This Autumn, the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies is offering an accelerated language course, Port 110 – Accelerated Elementary Portuguese, taught by Dr. Eduardo Viana da Silva. The Center for Global Studies interviewed Professor da Silva to discuss the larger cultural significance of studying Portuguese, and to learn more about the UW minor in Portuguese Language and Luso-Brazilian Studies.
“Brazil has been at the center of the dialogue about human rights, especially with the rise of the Black Lives Matter in the U.S. and the Brazilian counterpart, Vidas Pretas Importam. Brazil is also the center of attention for the climate change crisis and the threats that the Amazon and its Indigenous peoples are suffering.”
Could you tell us a little about the inspirations that led you to develop this course?
We have been offering the minor in Portuguese Language and Luso-Brazilian Studies, hosted at the Jackson School, since 2019. The minor is a way for students to validate their efforts in learning Portuguese and taking content classes associated to Portuguese-speaking countries.
Why is Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian studies important today?
The minor in Portuguese Language and Luso-Brazilian Studies brings attention to the Global South, particularly to the Portuguese-speaking countries: Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe, and East Timor. In addition, it creates a dialogue about the role of Portugal in history and in the European Union. Brazil has been at the center of the dialogue about human rights, especially with the rise of the Black Lives Matter in the U.S. and the Brazilian counterpart Vidas Pretas Importam. Brazil is also the center of attention for the climate change crisis given the significance of the Amazon Forest for the world and the threats and attacks that the Amazon and its Indigenous peoples are suffering.
What are some key insights that you hope students will take away from this course?
We have had several students who received federal grants to pursue their study of Portuguese and content areas, including the Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS), the Boren Fellowship, and the Fulbright Grants. Some students have spent time overseas because of these grants in Brazil, Mozambique, and Portugal. Other students have continued school at the graduate level or have pursued jobs in which their knowledge of Portuguese is relevant. By graduating with a Minor in Portuguese Language and Luso-Brazilian Studies, students have skills that are very specific and set them apart. They learn Portuguese to communicate at the Intermediate level of proficiency and higher. They also learn about some aspects of Portuguese-speaking countries that are relevant for their future careers, as the content classes can be tailored to students’ needs.
How has studying and teaching Portuguese impacted your life?
It has been very satisfactory to me, as someone who teaches Portuguese and cultural classes, to see the language acquisition of Portuguese and understanding of cultural issues taking place over the years. By teaching a student in an introductory language class, like PORT 110, and in the future teaching a 300 level class to the same student, it is clear to me the trajectory that students take and how their language skills develop. I take pride in the fact that our language courses focus on communication and put oral production at the center of it. I believe students appreciate this.
Is there anything we haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
Perhaps because the Portuguese Program at the UW is small, our classes range between 10 and 15 students, we have had a sense of community that sometimes is not achievable in large programs. This has been a positive aspect for students as they rely on one another and on their instructors to improve their language skills in Portuguese and knowledge about Portuguese-speaking countries. In addition, our online cultural and linguistic exchange with students at UNESP (São Paulo State University) has been one of the highlights of our language courses.