U.S. Demand for Portuguese Increasing
As language departments are downsized, or cut altogether in U.S. universities, the demand for Portuguese is growing. Although it 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 at Dartmouth College, Rodolfo Franconi, attributes the increased interest 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 it for professional reasons. Some of them are even eager to live and work in Brazil.”
Universities admit that they are having difficulty keeping up with the increased interest in it. Last fall, Yale Daily News reported: “With Brazil becoming a global economic power, more and more students are signing up for ‘Elementary Portuguese,’ but Yale’s tiny Portuguese program does not have enough teachers to go around — or the means to hire new ones.”
With so much to look forward to in the Portuguese-speaking world, it’s no wonder the demand for it is surpassing the supply in the U.S. So far, students aren’t complaining that they have to spend time in the land of samba and steakhouses to fulfill their language requirements. It’s part of Portuguese’s allure.
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