Baby, baby? How long / Você precisa aprender inglês / Precisa aprender o que eu sei / E o que eu não sei mais / Não sei, comigo vai tudo azul /Contigo vai tudo em paz / Vivemos na melhor cidade / da América do Sul? Você precisa / Você precisa / Não sei, leia na minha camisa / Baby, baby? I love you / Baby, baby? I love you [Baby, baby / How long / You must learn English / You must learn what I know / And what I don't know any more / I don’t know/ I’m okay, You are okay / We live in the best city / in South America / You need / You need / I don’t know, read on my T-shirt / I love you / Baby, baby / I love you]. The lyrical I in the song addresses his girl friend as "baby" and emphasizes the importance of learning English in the new society. The verses show that learning English is the only way for the beloved woman to decode the proposition I LOVE YOU printed on his T-shirt. The lyrical I employ a new way to show love to someone, replacing oral discourse by printed text on a T-shirt, text written in English and not in their mother tongue, Portuguese.
Tropicalismo, a cultural movement that in the late sixties and early seventies proposed a critical reading of Brazilian culture and the recreation of Brazilian music through the interaction with traditional rhythms and new musical expressions such as rock and roll, made substantial use of English language signs, superimposing them onto the Portuguese code in such a way as to portray, on a symbolic level, urban Brazilian culture. Unlike the musical production of the thirties, the sambas that used English signs to satirize American cultural influence on the lower sectors of the population, Tropicalismo focuses on urban life in Brazil, the middle classes and mass media and incorporates English within their creative and critical reading of modern society. In Batmacumba, by Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, the super hero Batman is linked both to macumba (a Brazilian variant of voodooism) and to iê-iê-iê (a denomination of Brazilian rock in the sixties which is a transcription into Portuguese of the sounds yeah, yeah, yeah), producing the verse batmacumbaiêiêiê batmacumbaobá and its variations. The verse progressively loses a letter or syllable until it becomes Ba, an acronym for the state of Bahia, birthplace of the authors of the the Tropicalist movement and the land of macumba, a syncretist religion that further signals the complex recreation of western tradition in Brazil. The verse begins to be repeated again, adding a letter or a syllable until it becomes again batmacumbaiêiêiê batmacumbaobá. The arrangement of the verses gives birth to a concretist poem in the form of bat wings. The word Bat, also present in the lyrics, is a clear reference to the Brazilian anthropophagous movement of the twenties. The sound bat yields a chain of interpretants as it can be analyzed as bat (the flying mammal) or bate (a form of the Portuguese verb bater which means beat – "beat the drums" in that context). Bat is also an index of Batman, the American super hero. Ba, the morpheme which links the two wings of the poem is also a double index, of Batman (its initial syllable) and of macumba (its final syllable), and represents the synthesis of the two cultures. The melody is also made up of superimposed intercultural signs. Together, the Brazilian macumba rhythm and the foreign electric guitar produce a syncretic melody.
Torquato Neto also looks for this cultural synthesis when he joins in one word the Brazilian bumba-meu-boi (Brazilian folklore dance ), a genuine sign of Brazilian culture, with the Brazilian version of rock named iê-iê-iê and creates "bumba-iê-iê-boi" in the refrain of his song Geléia Geral [General Jelly] which reads é bumba-iê-iê-boi / ano que vem mês que foi / bumba-iê-iê-boi é a mesma dança. Another famous composer and singer, Caetano Veloso, composed many songs in English and one of them London, London, is a good example of the use of a foreign language as a tool for political resistance during the years of dictatorship in Brazil. By describing his "wandering around" London, Caetano highlights the fear and lack of peace, felt in Brazil in the sixties and seventies, in contrast with the fearless and peaceful — though meaningless to him — life he led in London during his exile.
