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Amelia Rivera Barreto's picture

Learning Portuguese at the U of M

Today I want to share a little bit about my passion for languages and the opportunities the U of M offers me in this area. I have always been interested in learning languages, and I'm one of those weird people who actually enjoy grammar. I currently speak Spanish, French and English fluently and have studied Italian, German and this semester started studying Portuguese. Since I am an international student who studied in both Spanish and English in a foreign country I didn't have to take a second language for my College of Liberal Arts requirement, but I wanted to take advantage of the great language programs at the U of M so I have taken courses like intensive French writing, beginners German and then found a Portuguese class for Spanish speakers that caught my attention.

This is a class specifically tailored for Spanish speakers, focusing on the differences between the languages so we don't end up speaking "Portuñol". It's an intense course as it condenses four quarters into one! In Portuguese just like in the other languages offered at the U, the professors are amazing. My current teacher, a Brazilian woman with an incredible energy and humor is one of the reasons why I am so excited about the program. She goes out of her way to find community opportunities for us to practice Portuguese, attend Portuguese events, try food from Portuguese speaking countries and give us lists of movies, musicians and other cool Portuguese things to do. She is a Brazilian literature PhD student with an incredible passion for her culture and history so she creates a very dynamic environment in her classroom and really motivates us to learn. This has been the case of my other language teachers in both French and German which is always very refreshing. 

The U also has a vast collection of movies and books in Portuguese we as students have access to and really helps students like me who want some extra exposure to the language outside the classrooms. We don't pay extra fees for using this, as we can check out DVDs, books and other resources with our student ID. There are also programs like the Tandem Plus that pairs us up with native speakers so we can practice the language and talk about the culture (I haven't tried it yet) and the faculty organized events like Bate-Papo (Kaffestunde for German, etc...) which is a weekly conversation hour in Portuguese about different topics. It's a great way to meet other students, practice the language and sometimes get a free snack which never hurts poor students like me! 

I know most international students come here with English as their second language, but as a side note, I would really recommend taking a language course and learning a third language. What's the worse that can happen? For me learning languages has always been an opportunity to not only communicate with other people, but learn about the different values and ways of experiencing lives that are reflected and created by their languages. So many of our thoughts and world views are defined by the language and vice versa. It is one of those things that open so many new possibilities and can teach us so many things about ourselves and the world we live in. The U of M has amazing language programs and resources, take advantage of them. You don't get that many opportunities in life to be a student and have access to these!