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Student initiative: we now have Brazilian Portuguese classes at ONU

Renato writes some vocabulary on the board in both Portuguese and English as part of the first class session. (Northern Review photo/Khadijah Bagais)

Renato writes some vocabulary on the board in both Portuguese and English as part of the first class session. (Northern Review photo/Khadijah Bagais)

ONU students now have the opportunity to add Brazilian Portuguese to the list of classes they can take at ONU, except it’s not part of the Registrar’s course catalog, and the teacher isn’t a PhD-toting linguist.

The class is instead being taught by four Brazilian exchange students, and they really think you should come.

Renato Montini, an electrical engineering exchange student from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, first got the idea for the class when a friend had asked him to teach her some Portuguese.

“[One of the other teachers’ roommates] loves to learn new languages, so we were always teaching her new words and expressions, so we thought, “what if we started a course to teach Portuguese to other students?”

He looked into the language opportunities on campus to see what was available, and after discovering that a Portuguese course wasn’t offered, decided to create his own. It snowballed from there.

He cited that many students don’t know anything about Brazil, despite the fact that it’s one of the fastest growing economies in the world, hosted the FIFA World Cup, and is set to host the 2016 Summer Olympics. He hopes this class can serve as a starting point for students to become more aware of both the language and culture.

“Teaching Portuguese on campus, students have one more opportunity. Brazilians love when they see foreigners trying to learn the language or the culture, and tend to be [a] lot more kind and helpful.”

The class is open to everyone, and no prior Portuguese experience is necessary. The first session was on January 23 in Affinity Commons, where six students learned the basics of the Portuguese alphabet and numbers. Renato and the other teachers hope to gradually expand, moving on to basic vocabulary, phrases, and even songs.

Kaylee Schoepe was one of the student attendees, and was excited to have the opportunity to learn a new language and better understand her Brazilian friends.

“I’ve always liked learning languages. I think it’s really cool. It makes communication really interesting--it adds something to it.”

She thought the first class went really well, and is glad she took the time to attend, saying that despite her crazy schedule, the one-hour time commitment was very doable.

“Renato is a really good teacher and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t feel stressed or pressured like in a normal class. Here, you’re with your friends, so it’s a level of informalness that’s nice,” she said.

The classes will continue to take place every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. until the end of the semester.

Renato said that he hopes ONU will eventually offer an official Portuguese class, but until then, he’s happy he’s taken the chance to start something that he hopes will continue.

“[At the end of the course] I hope that students will be able to start a basic conversation in Portuguese and ‘survive’ if they need to speak Portuguese anytime. I also want that they get interested in traveling to Brazil, visiting me when I [go] back!”

If you are interested in finding out more about this class, you can email Renato at

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