Portuguese Class Offered at 5Cs

This semester the Claremont Colleges added Portuguese to the list of languages offered at the 5Cs. Students will now have the opportunity to learn the language and explore Brazilian literature and culture through Portuguese 22, taught by Scripps professor Rita Alcala in Pomona’s Lincoln building. It is the only Portuguese class across the five campuses and is available this semester only.

The new intensive introductory course is intended for students with strong backgrounds in Spanish because it moves much faster than a normal introductory course. According to French and Spanish dual major Sarah Varney SC ’14, this quick pace will be well-received by current students of romance languages at the 5Cs.

“The class is perfect for a polyglot…it’s extremely fast-paced,” she said. “It’s a beautiful language… and I get to challenge myself with my passion.”

Languages currently offered at the 5Cs include Spanish, French, Arabic, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, German and French. In order to free up time for Alcala to teach the one-time Portuguese class, deans of faculty across the consortium split the cost of hiring a replacement professor, contributing $7,500 each. There are currently fifteen students and one auditor enrolled in the Portuguese class, representing every college in the consortium. Since Portuguese 22 does not count towards language requirements, all of Alcala’s students have already fulfilled theirs.

Plans for a Portuguese class at the 5Cs have long been in the works. Other than a couple of years of “Portuguese for Spanish Speakers” at CMC, Portuguese has not been offered at the colleges.

“Since [Professor Delia Greth] left CMC some years ago, Portuguese has not been offered again,” Alcala said.

Alcala, who has a Masters in Portuguese from the University of Wisconsin—Madison, was approached to teach the language but had already committed to obligations in the Hispanic Studies department. A recent visit to the study abroad program in Salvador de Bahia in northeastern Brazil changed her mind.

“Because of my excitement for the programs there and recovering my Portuguese…when I came back I offered to teach Portuguese,” she said. “The first year the Associate Dean’s Council said, ‘maybe next year.’” Alcala persisted and this year the course was added.

According to Alcala, demand for Portuguese is at an all-time high. Brazil is an up-and-coming country with rising international clout politically, culturally, and economically, she explained.

“If you arrive there and already know verbs and vocabulary, you are in a much better position to carry out research and succeed at the program,” she said. Some students are taking the course in preparation for study abroad in Brazil, but more are applying for Fulbright teaching scholarships there. The number of Fulbright scholarships to Brazil has increased over the last few years, as Brazil looks to prepare its students for hosting the 2016 Olympics and 2014 World Cup.

Alcala expressed hope that the Portuguese class would become more than just a “trial.” Many students across the five campuses have expressed interest in studying abroad in Brazil but are hindered by the language barrier, she said. Further, the students enrolled show genuine interest in learning the language.

“I’m hoping that they see that this is a good opportunity for our students,” Alcala said. “I think that it would be a great asset to the Claremont Colleges if they could claim to have a Portuguese program.”

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