Hello, bonjour, ola, hola, ciao, salut. This is a follow-up to the post Is Portuguese ready to steal the limelight?, which queried whether the Lusaphone world was ready to seize the moment and promote the language and culture in the next three years, feeding off the publicity that Brazil will generate when it hosts the World Cup and the Olympics. Last week I was in Auckland, New Zealand. It was much more cosmopolitan than I was expecting. On the fringe of the central business district there is a large university with about 30,000 students, many of them from Asia, and the city has some great restaurants, including a Brazilian one and a French one which I will talk about in another post soon.
Out of curiosity I did some internet searches to see what languages were taught at the local universities. The results were predictable. French, Spanish and Italian were on offer practically everywhere, along with other sought after languages such as German and Mandarin. I couldn’t find anything on Portuguese, even among those universities that offered Latin American studies. I found the website of one large community college in the city and saw that it offered Portuguese Level I and Portuguese Level 2, but when I clicked on the links it said that both courses were currently not available. Either the tutor had vanished or there simply wasn’t enough student demand to make the course viable.
(On the positive side, I did notice that this month and next a Brazilian film festival called Reel Brazil is to be held in Auckland and Wellington. This will be its fourth year, and you can read more about it here if you so wish. For a smallish city – its population is about 1.5 million, Auckland seemed to have a very busy festival calendar, at least at this time of the year.)
Coincidentally, when I returned to Sydney earlier this week, one of the largest community colleges that offers short courses, WEA, published its autumn course schedule in the local newspapers. The college is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and its website is here. Let’s have a look and see what languages are on offer, ranked by the number of courses available:
French: eighteen courses ranging from beginners to advanced conversation, as well as French culture and current affairs.
Italian: fourteen courses ranging from beginners to advanced conversation, plus Italian for travellers
Spanish: twelve courses ranging from beginners to advanced conversation, plus Spanish for travellers.
German: seven courses ranging from beginners to advanced conversation.
Chinese: seven courses ranging from beginners to advanced conversation.
Japanese: five courses ranging from beginners to advanced conversation.
Latin : four courses ranging from beginners to advanced.
Portuguese: beginners 1 and 2 plus beginners consolidation.
Swedish: beginners 1 and 2.
Indonesian: beginners 1 and 2.
Malay: one course for travellers.
Greek: Modern Greek 2 (number 1 was not on offer!)
Arabic: beginners 1.
That’s right: Portuguese, said to be the sixth most spoken language in the world, gets outranked at this college by Latin, a so-called dead language! And don’t forget, these courses are in addition to popular courses in French, Italian, Spanish and German taught in Sydney by the Alliance Française, The Italian Cultural Institute, the Instituto Cervantes and the Goethe Institut. The Portuguese government equivalent of these institutions is the Camões – Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua Portugal but it has relatively few offices around the world (Wikipedia lists them here). I don’t even know what, if any, its equivalent is in Brazil. It is named after the great poet Luís de Camões.
Another big college in Sydney that offers short course in various languages is the University of Sydney’s Centre for Continuing Education. Its language department currently offers 22 languages, including six courses in Brazilian Portuguese. But there are more courses available in Arabic, Latin, Vietnamese, Hindi, Japanese, Polish, Thai, Korean, Modern Greek, Chinese, Mandarin, Russian and Turkish (and much more in German, French, Spanish and Italian.)
It seems like Portuguese has got a long, long way to go. Sigh.
- 4th Reel Brazil Film Festival – Auckland and Wellington (pacific.scoop.co.nz)
- Alliance française (erdy92.wordpress.com)
- Is Portuguese ready to steal the limelight? (myfiveromances.wordpress.com)