Research reveals panorama of English language acquisition in Brazil in 2014

BIRD GEI | Consultoria e Gestão de Idiomas is releasing its 10th Productivity Research in Language Acquisition in the Brazilian market.

We follow the annual performance indicators and test results of approximately 4.000 employees sponsored by several companies, mapping and quantifying the progress and productivity of students. In the current research, which covers results from 2014, we used the indicators from a universe of 410 language proficiency tests of professionals from different business segments.

BIRD GEI follows the European Council for languages pattern, known as Common European Framework of Reference: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. The CEFR provides a practical tool to describe the levels of proficiency required by existing standards, tests and examinations to facilitate a comparison between different qualification systems. BIRD GEI adapted the CER for the Brazilian market to reflect results in percentage points*.


The language proficiency assessments were performed on demand, at the company or remotely, and consist of four tests: grammar/vocabulary, listening comprehension, writing and oral interview. These tests, developed by a multidisciplinary team, in accordance with the concept “think globally, act locally”, respect cultural factors peculiar to Brazilian candidates and evaluate the language proficiency in all respects – 360° – and in all contexts: personal, professional, cultural and social. Grammar/vocabulary and listening comprehension are considered receptive skills, and the writing and oral interview are productive ones.

The 2014 research has two categories*, candidates whose courses were face to face (242 candidates or 59% of the total) and online (168 or 41% of the total):





The candidate can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics, which are familiar, or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

This translates into a workforce that understands the basic information, but cannot understand presentations, take a leadership role in business discussions or perform complex tasks.

In 2011, Brazil was at the 31st position in the world ranking of English proficiency according to research by EF EPI, one of the largest language schools network in the world. In 2012, it plunged to the 46th position. In 2013, it went up to the 38th position and kept it throughout 2014. EF considers the average proficiency grade for Brazil of 49,96/100 as being “low proficiency”. “As in the rest of the world, Brazilian adults between the ages of 35 and 44 speak English better than any other age group and Brazilian women have better proficiency than men.”

According to the 2012 survey “English Business Index report”, undertaken by GlobalEnglish, Brazil has an unsatisfactory index of proficiency in English in comparison with other countries of the world. The report shows Brazil is well below the global average proficiency, already considered unsatisfactory: 4,46 on a scale of 1 to 10 (equivalent to the 44,6% in BIRD GEI‘s scale in which our result was of 44,4% for the same period). In 2013 the Business English Index (BEI), a global language acquisition research undertaken in 77 countries, shows an average of 4,75/10, and in Brazil 3,27/10 (equivalent to 32,70 in BIRD GEI’s scale whereas our indicator for this year is 42,11).

There was a decrease of 2,29 points in the average proficiency from 2012 to 2013, and of 1,46 points from 2013 to 2014. Although more and more essential in global operations, the level of English proficiency by professionals in Brazil has been consistently falling since 2006.

Since 2013, we have noticed the comeback of an old trend from the late 90’s to outsource language programs at companies. Although each company has, of course, the right to implement whatever policy it pleases them, the 4th BIRD GEI research from 2008 shows that corporations can achieve better results through a more pro-active HR. To achieve success in learning a second language depends more on how students take their course and their commitment to learning. Becoming aware of this fact has important implications, because it puts the student as the protagonist of their learning and the HR as an essential partner in the regulation and support of employees who receive this investment.


  • In the 3rd BIRD GEI survey conducted in 2007, we had already detected that 40% of students did not reach minimum goals of learning. At the time, we raised the question of the sponsoring companies not adopting strategic management models and, therefore, no qualitative criteria. Language acquisition was considered a benefit and the ROI was not measured.
  • In the 7th BIRD GEI survey, conducted in 2011, it showed that the average proficiency of candidates beginning their careers in 2002 (Generation X) was higher than the average of those who were entering the labor market (Generation Y) in 2011.
  • In the 8th BIRD GEI survey, in which we assessed the results of 7.957 language assessments from 2003 to 2012, and as it had already been shown in our first BIRD GEI survey in 2005, the study of languages seems to be more focused on receptive skills, whether because of the format of classes (large groups), whether due to lack of innovation in the educational system or because the real contexts of communication are beyond the classroom. Thus, educational institutions still have the challenge to make the connection between the real context and the classroom.

*Previous research can be seen at

BSC-l Balanced Scorecard for Languages

BIRD GEI developed the first Balanced Scorecard for languages for the Brazilian market. Initially used as a model for assessment and performance in business, the BSC-l enabled the development of a strategic management methodology in T&D. In addition to fulfilling its mission of evaluation and performance, the BSC-l has enabled corporations to make decisions and manage information more accurately because they gain competitive advantage, add value, maximize investments, redefine and realign their goals in language development. It was through the BSC-l, used in all surveys that BIRD GEI has managed to show the market performance indicators that serve as a benchmark.

BIRD GEI | Consultoria e Gestão de Idiomas – is a company that specializes in management solutions and strategic tools to ensure that organizations and professionals focus on executing their strategies in training, development and language training.




Tel. 55 11 3862 1421

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