The Sub-faculty of Portuguese is a dynamic centre for teaching and research about the Portuguese-speaking world and is the only independent Portuguese department in the UK. Portuguese can be studied from scratch or post A-level in Modern Languages degrees and in Joint Schools (see here).
We have a dedicated centre for Portuguese language teaching funded by the Camões Institute in Lisbon.
Why study Portuguese?
Portuguese is one of the six most widely spoken world languages, with over 215 million native speakers worldwide in Portugal, Brazil, Africa and beyond, and is becoming ever more important as a language of commerce. Studying Portuguese allows you to explore an amazing range music, films, books, and food and to converse with people from across the globe.
Portugal is England’s oldest ally (by a treaty signed in 1386, when the King of Portugal took an English wife) and the two countries have been closely linked ever since. The Portuguese changed the course of world history through their ‘discoveries’ in Africa, Asia, and South America during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Brazil is the largest and fastest developing nation in South America and recently hosted the World Cup, the Olympics, and Paraolympics. Although famed for its beaches, being the birthplace of samba, and being fanatical about football, there is much more to discover about this complex and diverse country.
Why study Portuguese at Oxford?
In Oxford, Portuguese is taught in a small, but growing sub-faculty. Our students feel part of a special community, as they have language classes, lectures, and tutorials with their peers studying Portuguese from across the university. Unlike at most universities, here you can study Portuguese on its own, in combination with any of the languages offered at Oxford, or in the Joint Schools with English, History, Modern Middle Eastern Languages, Philosophy, or Classics. We have specialists who cover literature from the Medieval period to the Present day, encompassing Portugal, Brazil, and Portuguese-speaking Africa. Native speakers from Portugal and Brazil provide expert language teaching at all levels.
Portuguese from scratch
Most of our students arrive in Oxford with no prior knowledge of Portuguese. Our first-year course is specially designed to support absolute beginners. By the end of four years, beginners students attain the same level in Portuguese as in their post-A-level language (if studying two languages). At no other point in your life will you have four years to dedicate to learning a new language, so why not branch out from your A-levels and try something new?
In order to decide whether Portuguese is the right choice for you, below are some suggestions for how you can introduce yourself to the language and culture of the Lusophone world:
Resources for learning Portuguese are widely available. Self-study books such as Colloquial Portuguese or Teach Yourself Portuguese are a good places to start. Apps such as Duolinguo or sites like Memrise offer a simple (and usually free) way to begin learning. Local schools or colleges may offer evening classes, if you are looking for something more structured, so look online for these.
As yet, there is no comprehensive grammar of Portuguese written in English, but some useful guides for beginners are:
Janet Lloyd and Cristina Sousa, Basic Portuguese: A Grammar and Workbook (Routledge, 2015)
Amelia Hutchinson and Janet Lloyd, Portuguese: An Essential Grammar (Routledge, 2003)
John Whitlam, Modern Brazilian Portuguese Grammar: A Practical Guide (Routledge, 2017)
Sue Tyson-Ward, Portuguese verbs and essentials of grammar: a practical guide to the mastery of Portuguese (Passport Books, 1997)
For dictionaries, a very helpful tool is the Porto Editora English-Portuguese dictionary available as an app for Android and iOS. Porto Editora also produces a corresponding monolingual Portuguese dictionary (both in print and as an app), the Dicionário da língua portuguesa. For paper bilingual dictionaries, the Oxford Portuguese Dictionary and the Collins Portuguese Dictionary are good.
Literature and Culture
In recent years, the cinema of the Portuguese-speaking world has become increasingly visible on the international stage. You should be able to find Portuguese-language films easily on online retailers and digital stores like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc. The same is true of Portuguese-language music. Rather than providing a list of suggested films/music, we encourage you to do some exploring online and find something that speaks to your interests. (We often discover new things to watch and listen to by browsing online too!)
In terms of literature, we do not expect you to have read any books in Portuguese before coming to Oxford. However, we do think that those considering applying for Portuguese should try to read something in translation. Again, you should do some searching online to find books that spark your interest. Prizes for books in translation are one starting point — the Man Booker International Prize had two Portuguese-language books on its shortlist in 2016. Your local bookshop may also have a World Literature section with some books from Portugal, Brazil, or Portuguese-speaking Africa in translation.
