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Brazilian Kids Learning English By Video Chatting With Elderly Americans

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the back-in-my-day dept.

United States 147

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Tim Nudd writes that it's the perfect match: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them? The advertising company FCB Brazil did just that with its 'Speaking Exchange' project for CNA language schools where young Brazilians and older Americans connect via Web chats, and they not only begin to share a language—they develop relationships that enrich both sides culturally and emotionally. 'The goal of the Speaking Exchange project is to transform lives,' says Luciana Fortuna. 'Our students have the opportunity to practice English with people who are willing to listen. During the chat sessions, the students discuss ideas and information from their lives in Brazil with the American senior citizens, many of whom have never had contact with anyone from Brazil before.' The pilot project was implemented at a CNA school in Liberdade, Brazil, and the Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago. The conversations are recorded and uploaded as private YouTube videos for the teachers to evaluate the students' development. 'The idea is simple and it's a win-win proposition for both the students and the American senior citizens. It's exciting to see their reactions and contentment. It truly benefits both sides,' says Joanna Monteiro."

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Hugh Pickens DOT Com (0, Offtopic)

hsmith (818216) | about 6 months ago | (#46977117)

The reddit reposting service.

Who Cares, Still Useful (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | about 6 months ago | (#46977517)

Not all of us care to read Reddit.

The ones who sure surely are mentally strong enough to handle a repost every now and again?

Besides, don't you have the private pleasure of reading it first...

Re:Who Cares, Still Useful (-1, Troll)

Mashiki (184564) | about 6 months ago | (#46977603)

Care to read reddit? Stop being so kind, at least 4chan has something of value, it might be insanity with a dose of madness but it still has more value than reddit.

Re:Who Cares, Still Useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978095)

Hey mods, this is a reasonable enough statement. Modding it troll is in bad taste. If you disagree, respond to it and say why you think it's wrong.

Re:Who Cares, Still Useful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46979105)

No, not really. The smaller subreddits can be good, while nearly every board on 4chan has gone to crap. /g/, for example, is pretty awful unless you're looking for pointless, idiotic arguments about consumer electronics and Windows vs Linux vs OSX flamebait.

Winner (0)

wombatmobile (623057) | about 6 months ago | (#46977131)

This scheme is a great success that is transforming the Brazilian culture. The first videos are already up on [youtube.com] .

Re:Winner (-1, Offtopic)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 6 months ago | (#46977283)

Hmm.

Re:Winner (4, Insightful)

ph1ll (587130) | about 6 months ago | (#46977529)

"This scheme is a great success that is transforming the Brazilian culture"

And American culture too, I predict. As we don't have time for our elderly, I wonder how many more will find new little friends on the internet to whom they can recount their stories and who will keep them company?

This is a good story for everyone.

Re:Winner (4, Funny)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 6 months ago | (#46978401)

Thanks to YouTube, we can outsource our grandchildren.

Re:Winner (4, Funny)

Rob Riggs (6418) | about 6 months ago | (#46978645)

This is a good story for everyone.

I don't know. Just wait until have a generation of Brazilians speaking English and sounding like a Jewish grandmother. ;-)

Re:Winner (1)

funwithBSD (245349) | about 6 months ago | (#46979847)

Yeah and H1B workers calling me "Sonny Boy"

Well, I guess it's better than "Sup, Dog?" from the public school kids.

Re:Winner (2)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46979447)

And leave in their will . . .

Imagine how long that would take to wind through probate court.

Yet more English learning (2, Insightful)

AxeTheMax (1163705) | about 6 months ago | (#46977149)

Never mind English, there are lots of paths to learning it in most countries. Not so the other way. How about a scheme for those of us who want to learn some other, relatively minor language, where it is difficult to even find basic texts outside its native country?

Re:Yet more English learning (5, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#46977207)

How about a scheme for those of us who want to learn some other, relatively minor language, where it is difficult to even find basic texts outside its native country

There are thousands of languages in the world, many not committed to writing, so there are a lot of "minor" languages for which one would have trouble finding texts. But what is the likelihood of you being interested in languages so "minor"? For languages large enough for people in other countries to hear of them, there's a good change that you can find texts on the internet if you simply look harder.

For example, I am a linguist working with minority languages of Russia, namely Mari, Chuvash, Tatar and Udmurt, and even when I started learning these languages a decade ago, there were already abundant internet resources: lots of bloggers, provincial newspapers, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has a Tatar service with long articles on their website. Text has always been easy to get, but the last five years have seen a rise in the availability of audio/video materials. State television is now regularly uploading broadcasts to YouTube, and independent media occasionally posts videos.

