Offensive TV Commercial | Open English

At the bottom of this post: Vinícius Nobre’s (President of BRAZ-TESOL) letter about Open English’s commercial and Andres Moreno’s (CEO and Founder of Open English) reply.

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Dear ELT professional,

The TV commercial below is currently being aired on national television by Open English, an online language school that boasts about only hiring NESTS (Native English Speaking Teachers) .

In the 30-second video, they stress the incorrect and outrageous view that NESTs are superior to NNEST (Non-native English-speaking Teachers) and literally paint a grotesque picture of the latter by depicting them as ugly, outdated, under-trained and ridiculous even. As fellow NNEST Isabella Villas Boas writes in her blog:

This commercial is a perfect example, trying to instill in its viewers the belief that NESTs are cool; NNESTs are not. You learn better from a NEST, even remotely, than from personal, face-to-face contact with a NNEST.

In my opinion, the ad is unnacceptable and offensive to all of us, language teachers (NESTs and NNESTs alike), who have invested our lives in becoming the best ELT professionals we possibly can: we read and write books and articles, complete university programmes, organise and attend conferences, take development courses, etc because we believe in what we do and want to do it well. It is unfair and disrespectful, to say the least, that this company openly offends a whole group of professionals and simply gets away with it. I believe that this completely misplaced advertisement can not go without a response from the ELT community.

Colleague Henrick Oprea, who is the current president of the BRAZ-TESOL Brasilia chapter, has expressed his thoughts about the whole situation in an intelligent and enlightening blog post hereVinícius Nobre, current national president of BRAZ-TESOL, has published an honest and assertive text (which you can read below) calling for the respect and recognition that “thousands of hard-working, gifted, committed, passionate and under-valued educators (from Brazil or ANY other non-English speaking country)” deserve. How about you? What are you going to do about it?

I strongly recommend that you read and share Henrick’s, Isabella’s and Vinícius’ texts. I also encourage you to join the Facebook cause here and post your reaction to the advertisement on the Facebook page of Open English here.

Get the word out. Talk to fellow teachers. Take a stand!

Fernando Guarany Jr
“The more we are, the stronger we become”

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Vinícius Nobre’s text: 

“As the president of the largest association of English teachers in Brazil, I feel I have to take a stand and express my outrage and disappointment with regards to the TV commercial that has been broadcast on national television promoting an online English course.

I am NOT a native speaker of the English language, I do not have long blonde hair, I do not live in California and I do not wear a tight T-shirt to teach my students. In fact, I NEVER had a native speaker of English as a teacher. I never even lived in a foreign country. I simply studied the English language in my own developing country, and then four years of linguistics, literature, second language acquisition, morphology, pronunciation, syntax, education, pedagogy, methods and approaches. I have only dedicated 16 years of my life to the personal and professional growth of thousands of students. I have not bragged about my passport or my birthplace because I was too busy trying to understand my students’ linguistic and affective needs. I am NOT a native speaker of the language; hence – according to this TV commercial – I do not qualify to teach. I probably qualify as an irresponsible and grotesque mockery of a teacher.
Like me, thousands of hard-working, gifted, committed, passionate and under-valued educators (from Brazil or ANY other non-English speaking country) are depicted in 30 seconds of a despicable and desperate attempt to seduce students. I have met outstanding teachers regardless of their nationality and many of which who were native English speakers. The best English speaking educators I have met, however, were always dignified enough to acknowledge the qualities of a non-native speaker colleague.
Foreign language education has developed tremendously so as to guarantee the fairness and respect that all serious language professionals deserve (native speakers or not). At least among ourselves. If students still insist that a native speaker is better, we should at least rest assured that in our own profession we can find the respect and the recognition that a committed and qualified professional needs to have. It is sad, however, to be ridiculed by another (so-called) educational centre.
As the president of BRAZ-TESOL, as a non-native speaker of the English language, as an admirer of teachers regardless of their nationality, I resent such an irresponsible joke. But then again, who am I to even think about saying anything about the learning and the teaching of English? I am not Jenny from California – the utmost example of a foreign language educator.”

