This Is Such a Wonderful Idea

Cheap to implement, and a win for everyone:

It’s such a great, simple idea: Young Brazilians want to learn English. Elderly Americans living in retirement homes just want someone to talk to. Why not connect them?

FCB Brazil did just that with its “Speaking Exchange” project for CNA language schools. As seen in the touching case study below, the 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.

Found it on the facebook thingie, and thought it was wonderful, but this comment made me laugh out loud:

a whole generation of brazilian teens are going to be calling a couch a “davenport” and saying “isn’t that darling” instead of “omg cuuute.”


40 replies
  1. 1
    different-church-lady says:

    a whole generation of brazilian teens are going to be calling a couch a “davenport” Fox a legitimate news source and saying “isn’t that darling” instead of “omg cuuute.”“KEEP GOVERNMENT OUT OF MY MEDICARE!”

  2. 2
    srv says:

    Hot Brazilian kids can be the grateful children these boomers never had.

    I’ll trade a green card for them for a house in Petropolis or Curatiba.

  3. 3
    WereBear says:

    This is brilliant!

    And that is a hilarious comment.

  4. 4
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @WereBear: The really brilliant ideas always look so simple after somebody else has thought of them.

  5. 5
    BGinCHI says:

    Hooking up with Brazilian teens online?

    Where are the anti-gay Republicans? I would think they would be lining up around the block for this.

    BTW, in Canada it’s a Chesterfield, so we dodged that bullet.

  6. 6
    WereBear says:

    @Gin & Tonic: I think it’s because we have these mental barriers we are not aware of until simple brilliance hops around them.

  7. 7
    Baud says:


    Ha! You beat me to it.

  8. 8
    Morzer says:

    I think this is wonderful! John Cole will have lots of young friends when Shaun and the animals get their own place.


  9. 9
    srv says:


    Where are the anti-gay Republicans?

    They thought Orkut was a vegetable.

  10. 10
    jl says:

    Very cute and a great idea.

    Only, if Cole gets all warm and fuzzy, and thinks he wants to help out, he should get some training first. Otherwise international incidents will ensue. (“what is this mean you say ‘Punch you in the neck’?”)

  11. 11

    Nothing sounds more likely to exercise their brains and break them out of Senile Tea Party Dementia than regular conversations with a young brown foreigner who’s learning English.

  12. 12
    Morzer says:


    Isn’t Orkut where Sauron and Saruman stop for pizza?

  13. 13
    gelfling545 says:

    I was talking with my kids just recently about the words my grandparents used that are no longer in use: davenport, galoshes, parlour, veranda, ice box, saloon, etc. My grandparents used them; not me , although I do understand them if I come across them. I’m well into my 60’s so I’m guessing that these folks participating in the program aren’t much older than I and it’s doubtful they use them either. I do find the stereotyping of older people, especially us baby boomers, here to be tiresome sometimes.

  14. 14
    WereBear says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: An excellent point!

    BTW, wanted to say Congratulations! on your book doing so well.

  15. 15
    geg6 says:

    This is a great idea. Seriously.

    OT, but our esteemed Governor Corbett (if by esteemed, I mean guy I want to spit on) has given up on voter ID. He won’t be pursuing the court case any longer. Victory for the good guys!!!

  16. 16
    different-church-lady says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Now there you go ruining my fun with a very good observation.

  17. 17
    MomSense says:

    That is a fantastic idea!

  18. 18

    This actually made me cry. What a brilliant idea. Kudos to the person who came up with it.

  19. 19
    Jacks mom says:

    @gelfling545: oh they’re just jealous because we had the best music and drugs and because we are going to use up all the social security that we obviously didn’t pay for.

  20. 20
    TriassicSands says:

    I’ve taught English as a Second Language and the last thing I’d recommend is for non-native speakers to learn English from “average Americans,” although there may be a cushion built in by the fact that these Americans are elderly. They probably had a little grammar in school and grew up reading (at least occasionally).

    When students have questions about why something is the way it is (in the English language), most Americans, who learned English by speaking English and nothing else their entire lives, don’t have a clue. Fortunately, this sounds like an opportunity to practice speaking and being understood, and learning to understand others. Even average Americans ought to be able to handle that.

    …they not only begin to share a language—they develop relationships that enrich both sides culturally and emotionally.