Plus, linguists have been one of the scholarly communities most dedicated to supporting pirate ebook sites. If you know where to look, you can find scanned and uploaded readers for nearly any documented language.

Re:Yet more English learning (1, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 6 months ago | (#46977229)

Language is the encoding and structure of the mind. It is no mystery why certain groups consistently yield the best civilization while others yield human robots and others a great deal less.

Language is culture and it is thinking and it is belief. Some languages simply need to die for the betterment of humanity. I can't speak to these languages you have been learning, but I can speak to the advancement of some languages which better humanity. The Chinese have known this for a very long time. It is still yet to be heard as 'news' by most of the world.

Nothing can limit people more than the limits of their minds. Nothing. And not all languages are equal.

Re:Yet more English learning (3, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#46977345)

Whatevs, bro. Maybe someday you'll pick up a popular introduction to linguistics and stop spouting pseudoscience.

The Chinese know this? Looking at the Chinese language over the three millennia of its attestation, it has undergone continual change (and even passed through three different typological categorizations) in spite of the continuity of "Chinese civilization". If anything, they are a counterexample to your thinking. Peoples succeed or fail regardless of what languages they speak.

Re:Yet more English learning (4, Interesting)

erroneus (253617) | about 6 months ago | (#46978581)

People succeeding and failing regardless of the language they speak? Are you seriously making that statement?

The most successful people are those that speak the lingua franca. (Yes, I know exactly what that means and where the term came from.) The Chinese are not a counter-example. When the Chinese became more unified, they did so through language unification and even simplification. The language has become very efficient. And English? Well, it's the lingua franca for now despite how bad it's getting.

I seriously don't know why I have been modded as flamebait. What have I said that's not true? It's far from pseudoscience when there have been many studies on the connection between language and intelligence which lead to this general understanding. It may be simplistic to say, but highly illustrative to the point, but languages that do not include a zero in their counting systems understandably have weaker math skills. That should come as no surprise to anyone. But as language and standards and styles of usage go, it's not hard to see where things break down and fail.

People are amazingly quick to bash, but amazingly reluctant to to offer up anything substantive to counter. (And once again, in case I wasn't clear, there is no 3000 year old Chinese language. Mandarin, in its current form doesn't go back that far. The oldest standard goes back what? Just over 600 years or so? So if you think you are right, please try again.

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#46978975)

The Chinese are not a counter-example. When the Chinese became more unified, they did so through language unification and even simplification.

Chinese language unification involved the spread of a lingua franca, but the country continues to have regional languages. Bilingualism is the norm for most of the world. People are entirely capable of speaking their regional language and another language. So your hopes of language death are simply unnecessary.

It's far from pseudoscience when there have been many studies on the connection between language and intelligence which lead to this general understanding.

As a linguist, I am reminded day in and day out that e.g. the strong form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that sometimes the uninformed public come to believe in, is utterly unfounded. Studies have pointed to some possibility of the weak form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis being true, but this involves things like colour perception, and among the peoples speaking a language with perception X, they have built societies of different types in spite of their similar languages.

Languages that lack a zero, seriously? I don't think you'll find any language which has developed a written form for use on the internet (which is what the OP was asking about) that hasn't simply borrowed the term from another language or coined its own lexeme.

And once again, in case I wasn't clear, there is no 3000 year old Chinese language. Mandarin, in its current form doesn't go back that far. The oldest standard goes back what? Just over 600 years or so? So if you think you are right, please try again.

There is indeed a 3000 year-old Chinese language. Chinese is historically (roughly Archaic Chinese/Old Chinese - Middle Chinese and the modern languages) divided into several stages, each of which flowed into one another with unbroken continuity, and which has split into regional lects. Mandarin is simply one descendent of the language of the first bone inscriptions.

You seem to have no training in this topic, whether formal or informal but rigorous. Can I kindly ask you to get a clue? It's not like there aren't a boatload of recent popular introductions to linguistics.

Re:Yet more English learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46980145)

> You seem to have no training in this topic, whether formal or informal but rigorous.

You must be new here.

Re:Yet more English learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978979)

I'm glad you have an account so I can be wary of your crazy the next time I see it.

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#46979111)

When the Chinese became more unified, they did so through language unification and even simplification.

Oh, and then is just godawful, you obvious have no concept of typology or cyclical change. For one, the Chinese language has not become "more simple", inasmuch as languages don't ever become "more complex" or "more simple" in the way that the general public thinks.