Andres Moreno’s reply

My name is Andres Moreno and I’m the founder and CEO of Open English.
A recent advertisement we’ve been running on TV has upset some groups of people, including an important Brazilian teacher’s association, for what they perceive to be an offensive portrayal. Let me start by saying that anyone whose mission in life is teaching English has earned our admiration and respect. If we have offended this group, or any other, we sincerely apologize. As a company Founded by a Latin American entrepreneur and currently employing people from multiple countries across the region (including Brazil), we value diversity of opinions and welcome feedback as part of our desire to connect with students and advertise responsibly.
We happen to believe that online teaching from native English speakers is the right model for certain lifestyles, so it’s the one we’ve chosen for OUR business. However, this in no way diminishes the efforts and achievements of other teaching professionals.
Again, our intent was never to offend. Due to the feedback we have received and because of our great respect for our colleagues in the English teaching community, we are immediately pulling the ad from our website, social media platforms and television airwaves as soon as possible.
Meu nome é Andres Moreno, fundador e CEO da Open English.

Uma campanha publicitária veiculada por nós na TV foi considerada ofensiva por algumas pessoas, incluindo uma importante associação brasileira de professores. Quero começar dizendo que qualquer pessoa que tenha como missão na vida o ensino do inglês merece nossa admiração e nosso respeito. Se nós, involuntariamente, ofendemos essas pessoas, ou quaisquer outras, sinceramente pedimos desculpas. Como uma empresa fundada por um empreendedor latino-americano que emprega profissionais de diversos países (incluindo o Brasil), valorizamos a diversidade de opiniões e recebemos eventuais críticas como uma forma de nos ajudar a aprimorar nossa conexão com os estudantes e a anunciar de forma responsável.

Acreditamos que o ensino online com professores nativos de inglês é o melhor modelo para determinadas pessoas com determinados estilos de vida e é esse o modelo que escolhemos para o nosso negócio. Isso, de forma nenhuma, desvaloriza os esforços ou diminui a importância de outros profissionais de ensino.

Nossa intenção nunca foi ofender ninguém. Em razão das críticas que recebemos e do profundo respeito que temos por nossos colegas da comunidade de ensino do inglês, determinamos a interrupção imediata da exibição dos filmes publicitários da campanha em nosso website, em nossos canais nas mídias sociais e na televisão.


Andres Moreno
Fundador e CEO da Open English

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16 Responses to Offensive TV Commercial | Open English

  1. Great post, Fernando… as you will have seen, I’ve alerted my entire PLN and have posted not only on the Open English FB page, but also on that of its CEO Andres Moreno (and on his Twitter account and blog


  2. Leandro Alelaf says:

    Good job Guarany. I strongly agree with you!


  3. Roddy Kay says:

    Fernando, I´ve just posted comments about this on the local chapters site. In case members of B-T RN don´t see it let me give it here.

    Hi everyone,
    I agree with all comments made. I am 100% supportive of NNESTs who seek to improve their linguistic and ELT qualifications, recognize highly qualified NNESTs as peers and preach that it is essential for NESTs to examine their L1 as seen by NNS learning it and that NESTs need to work their way up the hierarchy of good and practical ELT qualifications.
    Clearly the ad has touched a very raw nerve and many will expect a vigorous response from TAs incl BRAZ-TESOL, of course. Let me sound a note of caution, however. There is the old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity – in the sense that anything draws attention to the name of the product raises awareness of the brand. The most talked-about cases of this are the Benetton ads of the priest kissing the nun and the white baby on the back woman´s bare breast. The first was offensive to many in the RC Church and it seems to me the second was a good test of whether or not deep down, we harboured any form of racial prejudice. The last thing we want to do is to raise awareness of this school. The critical reader´s instinct of any comments we make will be to judge them not just against the original ad itself, but what is really on offer. In other words, the school´s site is likely to register a much larger number of hits than it otherwise might.
    The most dramatic example I remember in Brazil of the visual image being used, grotesquely, to reinforce an ostensibly sincere point of view was the kicking of an image of the Virgin Mary by a “bishop” of a Protestant sect. This presentation was clearly gratuitously offensive to a large number of people and, I hope not just to Roman Catholics. It manifestly set out to offend. Benetton may have wished to wind up the Vatican but the intention was to shock and challenge the general public. Colleagues are rightly offended by the contrast between the good-looker and the not so pretty teacher (and the implication that the NNEST is not as food as the NEST). Yet arguably just as strong visually is that of the hassle of getting to the presential classroom as against learning English wherever you might be, electronically and interactively. The school is likely to emphasize this in any open or public reply.
    Therefore I suspect the stronger line is to take advice on whether the ad offends Brazilian legislation on standards for publicity. Secondly, presumably TAs should not accept any contact with this school unless and until they make some form of public apology and/or specifically acknowledge the essential role that non-native teachers must play in helping learners to reach a good level of competence in English. Possibly they should also be asked to confirm and publicise what qualifications their English teachers have and what training they are provided with. Thirdly, perhaps TAs could ask the international examination bodies to withhold or withdraw any recognition given to this school as a centre for their examinations. Finally, though I am sure others can add to this list, it might be worth alerting MEC and State Education Departments that this school may be undermining morale among state sectors and that in our view no education authority in Brazil, or anywhere else in the world, for that matter, should engage them or advertise their services.


