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Demand for Brazilian Portuguese on global rise

Brazil’s growing global prominence, boosted in recent years by the choice of the country as the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics host, has increased demand for Brazilian Portuguese language learning.

Rede Brasil Cultural, an initiative created by the Foreign Ministry to promote Brazilian culture abroad, currently relies on about 200 teachers and has already provided services to 9,000 students in 44 countries across the five continents. In Helsinki, Finland, the students include athletes who will be participating in the 2016 Olympics. Australian athletes have also learned Portuguese with native Brazilian teachers at the Australian National University.

The network comprises 24 cultural centers and five learning centers run by Brazilian embassies, as well as 40 lectureships made up by Brazilian university teachers awarded with Foreign Ministry fellowships to teach Brazilian Portuguese and/or culture abroad.

Fernanda Glaucia Pinto

Fernanda Pinto, one of the fellows, teaches Portuguese to undergraduate and postgraduate-level Brazilian Studies classes at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. More than teaching language, she helps promote Brazilian culture in the Nordic country. “We provide dance and music workshops, film and documentary screenings, and events focused on Brazilian culture for students and the community at large, like Brazilian Day, for example” she said.

Magnus Aastrom, 20, one of Fernanda’s students, told Agência Brasil – in Portuguese – that he has great interest in Brazilian culture. “Brazil is popular,” he joked. He says he cannot wait to get to know Brazil – an exchange trip is part of the Brazilian Studies program.

Derek Pardue, Brazilian Studies coordinator at the University of Aarhus, says the increased interest in Brazil is remarkable and this integration with foreign universities is playing a key role in exporting authentic Brazilian culture to other countries around the world. “We want to strengthen our cooperation with the Brazilian government and the Embassy of Brazil to achieve our greatest challenge: raising awareness of the program,” the coordinator said.

“Many of our cultural centers have filled up their classes in just a few hours. Demand is just too big in many locations. People are increasingly looking for Portuguese language courses abroad as Brazil gains prominence in the global scene,” said Jorge Tavares, of the Foreign Ministry Division for Portuguese Language Promotion.

According to him, leading international universities have grown an interest in adding Brazil’s variant of the Portuguese language to their course offerings. “Some universities have reported demand specifically for Brazilian Portuguese and now we are getting hundreds of requests for Brazilian lectureships,” he said.

With resources falling short of the demand, the main focus of the network is to expand its presence in South America, fellow BRICS countries (Russia, India, China, and South Africa) and the world’s leading universities. Currently, there are lectureships at such major universities as Harvard (US); Fudan (China); Sorbonne (France); King’s College (UK); and Cologne (Germany), as well as other educational institutions in countries across North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia.

The Foreign Ministry has sought to improve the network’s integration in recent years, by launching a dedicated website, a Facebook page, and a magazine featuring contributions from students, teachers, and headmasters. The curricula are also being consolidated. In addition, each center will be providing Portuguese language courses for at least six proficiency levels. The aim, according to the Foreign Ministry, is to get all partners to operate in an integrated way rather than as “islands”, thereby making it easier to replicate successful initiatives across the network.

Translated by Mayra Borges

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