However, in the case of Chinese, most of the America general public would assume that Chinese has grown more complex. Due to contact with Mongolic and Tungusic languages, Mandarin Chinese has come to have more inflection, which is usually the marker of "complexity" for laymen daunted by French or Latin. Early stages of Mandarin, or some of the other regional lects even today, had less inflection (expressing the same things syntactically), which again the general public would see as "more simple".

Re:Yet more English learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977479)

Nothing can limit people more than the limits of their minds. Nothing. And not all languages are equal.

And let me guess... you suppose knowing English is enough. All you said in your post was pseudo-science, at best. Not all languages are created equal and that's part of the fun of learning them. I could tell you all about the 4 languages I know fluently, and the fifth one I'm learning (which even has a different alphabet), but you wouldn't believe any of it anyway.

Yes, language is culture and culture shapes the language you speak. As such, different languages show different things about people. But they can also show us different things about how we structure ourselves (based on their similarities and their differences). Since this also pertains to Brazil, go read a bit about Pirahã [wikipedia.org] . Perhaps you can stop saying those ignorant things...

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 6 months ago | (#46977627)

Are you talking about programming languages?

Re:Yet more English learning (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977641)

Language is culture and it is thinking and it is belief.

I was wondering where you liberal arts majors went after graduation.

Nothing can limit people more than the limits of their minds. Nothing.

Wait.. now I *am* getting confused. L Ron, is that you?

Re:Yet more English learning (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977767)

This should have gotten points instead of the dumbass post it's replying to. The mods are slipping...

Re:Yet more English learning (2)

GuitarNeophyte (636993) | about 6 months ago | (#46979261)

I think that the question isn't "which" language you know, but "how many" you know. The more languages you know, the more perspectives of the world you can see. Each language, like you mentioned, has encapsulated their cultures and belief systems. This language does shape the users of the languages, and the users also shape their ever-evolving language.

That being said, it doesn't make one language objectively "better" than another -- it just means that one language has a different focus than another. Sure, from the evolutionary standpoint of languages, whichever language lasts longer may facilitate a more lasting culture, but for many languages, it's just that each has a different way of looking at life. I would love to learn several languages, just to have several different perspectives on the world and life.

The US culture, for example, is all about active voice. We hate passive voice, because nobody takes the blame or responsibility for them. If someone says, "The vase was broken", we immediately react with "By whom?" (well, we'll probably say, "Who did it?", but still..) In Spanish, we use, "Se me rompió el jarrón." The direct translation is, "The vase broke itself to me." In the grammatical construction, we let people know that it wasn't intentional. The Spanish language isn't as blame-focused as English. Does it make it better? Worse? That's up to the users. Does it make it last longer? Time will tell.

There isn't a way to objectively rank language by "betterness", unless you have a set goal that you want to accomplish. Only cultures get to decide what their own goals are, and they will shape their own language by their own goals.

TL;DR Languages are only limited by what their culture's priorities are. If the culture's priorities change, the languages will too, effectively removing said limitations. Language is only seen as limiting if you're on the outside, wanting the culture to change to be more like you.

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 6 months ago | (#46978663)

I'm jealous. I which I had a talent for languages and/or time to learn them. You have access to so much more insight than I do. Keep on keepin' on.

Not a Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977235)

Everywhere I go I see manicure shops and similar offering to teach Brazilian. I don't see there being a problem in this case.

Re:Not a Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977989)

Yeah but that's to learn waxing, not Portuguese.

Re:Yet more English learning (2)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 6 months ago | (#46977329)

If I had someone to practice with, sign language would be an interesting one to learn over Skype, provided you had decent cinematography on each end.

Perhaps genetic therapies and the ubiquity of cochlear implants will obviate the need but I have meet a lot of elderly people who are too proud to admit they're losing their hearing and won't get their ears tested for an aid.

They say retirement care is a rapidly growing industry for a rapidly ageing western world...

(My father went deaf as a youth and required hearing aids for the rest of his life. Which was problematic at times because he'd take them off at home and never put them in the same spot - thus you'd be hunting for an aid. He never learnt sign language but we had a family vocabulary of about a dozen miming actions!)

Re:Yet more English learning (2)

CRCulver (715279) | about 6 months ago | (#46977337)

Note that in the case of Brazilian kids learning English from American old people, it is the young people learning a language. The old people are only getting social contact from this, not learning Portuguese. While there will always be unusually motivated people who manage to take up a foreign language in old age, in the main one cannot expect elderly Americans to start doing so. Sign language is challenging even for younger generations who have already passed the age at which languages can be acquired natively.

