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THE SPANISH LANGUAGE IN BRAZIL

Posted on 6 th june of 2006

THE SPANISH LANGUAGE IN BRAZIL

The language, its introduction and management are the key for those who would like to leave an indelible mark on a culture. The recent decision of the Brazilian government to introduce Spanish as an obligatory subject in the curriculum, even though optional for the pupil, in the educational possibilities of the high school educational centers of the South American giant cannot go unnoticed in times of globalization, integration purposes and the construction of continental geopolitical blocks.  

Within this framework, around eleven million Brazilian young people will have the option to walk down the pathway of the language of Cervantes and will be able, within a few years, to facilitate getting closer to a vision of the world of those countries at once so close and so far away, that share borders with these towns that speak Portuguese; a Brazil that has been, for the Spanish speaking world, both near and far.

The Brazilian Parliament approved the initiative proposed by the Democratic Socialist Party of ex-president Fernando Enrique Cardoso. The proposal had to go through constitutional order difficulties that could have prevented it from passing because initially the idea was that the Spanish language would be an obligatory second language for young students. Its turn to “optional” which was introduced into the text by the proponent of the law, Representative Atila Lira, saved the proposal which benefits the Brazilians as much as those all around Brazil that have Spanish as the mother tongue.

The same legislator that started the project has indicated that today there are no Brazilian children or young people who are not interested in the language of the neighboring countries. They know that speaking the language will “open many doors in their futures.” This future can be seen in the active interchange—and in the increase—that Brazil is having today through regional treaties, among other forms of making relations more dynamic. It can also be seen in their aspirations to make the Brazilian presence more relevant as a power in the area which, in one way or another, makes them more known to the rest of the world as the predominant voice of the area.  

In various Brazilian universities today a greater number of students are choosing to make Spanish their second language of choice instead of English. The educational centers will have a period of five years to comply with the new law in terms of the operations dimension since they are lacking in infrastructure and in the human capital available for the teaching of Spanish.

The idea of making the introduction of Spanish in Brazilian education is not new. Since 1991, when the MERCOSUR was taking shape, the aspirations of some Brazilian legislators and politicians were also taking shape and gaining support, but not without first beating some resistance. Among others, there were the defenders of English and French as alternative obligatory foreign languages in the education of the country.  

The resistance also took shape among those who advised regarding the dimension of the investment required to fulfill this alternative. The implementation of Spanish obligated the government to make a large investment: more than two-hundred thousand professors with adequate training in the Spanish language are needed and the deployment of a logistical apparatus that would assure the availability of support materials.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most pronounced resistance is not in the will of those who are against Spanish but rather in the basic initial conditions of a good part of the Brazilian population which appears not to have, in the general consensus of individuals, with the so-called “intangible capital” which, like the informal education received at home, permit a viable beginning and successful immersion in the complexities of a foreign language. This means that the favorable subjective disposition to the imposition of Spanish goes in the opposite direction of the objective will to take possession of the density of learning.  

One study that was made public these days by Brazilian experts shows that in this country there is a 68 percentage rate of functional illiteracy among those between the ages of 15 and 64. In this enormous mass of population, according to the report by the entity Accion Educativa in conjunction with the Paulo Montenegro Institute, only about 50 million Brazilians have complete dominance of reading. The other 75 percent lose the meaning in a paragraph with more than 10 lines. Today, 53 percent of the population is not able to finish elementary school.     

In Brazil, 80% of the students cannot afford the books and therefore these should be supplied by the Ministry of Education. The country has a population nearing 190 million inhabitants and, of these, about 60 million are young people.

Despite the frightful educational picture described, the achievement of obligatory Spanish in the Brazilian educational system is considered a victory of Latin American and Spanish diplomacy together. The representations of the different Spanish speaking States stimulated the interest of the politicians and of the culture which, in Brazil, supported the introduction of the Hispanic Language with the rank of obligation in the educational scheme.   

This shredding of the laws to obligate is to make the offering of courses of Spanish obligatory to the students who will be able to freely opt. The terrain for this offer is positive: Atila Lira understands that the young Brazilians are inclined, in the majority, to adopt Spanish as their second language. Under these conditions, it is supposed that within 10 years, a good part of the Brazilian population will be able to speak with the rest of their neighbors without language barriers and this, despite the structural weaknesses of the educational conditions of the country of Jorge Amado.

This situation is coincidental to Professor (Paulist) Sonia Romanello’s joining the group of collaborators at ARES. She will be the Portuguese editor of the editorial service. We welcome her presence and this announced offer to our visitors from the world whose culture is made up of a language full of traditions and contributions to humanity. (aresprensa.com).

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