    This is a good, even great thing. If the Brazilian students have had some instruction in fundamentals, then practicing conversational English with elderly Americans should, or at least could, prove very rewarding for both parties. I once assigned my students to interview elderly Americans about their experiences during the Great Depression (history class, not ESL), and despite their initial reluctance, the students had an overwhelmingly positive experience, as did the interview subjects. There are undoubtedly a lot of lonely seniors in this country who would love to have someone to talk to and get to know, even if it’s only on the phone. The downside is they don’t get to bake cookies for the youngsters.

  21. 21
    Pogonip says:

    @efgoldman: My mom, 85, has used the D word.

  22. 22
    Keith P says:

    This is gonna turn out like “Better Off Dead”, except an entire generation of Brazilians will be telling long stories that don’t go anywhere.

  23. 23
    Violet says:

    This is a great idea!

    My favorite “retirement living” facility that I’ve ever heard of included apartments for low income single mothers with school age children. The retired folks helped watch the kids after school and tutored and assisted them with their homework. The kids got extra “grandparents” who cared about them plus help with homework. The mothers got childcare so could work to move the family up without constantly having to take time off. And the retired folks were needed and useful and got to use their valuable skills to help the next generation and made great relationships along the way. Everyone won.

    I can’t remember where I read about it–it was at least a decade ago–but I haven’t heard of anything similar since. I think it’s such a great idea.

  24. 24
    JGabriel says:

    @Keith P:

    This is gonna turn out like “Better Off Dead”, except an entire generation of Brazilians will be telling long stories that don’t go anywhere.

    You know, people, it’s a two-way street. What about all the old people who suddenly start calling the ‘hood the favela and want Brazilian wax jobs.

  25. 25
    Pogonip says:

    @Keith P: “…so I tied a coconut to my belt, which was the style at the time…”

  26. 26
    jenn says:

    @gelfling545: Just FYI, it’s not stereotyping ages – it’s local usage. I’m a hell of a lot younger than you, and use galoshes and saloon. Given there are establishments in my town that are explicitly named saloons, the latter’s not surprising!

  27. 27
    Morzer says:


    I would prefer not to imagine Cole with a Brazilian wax job this close to my supper, if it’s all the same to you.

  28. 28
    Fuzzy says:

    @gelfling545: I’ve got ten more on you and whenever I disagree about anything I’m discarded as a grouchy old man. The world existed before 1980. Bad news took days instead of seconds to reach you. A wonderful thing way back then.

  29. 29
    Pogonip says:

    @Morzer: Besides, he’d get hurt during the waxing.

  30. 30
    maven says:

    Why does John have McCarthy in his name?

  31. 31
    Morzer says:


    Freddie de Fucking Boer

  32. 32
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    OMFG, just the thought of an elderly American getting a Brazilian makes me want to throw up in my mouth.

  33. 33
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    Sometimes technology is great.

  34. 34
    LanceThruster says:

    All anyone needs to know is, if you’re not understood, SPEAK LOUDER!!

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:


    What jenn said — at least a few of those words are regional and still in use today. “Parlour” is probably the only one on your list that’s mostly dead (and that’s if it refers to a room in your house and not the ice cream parlour in Old Town).

  36. 36
    exurbanmom says:

    I volunteer tutor ESL, and many of the other tutors I work with are seniors. they are incredibly dedicated folks, and practicing basic conversation is definitely something most adults are capable of.

  37. 37
    🌷 Martin says:

    This is pretty commonly implemented on college campuses – called language exchanges. A foreign student teaches a domestic student their language and the domestic student helps them with their english. Nice to see it spread to other settings.

  38. 38
    Death Panel Truck says:

    @efgoldman: I grew up in the seventies. We had a couch that my mother called a davenport. I never knew why, and didn’t really much care. I just thought it was a synonym for sofa or couch.

  39. 39
    Gretchen says:

    I recently saw a New York Times quiz about dialects, and one of the questions was do you say couch, sofa, or davenport? My folks were from Ohio and used davenport. The quiz correctly placed me as from Toledo or Detroit – I’ve lived in both – my husband from Milwaukee, and my daughter from the next Kansas City suburb over from where she grew up.

  40. 40
    Birthmarker says:

    @Gretchen: I took a similar internet quiz and it placed me squarely in the city of my birth!

    I love the idea in this post, mainly because I hope to have meaningful engagement if I am ever in a retirement home. I dread crafts-I don’t do crafts now b/c I’m not good at them. In fact I hope I end up in a home with an open bar and a cocktail hour.

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