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 6 months ago | (#46977399)

Language is only one thing being learned here - the elderly, if they bother to listen, will learn much about contemporary Brazilian culture.

For what it's worth, there are programs for retirees to learn languages - through seniors organisations such as U3A. One mightn't get as fluent as a teenager learning a language but it is possible.

Anyway, I'm 40 and if I started now, I'd be fluent in sign language by the time I'm in a home at age 90 :)

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 6 months ago | (#46978691)

If I had someone to practice with, sign language would be an interesting one to learn over Skype, provided you had decent cinematography on each end.

If you're looking for someone to learn sign language from I'd recommend visiting Conversation Exchange [conversationexchange.com] , Verbling [verbling.com] or Italki [italki.com] . Since it's a constructed language you can become reasonably proficient in a few weeks. I taught myself to finger spell over an afternoon and could carry on an intermediate level conversation after about two weeks.

My father in law is one of those "too proud" people with regards to his hearing and having him in the house is an exercise in frustration. He doesn't have the radio too loud, when in fact it is nearly impossible to set the volume higher, we're just too sensitive. He doesn't have a hard time hearing us when we're practically yelling in his face, we're just not speaking up. Etc. In his case, however, I think the hardest part of convincing him to communicate with speakers of other languages or learn one himself is his old world belief that non-English speakers are inferior in some way.

Re:Yet more English learning (2)

jez9999 (618189) | about 6 months ago | (#46977587)

Never mind English, there are lots of paths to learning it in most countries. Not so the other way. How about a scheme for those of us who want to learn some other, relatively minor language, where it is difficult to even find basic texts outside its native country?

LiveMocha used to be good until Rosetta Stone bought them out and ruined it. :-(

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 6 months ago | (#46978827)

Never mind English, there are lots of paths to learning it in most countries. Not so the other way.

Yes there are. College courses and immersion programs about. Not having a way to learn a foreign language while living in a developed country == first world problem.

How about a scheme for those of us who want to learn some other, relatively minor language, where it is difficult to even find basic texts outside its native country?

The scheme involves become a linguist and travel abroad. For such things, there are no easy-to-get, get-lean-or-rich-by-taking-a-pill schemes.

Re:Yet more English learning (1)

legojenn (462946) | about 6 months ago | (#46979007)

I wouldn't mind chatting with some old person in Portuguese. It might even push my vocabulary to over 100 words.

Winner (1)

wombatmobile (623057) | about 6 months ago | (#46977151)

This scheme is a great success that is transforming the Brazilian culture. The first videos are already up on youtube [youtube.com] .

NAMBLA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977167)

isn't involved, right?

Is this a good idea? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977203)

Yeah, let's teach the children that it's a good idea to videochat with older strangers on the internet, what could possibly go wrong?

Re:Is this a good idea? (2)

hnangelo (1098127) | about 6 months ago | (#46977693)

They are not young children, they are late teenagers.

Re:Is this a good idea? (1)

parkinglot777 (2563877) | about 6 months ago | (#46978673)

I hope that the project goes as plan. However, nothing is perfect in this world and I have already foreseen a few situations when things may go wrong. I do not wish it to happen, but it is very likely because there could be a bad apple in any thing we involve. One very likely to happen situation is the younger in Brazil would ask the elder here to send him/her money. Once the elder send money from the sympathy/empathy, the younger would take advantage of that and keeps asking. Then other younger may start to copy. I am not saying that all of the those who ask for money are lying, but I am saying that most if not all of the them (younger) still do not realize what is right and wrong especially in the culture that Westerners do not experience.

It is nice to hear about a project which aims for the good, but expecting only good things to happen is going to cause problems later on. I hope they have some preventions or plans to handle any issues. Dealing with different humans is much more difficult than dealing with different computer platforms/languages/problems.

Disgusting (-1, Troll)

erroneus (253617) | about 6 months ago | (#46977205)

I have seen far too much senior exploitation. Any profits made by this enterprise should be surrendered to benefit the seniors being used. Not only are they being used. They are being used to further facilitate the downfall of the USA and its cultures and history.

I challenge anyone to find senior participants in this program who doesn't reek of piss and vomit and worse. That's not the "new deal" these seniors signed up for. And if we, as we grow older, have any hope to live our last years in dignity, we would to well to ensure our seniors do as well. It is a tradition of respect that will save us and nothing else.

Re:Disgusting (3, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | about 6 months ago | (#46977293)

They are being used to further facilitate the downfall of the USA and its cultures and history.