Together with Tropicalismo and other cultural movements that made use of English as a means of talking about hybridity in Brazilian culture and as a means of expression within a context of censorship and repression, the seventies also witnessed another musical trend that involved the use of English. A group of Brazilian composers and singers adopted English pseudonyms because they had realized that some Brazilians disdained their own language and culture and overvalued the English language and the American culture. The pseudonyms worked as masks to hide their Brazilian identities and contributed to reinforce the myth that foreign products are always better than national ones. As those artists could see no possibility for success using their own image and their own language, they borrowed American names/identities and the English language, which was seen as a true passport for success. Among many artists who joined this movement, we can mention Morris Albert, composer of worldwide famous songs at that time such as Feelings, Conversation and She’s my girl.
In more recent times, English has also played different and at times contradictory roles in Brazilian music. Some rock bands, as was the case of the internationally famous trash band Sepultura, compose their songs in English as they consider Portuguese inadequate for that purpose. On the other hand, other bands make use of English loan-signs in their lyrics in a very creative way. The song Eu Sou Free [I am free], by Patrícia Travassos and Ruban, for example, makes a pun with the signs Eu sou free/sempre free/ eu sou free demais, which can be understood in different ways: Sou is the first person singular of the verb Ser [to be], thus Sou free can mean "I am free". But the utterance Sou free also sounds like the past tense of the verb SUFFER in Portuguese and then can also be interpreted as I suffered. Free is also a popular brand of cigarettes in Brazil.
The ideology of any society can be read in the discourses it produces, which are multiple and complex. In the case of popular music, we have seen that samba, on the one hand, struggled to defend Brazilian culture by protesting against the fashions brought from America, but, on the other hand, contributed to legitimize an ideology that justifies class divisions. The lyrics despise the lower class dialect and criticize the linguistic behavior of people from the slums. In the seventies, during the political repression of the military government, Morris Albert and his partners pretended to be Americans in order to achieve success. Tropicalismo, on the other hand, incorporated English signs, words and musical instruments, as a cultural project aiming at critically reading and recreating Brazilian culture. Popular lyrics are documents of a culture’s negotiation of multiple identities, inviting, accepting, recreating or rejecting a foreign language depending on the issues at stake in the political and social agendas of the time.
5. Wearing English: t-shirts in Brazil
The incorporation of the English language in everyday life in Brazil can also be seen on the T-shirts worn by Brazilians, many of whom do not know the meaning of what is printed on them. T-shirts with messages written in Portuguese are hardly found on the streets in Brazil and messages in English are as common as is the practice of wearing T-shirts. Needless to say, the very word "T-shirt" is a consolidated loan word in Brazilian Portuguese. A samba composer, João Nogueira, refers to that fact with the following verses: "Gerusa comprou uma blusa / Dessas made in USA / E fez a tradução / A frase que tinha no peito / Quando olhou direito era um palavrão" [Gerusa bought a T-shirt / one of those made in USA / and then she translated / the sentence she had on her breast / when she looked at it carefully / she saw it was a four-letter word]. According to Lima (1988:45), Brazilian people’s habit of wearing clothes with statements printed in English may signal a desire to become part of what they see as the most important part of the world, the American consumer society, which for them epitomizes the global consumer society.
Paiva (1991) interviewed printing firm representatives to verify their attitude towards the English language and found that their preference for that was supported by their prejudice in regarding Portuguese as an inferior language and certainly by the gross profits they envisage by selling shirts with English on them. Interestingly, some of the representatives explained the use of English on T-shirts as a status symbol pursued by some groups who feel the need to differentiate themselves from the popular sectors. On the other hand, the use of Portuguese on T-shirts was also linked to the desires of certain groups to differentiate themselves from the large number of people who now wear English on their T-shirts.
