Time for Goan students to embrace Portuguese language

Non-Goan students studying the language at GU, but Goans shying away
Language has the ability to take you places.
Language has the ability to take you places.Photo: GT Digital

Language is the road map of a culture. It tells you where its people come from and where they are going. These words of American feminist writer Rita Mae Brown sum up the importance of language to any region or area.

A language has the ability to take you places and build a close connect with people. In Goa, the Portuguese left behind their language, which is a very significant part of Goan heritage and legacy. The Portuguese language reconnects us to our past and has also created opportunities for Goans around the world.

Studying a new language  has its own challenges.
Studying a new language has its own challenges.


However, today, with the younger generation in Goa not keen on pursuing the language, it is gradually fading. In fact, the state houses the only university in the entire Indian subcontinent offering a Bachelor in Arts and Masters in Arts (in Portuguese), yet Goan students aren’t availing these courses. Just one Goan (in the third year) pursuing the course at BA Level and two Goan students at Masters Level in Part-2 go on to show a lack of interest in the language. 

As a result, the university is left with non-Goan students predominantly from states like Delhi, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh studying the language. The primary motivation for these non-Goan students is earning a decent sum for translation and interpretation jobs in multinational companies in metropolitan cities across sectors like IT, automotive, real estate, petroleum, mining, etc. Portuguese subtitling and dubbing for web series and movies are other areas where the language is of much help.

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Knowing languages not native is beneficial as it creates job opportunities and allows individuals to know different cultures.

Listening to her family converse in Portuguese at home while growing up, sparked a desire in young Suzie Vas to pursue the language. Now, equipped with a Masters in Portuguese at Goa University, she’s taken on the responsibility to inculcate love for this beautiful language in her students. “I chose the language because there’s a shortage of Portuguese teachers at the school level. Teaching lets me in a way ensure this language is kept alive”, says Suzie Vas, Portuguese teacher at Don Bosco, HSS, Panjim.

Knowledge of languages can open up job opportunities.
Knowledge of languages can open up job opportunities.

Learning a new language is challenging and Portuguese comes with its own set of grammar rules, pronunciations, accents and vocabulary that is very overwhelming for a beginner. “Initially, young students have difficulty in understanding, mainly because they haven’t got a chance to familiarize themselves with the Portuguese language. Back home, most of them haven’t heard anybody speak the language. If teachers are patient enough, students manage to comprehend and slowly get a hang of the numerous tenses and find it pretty easy to learn”, she opines.

She recommends starting with the basics -- understand the rules and concepts and if one encounters difficulty, approach a teacher. Also, she advises, one can look at resources online or enroll in a course. Familiarize yourself with the language by listening to Portuguese music or interviews and, most importantly, have fun while learning it, she suggests. 

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In Goa, for old documentation in Portuguese related to property, administrative or judicial translation charges usually depend on the word count (some charge Rs 5 per word). The Goa State Archives also offers empanelment for Portuguese translators.

Apart from this, as translators and interpreters there are also vacancies available in the private sector and other part-time jobs. “I was hired by the government to interpret for the Lusophone Festival held in Goa in December 2022 and as a liaison officer for the G20 meetings,” informs Prof Dhruv Usgaonkar, Program Director of Portuguese Studies at Goa University revealing the huge scope in the field.

With few parents willing to send their children to learn Portuguese at a higher level, there are significantly fewer Portuguese instructors in Goa, he rues.

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At Goa University, the courses being offered to learn Portuguese include a Bachelor of Arts in Portuguese for three years, while a Master’s degree is for two years which begins at the start of the academic year. Now, after the National Education Policy (NEP) is enforced, there will be changes with BA (in Portuguese) being extended to four years while MA (in Portuguese) only for one year. Certificate of Proficiency in Portuguese (A1, A2, B1, B2) -- 100 hours per level -- is also available via online mode in the evenings to members of the general public (as and when it is announced).

Since there are fewer seekers, Portuguese knowledge is not a prerequisite while entering the BA Portuguese and for MA Portuguese the eligibility requirements include B1 level in Portuguese.

Portuguese courses can help a ton while learning the language.
Portuguese courses can help a ton while learning the language.

After completing BA (Honors) in Portuguese at Goa University, Sybil Sequeira continued with her Master’s degree. In August 2022, she got an opportunity for interpretation in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and now has received an Erasmus+ scholarship to spend one semester at Porto University in Portugal.

“Annual scholarships are offered by institutions like Fundação Oriente and Instituto Camões wherein one can study in Portugal. Moreover, there’s also a scholarship called Erasmus+ for undergrads and masters. Of course, the seats are very limited but who would want to miss such an opportunity?” she says.

At a Master’s level, she believes it’s important to have good language competencies to follow the papers like History of Portuguese Language, Portuguese and General Linguistics, Brazilian Literature, Portuguese Literature that are offered at the University.

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With unemployment on the rise in the state, parents, guardians and youth need to look beyond the standard courses. In such a scenario, knowledge of a global language like Portuguese can lead to better career opportunities.

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