Middlebury College Adds Portuguese Language Program

01/19/02 12:00AM



(Host)
For the better part of a century, students from all over the nation have come to Middlebury College in the summer to study foreign languages. Currently the college offers intensive summer programs in eight languages.

Now, plans are under way to open a new summer language program at Middlebury.

VPR's Beth Schmidt has more.


(Sound of "Welcome to Vermont" spoken in different languages.)

(Schmidt)
That is "Welcome to Vermont" spoken in French, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, and German. Just five of the eight languages currently taught at Middlebury College's Language Schools.

These schools are unique because they condense a year's worth of foreign language study into a summer. And starting in the summer of 2003, students will be able study Portuguese.

When they arrive on campus, they might hear this kind of welcome:

(Sound of male voice speaking Portuguese) "Welcome to Middlebury's Portuguese Language School."

Portuguese is the sixth most commonly spoken language in the world. It's spoken in Portugal and its former colonies in Asia and Africa. And Portuguese is the primary language of America's largest Latin American trading partner, Brazil.

Michael Katz is the dean of Middlebury's Language Schools and Schools Abroad Programs.

(Katz) "We see Brazil as the strategic player in South America. The largest population, the largest economy, most resources and we don't speak the language. And we hardly teach the language, compared to Spanish in this country. So we think that we should be responding to what we see as the potential for trade, and development, and jobs and contact between those two countries."

(Schmidt)
Many of Middlebury's existing Language Schools were also created in response to national needs. The German School was begun during World War One. Russian was added after World War Two. And Japanese was instituted when that nation started to emerge as a major economic player.

Katz says that Latin American studies and the Spanish Language School are thriving at Middlebury. But he says, with an emerging Brazil, Latin American studies without Portuguese is only half the picture.

His colleague, Jeff Cason, a political science professor who speaks Portuguese, agrees.

(Jeff Cason) "The unique thing about having Portuguese at Middlebury is that most liberal arts colleges would only have a Spanish language when they have a Latin American studies program. So what Middlebury would have with this is a Latin American studies program that really covers the entire area¿. Since Brazil makes up nearly half of Latin America, this sort of makes the program complete and unique, especially among small colleges."

(Scmidt)
The creation of the Portuguese Language School coincides with the College's plan to offer undergraduate courses in Portuguese and a study abroad program in Brazil.

For Vermont Public Radio, I'm Beth Schmidt in Middlebury.
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