By helping to spread the language and culture prevalent in the US?

Intresting theory.

Re:Disgusting (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 6 months ago | (#46978859)

Have you ever been charged with training your replacement? Knowing you're getting the sack? That's exactly how this feels to me. This is more than "they took our jobs." We see the washing away of western heritage and culture all over and people are only now waking up to it. Read some news from around the world and look into the struggles in European nations with their immigrant problems as well as here in the US. And if it were an honest competition, that would be fine. But this is something being shoved down the throats of the public.

It has been said long ago by people wiser than me that you cannot maintain a first world nation by importing the third world. And ideally, it would be better to encourage the third world to rise up. However, attempts to doing that invariably seem to fail as long as leadership remains native.

The people of the US and Brazil both love sports. But the similarities end when you note that Brazilians take their fandom a bit too far. The deadly violence should need no linking. Liberia has been built and rebuilt by western people multiple times and each time it collapses into what the people make of it. Zimbabwe? Know about its history? South Africa? Recently one of the white anti-Apartheid leaders was murdered because he was white. There's just no getting around certain realities -- realities such as the notion of "a bad neighborhood."

By saying "bad neighborhood" or "bad area" people are placing the blame for things "on the environment" as if the solution is to move people out of the environment to make their lives better somehow. Really? What makes a neighborhood bad? Trees? The ground? Buildings? Streets? None of those things are responsible for people's behavior. It is the people themselves. That is what makes bad situations bad and relocating them will not improve things. And neither will helping them learn a second language as long as their culture and thinking are not a part of the program.

But we are training our replacements. The 0.1% has decided they need more and everyone else needs less. Look where things are going. Everything we do in the US is destroying family and the family unit. There are people out there saying our children are not our children, that they belong to the state and are allowed to remain with us at their pleasure. This is no exaggeration. That we, as a nation, have disposed of our seniors into rotten, stinky 'retirement homes' speaks volumes of what has gone wrong. And now someone has decided to profit from it further? It is more than merely appalling. It's disgusting. And it's not how things are supposed to be. How are they supposed to be?

We have families. We have children and we love and teach them and they, in turn, love us. We get older and if we loved and taught them right, they will take care of us in our old age and so the cycle continues. But that's not what has been happening has it? The notion of the family has been all but destroyed. Birth rates in the first world all over are unsustainably low due to new societal norms which require everyone be career-minded caring nothing about family. Lately in the news there are even stories of women who are literally buying positive pregnancy tests in order to try to trap men. That's how far we've gone and that's just a mild example.

There is just so much wrong with the program I have gotten very worked up about it. It would be ideal if we could share language and culture to the betterment of all the world. But that's not what's driving all of that. They are training call center workers and other cheap labor. Quite literally, it's a program of training our replacements using our society's discarded seniors, taking advantage of their empty, lonely lives.

This is no troll. This is outrage over how bad things have gotten. I was born in the 60s. I know a better time. I grew up with a grandmother who taught my mother and me about values of the family and of good living. My post-depression-era grandmother had much to teach us. My mother built a home on her land so that my grandmother could age in dignity instead of going into a retirement community after my grandfather passed... my grandfather who worked until the last day of his life. Disposing of people into retirement homes is no way to do it. "Families" shirking their responsibilities... the result of a degenerated and selfish society and now creating a resource for even further exploitation to the next stage.

There are people out there cheering this -- the downfall of the US. I don't. I mourn it.

Re: Disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46979315)

I tried reading that, I really did.

I failed.

Re:Disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46979327)

Yeah, everybody who learns English goes to USA and takes your jobs away. That is why only 7 people in Europe,4 in Africa and 2 in Asia are speaking English - everybody else is gone to USA. ... i feel so lonely :(

Re:Disgusting (2)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46980211)

This is no troll...

No, it's an enormous collection of stupidity, ignorance and racism masquerading as 'rose colored glasses' nostalgia.

Re:Disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977435)

Let the empire fall. We will fill it with Brazilian scavengers and let them scam the elderly out of their hard earned diaper money. Omitte mirari beatæ fumum et opes strepitumque Romæ.

Re:Disgusting (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977463)

So your choice is....

You go to the seniors who reek of piss and vomit and spend the time with them.

Here we have a win-win. The oldies of your decadent country are helping disadvantaged kids learn about English and your US Culture, improving them markedly. And as the payoff to the other side, your piss-smelling grandparents are able to have a little human interaction, a little break from the fact that you are too fuvking lazy to visit them.

If ANYTHING is facilitating the downfall of your country, it's you and your pathetic ilk.

