Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Where's the Beef?

I am in the unusual position of working at a university that promotes international education in many ways, but does not require its students to study a foreign language. Eventually we will change that policy, but meanwhile I am always looking for ways to encourage students to study languages.

Several reasons presented themselves recently, as evidence continues to mount of Brazil's growing economic importance. While the United States has been resting on its laurels, Brazil has been applying the lessons of hard work and education to grow its economy. OK, it is not all virtue: Brazilian capitalists occasionally apply some ruthlessness learned in the North as well. Whatever the reasons, as Brazil steadily moves up among the top-ten economies, specific examples of its importance to the United States are likely to become more common.

Almost three years ago, Brazilian Carlos Brito became CEO of a conglomerate that owns Anheuser-Busch. This Bud's for voce! As revealed in his Wall Street Journal interview, Brito is thrifty, hard-working, well-educated, and bilingual. It is interesting that in the "comments" page for the WSJ article, readers debate the relative merits of craft beer and mass-market beer, missing the MUCH LARGER lessons about education, work, and economic security.

More recently, NPR reported that a Brazilian company that started in the 1950s as a supplier of beef to workers building the new capital in Brasilia has now become the biggest meat producer in the United States. And the world. Again, as with any story of rapid corporate growth, many important concerns arise. A company that slaughters 90,000 head of cattle a day cannot be thought of as socially and environmentally responsible, for example.

An important lesson that can be gleaned from both stories, however, is that anybody in the United States who is in a position to learn Portuguese should do so. Fortunately, every student at my university (and throughout eastern Massachusetts) is in a position to do just that.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, James. There are still plenty of openings in my Spanish class for the fall!


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