Proficiency Requirement
Offered in Washington, DC and Bologna


Portuguese is the official language of ten countries – Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Portugal, São Tomé and Príncipe, and the Special Administrative Region of Macau – in a community of over 240 million people spread over four continents. It ranks among the ten most spoken languages in the world, and it is the third most spoken language in the Western world, after English and Spanish. Brazilian Portuguese, spoken by the largest number of native speakers within the lusophone community, is the variety taught in the program. Likewise, Brazil and its political, economic, and cultural aspects are the main focus of the Portuguese language classes. However, Portugal and some other Portuguese-speaking countries of the African and the Asian continents are also included in class discussions.

The Portuguese Language Program offers courses at all levels, from Novice through Advanced levels. The program follows a communicative, content-based approach to language learning. In a learner-centered environment, students participate actively in classes and in the choice of topics covered so that the courses will reflect their main interests. Class activities are designed to develop the four skills – speaking, reading, listening, and writing – through relevant political, economic, and international relations content. Authentic materials are used at all levels to ensure continuous, up-to-date exposure to the language and foster skill development. In all of the communicative activities, a careful balance is maintained in developing linguistic, sociolinguistic and pragmatic competences.
Due to the similarities between Portuguese and Spanish, Spanish speakers learn Portuguese at a faster pace, typically reaching the required proficiency level in three semesters, depending on the student’s dedication and performance.

Novice (Level 1)
This course introduces the fundamental elements of the Portuguese language and Brazilian culture, while practicing daily vocabulary through relevant role plays. By the end of this course, students should be able to talk about themselves and their routines; ask for and give simple information; express gratitude, preferences and desires, likes and dislikes; make simple comparisons, and list events of their immediate past.

Intermediate Low (Level 2)
This course expands students’ basic language skills and vocabulary while reinforcing grammar. By the end of this course, students should be able to talk about themselves and their routine, and their immediate world; talk about the weather, seasons, time, and their habits in the past; give commands, simple descriptions of a place or city; make comparisons, and begin simple narrations in all time frames.
Intermediate Mid I (Level 3)
This course solidifies and expands on the language functions introduced in the previous levels, while introducing content related to the students’ fields of interest. By the end of the semester, students should be able to talk proficiently and accurately about familiar topics in all time frames and to express simple opinions on topics related to the economy, history and politics of Portuguese-speaking countries.
Intermediate Mid II (Level 4)
In this course, students will solidify and expand their functional knowledge of Portuguese through discussions of materials related to their area of expertise. By the end of the semester, students should be able to talk about current news, report on recent events, express opinion on topics related to the economy, history and politics of Portuguese-speaking countries.

Intermediate High and Above
These content-based courses provide a review of the four main language skills while expanding on students’ ability to talk about abstract topics. Students will learn to communicate effectively, accurately, and creatively in all time frames, as well as to express and support their opinion on topics related to their area of expertise. Typical classroom activities include simulations and debates. A special emphasis will be placed on the study of current events and their global impact. Listening materials consist of extended newscasts and recordings from political speeches.  Reading materials include feature-length articles on politics and international relations but also representative Brazilian literary and cultural texts. 

Portuguese can be used to meet the MA language graduation requirements of the programs within the International Policy Areas and the regional programs of Latin American Studies and European Studies.

To satisfy the school's language requirement in Portuguese, students are expected to achieve the following levels of proficiency:

Speaking Reading Writing Listening
Intermediate High Intermediate High Intermediate Mid Intermediate High

PhD students only need to pass the reading proficiency exam to meet their second foreign language graduation requirement.

Ana Isabel S. Delgado
Coordinator and Professorial Lecturer in the Portuguese Language Program
Rome Building, Room 308
Livia Assunção Cecilio, PhD
Associate Lecturer in Portuguese
Room 215