In the T-shirt world, the English language is not seen as a linguistic code, but as an aesthetic sign, a rhematic sinsign, that is, an actual existent whose meaning is mere possibility of meaning. The words are seen as signifiers only. Although some stylists say that the meaning of the words do not matter, the messages ¾ whether talking about the products themselves, a metalinguistic function, or talking about what is happening around the world ¾ are there to be read. Often, those messages do not belong to the stylists who produce the print but are taken from magazines and newspapers. Thus, wearing clothes with printed messages on them is also a way of broadcasting someone else's discourse. The T-shirt discourse is by nature deictic because it points to the person wearing the message. A man's portrait with a man's name written under it is strictly a proposition, although its syntax is not that of speech, states Peirce (1974:320). Likewise, signs printed on T-shirts ¾ billboards people carry on their fronts or backs ¾ are also propositions and those who wear the T-shirts are seen as their presupposed enunciators. On the streets of Brazil, one can see hundreds and hundreds of people ‘advertising’ all kind of slogans and sayings, English signs they post on their body as a signal for a desire to belong in a global world of consume and mass media. This desire for belonging in an English speaking virtual community of what is perceived as modernity is also present in people's attitude towards the language. Paiva (1991) analyzed written compositions by a group of university applicants who had been asked to write about the role of the English language in Brazil. Besides acknowledging the importance of English in the world, some of them stated that for them English is more beautiful and more sonorous than Portuguese.
6. The language of science: English in Brazilian universities and research labs
A long preamble such as the one hitherto provided before the discussion of the topic of this article is essential for understanding the role of English as the language of science in Brazil and the educational policies that are currently being discussed in connection to English teaching in Brazilian schools. Besides its insertion in a mass media and pop music, in Brazil, as in many other countries, English is also the language of science. It is the language of science textbooks and of technical manuals of imported machinery and an important job requirement in many fields. It is the main language chosen by students who apply for university entrance examinations and an obligatory language for candidates in many post-graduate programs. Most MA and PhD courses require only reading skills, but some demand oral and writing proficiency and students are expected to present papers in English and publish abroad as a requirement for their PhD title. The lack of English proficiency is sometimes a problem for some students, mainly for those who come from lower social classes and were not able to afford to study English in private courses. Some of them have no access to study-abroad programs and sometimes when they are awarded a scholarship to pursue their masters and doctorates abroad, they are not able to meet the TOFEL or IELTS requirements. Our Universities interact with their foreign counterparts and receive visiting professors that teach courses in English. Naturally, students having poor language skills find it difficult to attend the lectures and discuss the English texts.
Scientific production is usually rated according to their place of publication and the number of citations it inspires. In order to be read, Brazilian scientists write in English, their reasons for this being analogous to the ones listed by the respondents in a study carried out by Jernudd and Baldauf Jr (1996:11). Their survey revealed the following set of reasons:
(a) to reach a specialist audience, which only exists overseas as a community or network of scholars and which is composed of individuals who use other languages in their daily lives and who can only conveniently be reached through international languages, foremost among these languages, English, and through the relevant international journals; (b) to reach the broadest (widest) possible readership; and (c) to gain "prestige".
Brazilian scientists are evaluated by their number of citations and publications overseas and publish or perish is the constant menace over researchers’ heads. Publishing abroad, nevertheless, is not a simple matter. Discourse analysts such as Swales (1990) and Myers (1990) have done extensive research on the complex aspects involved in publishing in scientific communities, which range from linguistic and rhetorical issues to power negotiation. As Pennycook (1999: 330) rightly asks: who has the right sort of linguistic and cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1991) to have an article published? Who knows the relevant codes of language and research – the "secret language" of academic work? Into which discourses does one need to gain entry in order to become a member of this community?
English is the official language of Ciência e Cultura [Science and Culture], the journal of the largest Brazilian scientific association, SBPC ─ Brazilian Society for the Advancement of Science. The decision to publish in English was taken in 1991 after a heated controversy among its members. The coordinator of the journal project argued that English was the language of science and that to publish in Portuguese would be a kind of provincialism. The president of SBPC at that time offered a conciliatory suggestion, that is, to allow the authors to choose the language, though he himself believed that all of them would choose English. In spite of all the protests and some of the members’ contention that Portuguese is the official language in Brazil, the decision was taken on April 12, 1991. The option for English was motivated by the possibility to disseminate Brazilian scientific production abroad. (Vieira, 1999 & Folha de São Paulo, April 19, 1991).
Besides Ciência e Cultura, there are a considerable number of Brazilian journals that publish only articles written in English. Among them, we can mention the following: Journal of the Brazilian Chemical Society, Journal of the Brazilian Computer Society, Brazilian Journal of Chemical Engineering, The Brazilian Dental Journal, Brazilian Electronic Journal of Economics, Brazilian Journal of Genetics, Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research, Brazilian Journal of Materials, Journal of Microwaves and Optoelectronics, Brazilian Journal of Physics, Brazilian Journal of Plant Physiology, Brazilian Journal of Probability and Statistics, Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins, Brazilian Journal of Veterinary Research and Animal Science.
