January 9, 2002

Contact: Sarah Ray
Posted: January 9, 2002

MIDDLEBURY, VT - Middlebury College has established a Portuguese Language School, which will open in the summer of 2003. As Middlebury’s ninth language school, it will be the first new summer program since the Arabic School was inaugurated in 1982. The College will also offer its undergraduate students beginner-level Portuguese during the 2002-2003 academic year, and plans to provide opportunities to study abroad in Brazil starting in 2003.

According to Michael Katz, Middlebury College dean of language schools and schools abroad, recent data on Portuguese language studies indicates there are approximately:

  • 200 million speakers worldwide
  • 150 language programs at United States institutions of higher education
  • 6,500 undergraduate students taking courses in Portuguese in the United States
  • 500 graduate students taking courses in Portuguese in the United States

Although Portuguese is the world’s sixth most commonly spoken language, at present there is only one summer program in the United States devoted exclusively to its study.

In Brazil, where Portuguese is the primary language, close to 170 million people make up the world’s sixth largest population. It ranks fifth in size, has the eighth largest economy, and is the United States’ largest trading partner in South America.

"Portugal itself is a cultural and historic jewel, a vital member of the European Union, and an important ally of the United States. Portuguese is still widely used in many of its former colonies in Africa and Asia," said Katz.

During the spring of 2002 Middlebury will recruit a director for the Portuguese School. The director will spend the summer of 2002 observing the other eight language schools in operation, meeting with staff and administrators, and planning for the following year. The Portuguese School will begin full operation in the summer of 2003 with approximately 30 students. Undergraduate language instruction will be offered in a seven-week program on three levels-- beginning, intermediate and advanced.

Last summer, approximately 1,150 students came to Middlebury to participate in the Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish Language Schools.

During the course of the Middlebury College Language schools’ 86-year history, more than 36,000 students from all walks of life—including more than 11,000 advanced degree holders—have attended one or more of the schools. Corporate executives study side-by-side with writers, journalists, doctors, lawyers, missionaries, government officials and diplomats. Undergraduates and graduate students from Middlebury College and other institutions also attend the summer sessions to fulfill language requirements or complete degrees.

Under the guidance of approximately 200 faculty members from colleges and universities throughout the world, students of all ages and numerous nationalities live on campus, totally immersed in their target language. Students eat, sleep, drink, and shop the language they have come to study, and all agree to abide by the Language Pledge, a formal commitment to speak the language of study and no other for the entire summer session.

Each summer, the College offers three sessions for foreign languages: a nine-week session for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Russian; a seven-week session for French, German, Italian and Spanish; and a six-week session for graduate-level French, German, Italian, Russian and Spanish.