    • BRAZTESOL RN says:

      Hi, Roddy.
      Thanks very much for taking the time to contribute this thorough response and sensible advice. I, too, regret that unfortunately our strong reaction to this ad will end up giving them much more visibility than OE would have otherwise. Well, you can’t have your cake and it, can you?


  4. Cristiane Cruz says:

    Hi, My words would never be so well written as Roddy Kay. He had a very good point on not letting this reaction be so energetic. I have been teaching for 14 years English and I am graduted on it, I know I do my best for my students to learn and I am a NNEST, but I think my students learn something because our best function in a class is not only to teach with the perfect accent (if there is such a thing) but our job is so marvelous that we “inspire” and once you are inspired of soing something you go for it! it’s like falling in love. I am happy because I do my best and these commercials are nothing compared to the greatest thing we sometimes are losing because of the internet: eye contact, touching hands, talking face-to-face, having a discussion in class… we should not be afraid. Machines will never substitute people. And what is good is endless….what is not disapears like dust in the wind….


    • BRAZTESOL RN says:

      Thanks, Christiane, for taking the time to add your voice to the discussion. The CEO of Open English has replied to Vinícius Nobre (president of BRAZ-TESOL) and the commercials will be removed. See the post above for the reply letter from the CEO and founder of OE.


  5. Agnaldo Brites says:

    Este tipo de empresa sobrevive e lucra alto graças àqueles que pensam, na verdade, exatamente como eles – obter tudo o mais rápido e fácil possível, sem o mínimo esforço. Por isso acabam caindo nesse tipo de golpe. Acho que deveríamos ficar quietos, para não divulgarmos mais ainda essa empresa sem escrúpulos!


  6. Pingback: Sobre a postura irresponsável da Open English, a carta aberta de Vinícius Nobre, presidente do BRAZ-TESOL | Educação Bilíngue no Brasil

  7. Pingback: Preconceito linguístico, sexismo, colonialismo e preconceito social num pacote só: o desserviço prestado pela Open English | Educação Bilíngue no Brasil

  8. Pingback: Orgulho de ser professora entre professores conscientes! | Educação Bilíngue no Brasil

  9. Alex Bonfim says:

    Very well said Vínicius.


  10. Jean says:

    I’m a NNEST from Colombia. I have all skills and qualifications as well as experience teaching English and encouraging my Colombian students to do their best and improve their English language every day. I strongly disagree with that awful and old fashioned image of English teachers who use old methods and approaches. I would like to extend my disappointment about this TV ad. We, NNESTS, show our students ways to learn not only a language but to understand a whole culture different to theirs. We work hard to encourage people who have the desire to develop skills to communicate in a global language and to know a different culture. It is unfair that a business strategy makes us see as the worst option for learning a language as we have studied to give the best of us to our students. I didn’t study English language abroad but I can tell that my English is good and I’m be able to fluently communicate with natives English speakers. Many people could speak English but just a few really know English language.


  11. Piapoco says:

    Open English caters to the ignorance and inferiority complex so pervasive in Latin America. Their success goes to show how low-spirited our societies generally are.


  12. albertfigueiredo says:

    What nationality is literacy? What skills are unconditionally attached to a specific cultural background? What clear connections are there between one`s place of birth and one`s proficiency in the language thereof?


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