Re:Disgusting (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about 6 months ago | (#46978423)

You go to the seniors who reek of piss and vomit and spend the time with them.

Funny thing being that some fraternity boys try to pick up girls smelling the same way.

Re:Disgusting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977521)

You do have the point that such programs should be targeted to US youth, to help their English language learning in a government funded program. The insurance companies managing retirement funds might protest to any program helping the retirees living longer though. That said, I write to slashdot to keep up and "improve" my English language skills and cultural knowledge, often pulling my facts from non-conscious memory, that is ass. I'm sure many of you feel exploited now.

Re:Disgusting (5, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 months ago | (#46977945)

I have seen far too much senior exploitation

My son participated in something similar in the early 90's. He was in the last year of primary school (Australia), after introducing the kids to a group of senior via a "party" in a nearby retirement home they paired off kids with seniors followed by maybe a dozen weekly visits where the kids and seniors just sat around and talked. The class was the weekly visit itself there were no set topic of discussion and no notebooks, the home work was to describe each weeks visits in writing. My son was paired up with a Hiroshima survivor who had fought for the Japanese army in Burma, not an everyday lesson but certainly a valuable one.

Having said that, I fully acknowledge that the majority of old people living in these places are either not lucid, require hospitalization, or are not lucky/rich enough to land in descent seniors accommodation: I drove a taxi for 3yrs during the 80's, I've probably seen the inside of more old people's homes than you would care to imagine. A "computer pen pal" scheme such as this one would be a welcome improvement to the depressing circumstances I witnessed in at least 3/4 of those homes. I can still picture the (very)old man with a vomit stained dressing gown tied to a wheel chair in a "geriatric centre" that had been built in the windowless basement of a large hospital, they hadn't even bothered to paint the concrete walls. It's one of the most pitiful real life scenes I've witnessed in 55yrs. But old people wallowing in "piss and vomit" is much worse than just "exploiting" someone vulnerable for financial gain, it's two of the worst of human traits combined - cruelty and neglect.

What these disgracefully neglected people need is basic dignity and respect. Assuming the status-quo in old folks homes doesn't inexplicable change tomorrow, a "bright-eyed and bushy tailed" teenager that reacts to them as a student reacts to a respected teacher is precisely the psychological boost they need. Life experience is all they have left to offer society and they find dignity in the fact that a "young person" (under 70) accepts their offer. Assuming there's no "profit sharing" arrangements between the entity running the old folks home and the advertising company providing the ad-supported social network, I really can't see why you would have a problem with it.

Re:Disgusting (1)

cusco (717999) | about 6 months ago | (#46980299)

Had a friend who went through the training to be certified as an LPN in the '80s, wanting to improve the lives of the elderly. She worked in several of those places, never lasted more than a couple of months because conditions in all of them were so bad that she couldn't handle it. Eventually she got of of that line of work entirely and had taken to riding her motorcycle like a lunatic, probably out of a desire to not live long enough to ever end up in a nursing home.

Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (3, Insightful)

kaendesmut (2318424) | about 6 months ago | (#46977209)

Sorry, i don't want to be pedantic on this but really upsets me when people say "Americans", it's wrong in so many ways that worries me a lot for the kind of education that US kids have. For example, it would be awful if you refer to a french and a portuguese in this way: "Portuguese kids and Elderly Europeans". As far as i know, Brazil is still an American country.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

erroneus (253617) | about 6 months ago | (#46977243)

Get used to it. The word which means "oriental" (east asian?) has become "asian" to the exclusion of all others who live and die in "asia." To say "United States of America" is simply inconvenient. Most of the world has accepted that to refer to America is to refer to the nation known as the United States of America. Any other means of expression which may be more accurate is simply too inconvenient. It does appear to strip all other American nations of their "Americanity" but that doesn't seem to harm Canada or Mexico's identity and Brazil certainly seems to stand on its own as well. (In fact, better in some ways... turns out Brazil didn't fall for many the banking scams which resulted in a suffering global economy... not very "American" of them was it?)

So yes. Be pedantic. You have identified a problem. Do you have a solution to offer?

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 6 months ago | (#46977273)

Seppo [wikipedia.org] is a perfectly cromulent demonym. :)

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977667)

That's pretty rich coming from somebody in Oz. How's that pool of criminal genes serving your redneck sorry asses down there? Bask in ANZUS and pray we do not let the Chinese eat you alive.