7. A path to higher education and work opportunities: English at schools
The panorama sketched above clearly shows the major role English plays in Brazil as a gateway to science, culture, and technological advancement. Together with our mapping of everyday practices and popular music, the discussion helps compose a picture of the varied and complex insertion of English in the Brazilian society. English circulates in Brazil as a hard currency. Learning English is seen as a means of ascending in the social pyramid since the language has been and is still seen as symbol of status, power, prestige, culture and technological development. On the other hand, English is also a means for constructing identities, establishing affiliations, critically reading the national culture and speaking out when the natural means of doing that, one’s own mother tongue, has been silenced and repressed, as it was the case during the military dictatorship in Brazil.
Within this context, the question posed by some of the sectors in the Brazilian culture, previously reproduced by us when discussing common prejudices as to who has the right to learn English, demands closer attention, especially at a time when misapprehensions of the public opinion and educational policy makers are currently biasing debates on the best ways to teach English in Brazilian schools. In a country where only the ones who can afford paying for it are able to get some kind of English instruction, a policy focusing on the sole teaching of reading skills in public high schools, such as the one currently promoted by some education planners in Brazil, is certainly a cruel way of curtailing students’ potential for developing their foreign language skills to their full extent.
Why do they need to learn English if they can’t even master their own mother tongue, Portuguese? was a question raised in the thirties that has unfortunately thrived until today and subtly infiltrated present day discussions on the teaching of English in public schools. Why do they need oral skills if they will never get to travel or use English in their everyday lives? is perhaps an updated version of the old and pervasive question, a question we problematize and answer by pointing out, among other things, the variety and complexity of uses to which the language is put in Brazilian people's everyday interaction with English.Some influential Brazilian English teachers have insisted on the teaching of reading based on an ESP/instrumental motivation. They argue that there are almost no opportunities for the average student at a public school in Brazil to interact with native speakers of English, a reason for which reading skills only are the sole basic need. Problematizing this view and unthreading some of its political and ideological underpinnings, Cox and Assis-Peterson (1999:437-8) state:
Instrumental reading is seen as a form of escape from the effects of assimilation and acculturation inherent in communicative language teaching and integrative motivation. If the expansion of English in the world is considered not the mere expansion of language but also the expansion of a set of discourses in which ideas of development, democracy, capitalism, neoliberalism, and modernization circulate (Pennyccok, 1994, 1995), the instrumental reading orientation of English teaching is only a Trojan horse. After all, nothing conforms more to these discourses than the pragmatism of learning to read in English in order to access information, technology, and so on.
One cannot but agree with the authors and highlight the potential harms such a limited educational policy might entail for future citizens and applicants in an increasingly competitive labor market. The choice for teaching reading skills not only underestimates the capability of Brazilian children and teenagers who attend public schools but also denies them the right to have adequate instruction and the language and cognitive skills that are essential to meet the requirements of the present and future workplace or site of higher or further education. In this sense, it must be remembered that learning a foreign language represents a cognitive process that promotes other cognitive and metacognitive operations at work in students’ learning careers. Learning a foreign language leads, for instance, to reflecting upon one’s own mother tongue as well as to developing cultural awareness of different cultures and peoples in our globalized world.
If borrowing words from English reflects a desire to establish an affiliation with a world and a language that markets and advertises the products of our global consumer society or a world and a language that probes into natural and cultural phenomena in order to provide a scientific explanation to them, limiting students’ access to that language in all its potential appears to us an undesirable and pernicious a policy, as is a law or an official decree that purports to stop and hinder cultural phenomena such as those inherent to linguistic contacts and exchanges.
Deep down, these policies seem to us to bring back the echoes of an old samba song of the thirties: Good-bye, good-bye boy, get rid of these English words, they don’t suit someone like you, someone who has never been to school.
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