Influx of Portuguese Learners Reveals Hole in Market
As language departments are downsized, or cut altogether in U.S. universities, the demand for Portuguese is growing. Although Portuguese has always been an important world language, it has only recently been recognized as an important language for business and international relations.
The profile of today’s Portuguese student is quite different from the humanities majors, lovers of Brazilian music, or heritage learners of before. Today’s student is interested in Portuguese as a means to get ahead in the business world. Associate Professor of Portuguese at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, Rodolfo Franconi, attributes the increased interest in Brazil to two factors, “One, knowing just Spanish limits them to working in only one side of Latin America and right now, the Brazilian side is becoming more appealing and, two, the growing interest in ‘emerging’ countries on the part of the richest nations, especially U.S. interest in Brazil.”
Other students hope for a cushy expatriate position in a Lusophone metropolis, like São Paulo or Luanda. Dartmouth College Assistant Professor, Carlos Minchillo explains, “The consequence of Brazil’s economic performance in recent years and the future events to be held in Brazil, such as the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games is that we have more students who choose Portuguese for professional reasons. Some of them are even eager to live and work in Brazil.”
While the demand for Portuguese language training continues to grow, so does the demand for materials that teach Portuguese for special purposes, such as business Portuguese. The market has yet to catch up to the influx of Portuguese language learners. Professor Franconi points out that while there is some dynamic material for beginners, more advanced textbooks leave much to be desired, and “Regarding materials for special purposes such as the petroleum industry, just introductory compendiums, reference books and specialized dictionaries are available.” The lack of adequate intermediate and advanced material leaves a hole in the market that has yet to be filled by publishers. As more students strive toward fluency in Portuguese, the need for new material will also grow.
- Kristal Bivona
Posted 1 year, 7 months ago at 12:23 am. 1 comment
Portuguese ( português (help·info) or língua portuguesa) is a Romance language that originated from a fusion of the dialect spoken in what is now Galicia and northern Portugal with closely related dialects spoken in territories to the south which had not yet been reconquered by the Christians to the Arabs by the time Portugal was born as a Christian kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula (first half of the 12th century). It is derived from the Latin spoken by the romanized pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula (namely the Gallaeci, the Lusitanians, the Celtici and the Conii) around 2000 years ago. It spread worldwide in the 15th and 16th centuries as Portugal established a colonial and commercial empire (1415–1999) that reached from Brazil in the Americas to Goa and other parts of India, Macau in China, Timor (north of Australia) and the five African countries that make up the PALOP lusophone space (Cape Verde, Guiné-Bissau, São Tomé e Príncipe, Angola and Mozambique).
It was used as the exclusive lingua franca on the island of Sri Lanka for almost 350 years. During that time, many creole languages based on Portuguese also appeared around the world, especially in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.
Today it is one of the world’s major languages, ranked seventh according to number of native speakers (between 205 and 230 million). It is the language of about half of South America’s population, even though Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas. It is also a major lingua franca in Portugal’s former colonial possessions in Africa. It is an official language in nine countries (see the table on the right), also being co-official with Cantonese Chinese in Macau and Tetum in East Timor. There are sizeable communities of Portuguese speakers in various regions of North America, notably in the United States (New Jersey, New England, California and south Florida) and in Ontario, Canada (especially Toronto).
In various aspects, the system of sounds in Portuguese is more similar to the phonologies of Catalan or French than, say, those of Spanish or Italian. Nevertheless, the grammar, structure and vocabulary of the Portuguese and Spanish languages are so similar that phonetic differences do not impede intelligibility between them any significant way. Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes once called Portuguese “the sweet language”, Lope de Vega referred to it as “sweet”  while Brazilian writer Olavo Bilac poetically described it as a última flor do Lácio, inculta e bela: “the last flower of Latium, wild and beautiful”. Portuguese is also termed “the language of Camões”, after one of Portugal’s best known literary figures, Luís Vaz de Camões.
Portuguese is also the fourth most learned language in the world, since approximately 28 million students study this language. The obligatory learning of Portuguese is observed in Uruguay, Argentina, Venezuela, Zambia, Congo, Senegal, Namibia, Swaziland, Côte d’Ivoire and South Africa.
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