As a Yank who has done some traveling and has seen quite a bit of Australia and a bit of NZ, I was astonished to find that aside from western Canada you people are the richest source of nearly illiterate first-world xenophobes to be found outside of the US.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978469)

Hey! I like Australia. It reminds me of home back in Alabama.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977351)

You have identified a problem. Do you have a solution to offer?

"South American Kids Learning English By Video Chatting With Elderly Yankees"

Is this better? :)

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977461)

Yankee

*runs*

Brazilian kids and Elderly Yanks. (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 6 months ago | (#46977249)

'estadounidense' doesn't exist in English.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Yanks. (2)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 months ago | (#46977609)

..but they understand "gringo". ;)

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (2, Insightful)

Spy Handler (822350) | about 6 months ago | (#46977375)

Does nation of Brasil have the word "America" in its official name?

How about Canada? Mexico? Guatemala? Let's go down the list and see.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (4, Insightful)

jittles (1613415) | about 6 months ago | (#46979187)

Does nation of Brasil have the word "America" in its official name?

How about Canada? Mexico? Guatemala? Let's go down the list and see.

Except that the America in the name of the USA refers to its location. Everyone in North and South America is an American. Because, as per your logic, they live on a continent with America in its official name. When I travel abroad and people ask me where I am from, I tell them I am from the United States. I do not tell them that I am an American because that narrows it down to 35 countries.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46979521)

When I travel abroad and people ask me if I am American, I say yes. None of them have ever been confused as to whether or not I am from the USA. Foreign newspapers refer to American foreign policy, the American President, etc. They are not talking about the Americas, they are talking about the USA.

When the OP says "Sorry, i don't want to be pedantic on this" they really mean to say "Sorry, i am totally pedantic on this".

Meta-pedant (1, Funny)

TapeCutter (624760) | about 6 months ago | (#46977597)

Sorry, i don't want to be pedantic on this but really upsets me when people say "Americans", it's wrong in so many ways that worries me a lot for the kind of education that US kids have.

No problem, I'll do it for you, sans-apology.

First up "i" should be uppercase, even my spiel chucker knows that.
Second, depending on where and when you were born/educated there are between 5 and 7 continents. [wikipedia.org] There's also a reductionist 4 name convention for academics that's based on contiguous land masses (ie: each continent is an island).

The meta-pedant is as follows:
1. There is no such continent called "America" in English speaking nations.
2. Slashdot is published in English.
3. "America" is globally recognised as an abbreviation of "The United States of America" by English and non-English mass media. If the author/speaker is taking (in English) about the definition of "America" (in Spanish), then the context should make that clear to the reader in order to be understood.
Therefore: When posting on Slashdot, Brazil is most definitely a South American nation and "America" is a North American nation.

"For example, it would be awful if you refer to a french and a portuguese in this way: Portuguese kids and Elderly Europeans"

You think so? - What's the problem? ALL Portuguese are European, NOT all Europeans are Portuguese, right?
I highly recommend using logic and reliable data to alleviate your emotional stress about the issue, It works for me, believe it or not, I do not suffer any mental trauma reconciling the facts that, 1. Victoria is in Canada. 2. I'm a Victorian living in Australia who has never set foot in Canada.

Re:Meta-pedant (2)

jabuzz (182671) | about 6 months ago | (#46977933)

I was born and grew up in ENGLAND, and let me tell you there was such a notion as a continent called "America". So I don't know where your English speaking nations are, but they are decidedly not in England.

Though to be balanced we do have a notion of North and South America, but I doubt anyone would question either usage, and certainly not when I was growing up.

Re:Meta-pedant (1)

gsslay (807818) | about 6 months ago | (#46977993)

Well your ENGLAND based education appears to have been confused. Are you sure you're able to speak for the entire nation?

The Americas have always been two continents; North and South, for as long as the concept of continents and the name America has applied.

Re:Meta-pedant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978635)

I'm pretty sure it wasn't his education that was confused.

Re:Meta-pedant (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 6 months ago | (#46978685)

I wonder if he also gets confused when people say "United States." Are they talking about the United States of America, or the United Mexican States? I can never tell!

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 6 months ago | (#46977635)

it would be awful if you refer to a french and a portuguese in this way: "Portuguese kids and Elderly Europeans"

What is wrong with that if those kids are specifically from Portugal, whereas the elderly people are from all over Europe?

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 6 months ago | (#46978003)

We here in America call ourselves Americans and call our country America. Do you think we should instead call ourselves what other countries think we should be called? Would you like that? Hey, you call yourself X, but we call you Y, and you're wrong so you change everything in your country and you're stupid for not consulting us first.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46978155)

Don't worry, we still call you what we always call you when you're not around to hear it...

