UC Davis is expanding its language program with the Spanish department’s recent introduction of Portuguese language classes.
UC Davis will join other UC schools such as UCLA and Berkeley who already offer similar programs.
“Most leading university Spanish departments, in the UC and elsewhere in the United States, offer some level of Portuguese,” said Robert Newcomb, assistant professor of Luso-Brazilian Studies, who joined the Spanish department in the fall. “Our goal in introducing Portuguese into our curriculum was to make our department more compatible with this model and to make us more competitive in attracting undergraduate and graduate students.”
The Spanish department began offering courses in elementary and intermediate Portuguese last fall and has plans to further expand the program, Newcomb said.
“The program will incorporate a growing number of upper division and graduate-level courses,” he said. “It will also feature a Portuguese minor, which is projected for next year and hopefully in the near future, a Portuguese major.”
While classes in languages such as Spanish and French continue to be the top attractors at universities, Newcomb said the addition of Portuguese gives students the opportunity to learn a language that is spoken in numerous countries throughout the world and is rapidly growing in global significance.
“With Brazil gaining ever-greater geopolitical and economic prominence, giving students exposure to the Portuguese language opens doors for them, both intellectually and culturally,” he said. “It’s safe to say that if you want to be a citizen of the world in the 21st century, it pays to speak Portuguese and know the Portuguese-speaking world.”
Michael Souza, a junior Spanish major, took Portuguese 1 during fall quarter and said he was initially drawn to the language as a way to connect with his own ethnic heritage.
“Despite my strong Portuguese upbringing, I never spoke fluent Portuguese,” he said. “The idea that I could make up for years lost was a huge draw … I feel that in order to better connect with the Portuguese community, I need to speak the language.”
Other students, like Lyubov Vdovichenko, a junior biological sciences major, were attracted to the classes out of pure interest.
“I took Portuguese because I love the language, it is very beautiful,” she said. “I had started studying Portuguese on my own but it was difficult and when I found out about the class I was ecstatic.”
Newcomb said that, so far, the student response has been strong.
“The experience of the program has been very positive,” he said. “There are solid enrollments in all of the courses and colleagues in the Spanish department and elsewhere in the university have been very supportive of the initiative.”
Many of the students who began taking Portuguese in the fall said they enjoyed the experience and plan to continue taking classes.
“My experience was most pleasant as I was able to meet and connect with students from all parts of the Portuguese world,” Souza said. “I am currently enrolled in Portuguese 2 for the winter quarter and will take as many Portuguese classes as I can and as are offered in the future.”
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