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

Gibgezr (2025238) | about 6 months ago | (#46979329)

Thank you for the best laugh of my day so far.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

Ogive17 (691899) | about 6 months ago | (#46978133)

To out pedantic you - they should use 'North American' or 'South American' if they want.

Everyone in the world refers those of us who live in the USA as 'Americans'. Maybe you can buy some time to speak at the UN to propose a global change.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 6 months ago | (#46978219)

Everyone in the world refers those of us who live in the USA as 'Americans'.

Except those who call them Yankees, or something considerably ruder.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978523)

Except those who call them Yankees, or something considerably ruder.

Within the US, you can call a northerner a Yankee and they wouldn't bat an eye. However, you probably will only be able to call a southerner a Yankee only once.

Re:Brazilian kids and Elderly Americans? (1)

nblender (741424) | about 6 months ago | (#46980189)

yeah; whatever... I live in america but I'm Canadian; not American. It's well accepted that 'Americans' refers to those who live in the USA.

Useful at last.... (2)

Urquhardt (3529035) | about 6 months ago | (#46977223)

Finally.... a real use for the internet.

Just wait for some Brazilian kid trolling elderly (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977323)

Just wait for some Brazilian kid trolling elderly to early graves.

First volunteers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977455)

Rolf Harris, Stuart Hall, and those Muslim gangs

Vocês crianças saia do meu gramado! (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | about 6 months ago | (#46977459)

Vocês crianças saia do meu gramado!
(You kids get off my lawn!)

Re:Vocês crianças saia do meu gramado! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977787)

Vocês crianças saia do meu gramado!

(You kids get off my lawn!)

I have to say. It is not correct, but is exactly what a foreign neighbor of mine would say me years ago !

I made an app for this too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977483)

We've created an application (allinsongs) to learn english for brazilian people and vice versa. It's available for android and iphone.
www.allinsongs.com

an advertising company? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977607)

wtf? what's in it for them?

Most people in Brazil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46977707)

...can barely speak and write decent Portuguese, so why would they want to learn English or any other foreign language for that matter?

Re:Most people in Brazil... (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46978165)

I highly doubt that the two groups "can't write in legible Portugese" and "wants to learn English badly enough to talk to some old fart on the internet" have a huge intersection...

Re:Most people in Brazil... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978203)

Call center job openings?

Another 1st World Problem solved! (3, Interesting)

gsslay (807818) | about 6 months ago | (#46978013)

Can't be bothered conversing with the old folks? Fed up with their tales of the old days and embarrassing folksy casual racism?

Problem solved! Get a developing nation child to talk with them instead, so you can get on with your busy life. All the advantages of cheap labor without the annoyance of immigration!

Re:Another 1st World Problem solved! (0)

Opportunist (166417) | about 6 months ago | (#46978169)

Yay Internet!

I hear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978847)

I hear...Donald Sterling will soon have a lot of time on his hands. Maybe he can talk to some nice kids in Brazil.

How is this news? (1)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | about 6 months ago | (#46978131)

Is it because they used youtube? Because internet based language exchange programs have been going on - at least in southeast Asia - for quite a while now.

This is news? Wow. (1)

InsectOverlord (1758006) | about 6 months ago | (#46978551)

Language exchange is one of the most obvious uses of videoconference over the Internet; it's been done ever since broadband (basically anything faster than dial-up) Internet access was widely available, with plenty of sites devoted to that purpose.

Is it news because it's about elderly Americans and young Brazilians? This is more like an unabashed slashvertisement.

Grampa Simpson (1)

m.alessandrini (1587467) | about 6 months ago | (#46978611)

Why can't I stop figuring Grampa Simpson?

Re:Grampa Simpson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46980133)

Why can't I stop figuring Grampa Simpson?

Why can't I stop figuring this guy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_%28Family_Guy%29

  - Peder

Learning ENGLISH? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46978789)

How can anyone learn English by chatting with Americans?

One problem I see with this (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#46979379)

Sounds good in theory, but I think some people are under the misconception that the language commonly spoken in the USA is identical to English. In some instances, the two languages are not even mutually intelligible.

remove the teachers (1)

bugs2squash (1132591) | about 6 months ago | (#46980179)

I think I remember a Ted talk where a PC connected to the internet was just "appeared" in a hole in the wall in a small village and with no instruction the locals could use it to browse the web and skype (or similar) to british retiree volunteers. They quickly picked up a range of skills entirely self guided including a knowledge of english. I think it might have been this one [ted.com]
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