If you can afford it, visiting Portugal or Brazil is also an excellent way to begin familiarising yourself with the culture and language of the Portuguese-speaking world, but this is far from expected.
After your degree
Native speakers of English who speak Portuguese are still quite rare, so Portuguese language skills set you apart on the job market. In recent years, institutions, such as the British Council, have actively recruited Portuguese speakers in their graduate schemes. The analytical and communication skills of Modern Linguists are also prized by all sorts of employers. We have recent graduates working in the charities sector, TV, the Law, academia, professional translation, startups, the Civil Service, the wine industry, and many more areas besides.
For further information
Professor Phillip Rothwell
King John II Professor of Portuguese
47 Wellington Square, Oxford, OX1 2JF
Tel 01865 270474
Professor Claudia Pazos Alonso
Lecturer in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies
Wadham College, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PN
Tel 01865 277547
Professor Claire Williams
Lecturer in Brazilian Literature and Culture
St. Peter’s College, New Inn Hall Street, Oxford, OX1 2DL
Tel 01865 278932
Oxford University is one of the few institutions with an independent unit devoted solely to the teaching of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. The Sub-Faculty of Portuguese, which has just celebrated 75 years of the teaching of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, has five teaching members: the King John II Professor of Portuguese Studies, University Lecturers in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Brazilian Literature and Culture, and Portuguese Language and Linguistics, and a leitor appointed by the Instituto Camões. The Lecturership in Brazilian Literature and Culture was created in 2008, and the first holder of the post, Dr Claire Williams, began work in April 2009.
The Sub-Faculty works closely with the Centre for Portuguese Language/Instituto Camões and the Latin American Centre (continuing the work of the former Centre for Brazilian Studies).
The members of the Sub-Faculty have distinct but complementary areas of expertise which allow it to offer graduate courses and graduate research across the broadest spectrum, from modern literature (including modern women’s writing, Brazilian and African writers, and cinema) through sixteenth-century poetry and drama to medieval literature and Linguistics.
Since 2005 Oxford and Universiteit Utrecht have operated an exchange of teachers under the Erasmus programme. Every year, usually in January, Paulo de Medeiros, Professor of Portuguese at Utrecht, spends a week in Oxford, giving lectures and classes on modern and contemporary Portuguese and Portuguese African literature, post-colonial theory and literary theory. Professor T. F. Earle has made several visits to in Utrecht, giving lectures and classes on Portuguese Renaissance literature; in 2010-11 Dr Pazos Alonso will spend a week in October giving lectures on Modern Portuguese literature, and Dr Parkinson will make his second visit to lecture on Portuguese Linguistics and Medieval Literature.
Three members of the Sub-Faculty have edited the Companion to Portuguese Literature, which was published in December 2009. A supporting website is in preparation.
There are large and active communities of Portuguese and Brazilian graduate students in Oxford, who meet regularly in the Oxford University Portuguese Society and the Oxford University Brazilian Society. Portuguese students in Oxford organised a major meeting of UK Portuguese students, LUSO 2008, in Oxford in June 2008.
We welcome applications from graduates of all universities in the UK and around the world, and particularly from Portugal and Brazil. The application procedure is the same as that for all prospective graduate students in the university. Those applying for doctoral work may wish to contact a potential supervisor directly, and are encouraged to do so by email (contact details are given on the Teaching Staff website).
It is very helpful if you are able to submit written work in the same broad area as that in which you wish to pursue graduate work, giving the date and context in which it was written. All graduate courses require a high level of linguistic competence in the main language studied, and your application should make it clear that you meet this requirement.
Prospective graduate students are encouraged to identify the areas in which they are interested in pursuing work, and those applying for doctoral work are expected to have a coherent research proposal. Where feasible applicants are invited to attend for interview with the prospective supervisor.
Prospective students wishing to apply for graduate studentships should make sure they submit their application in time for consideration for the studentship: for many studentship schemes the deadline is in January each year.
Sub Faculty members are associated with the Centre for the Study of the Cantigas de Santa Maria and the Research Centre for Romance Linguistics.
Current and recent topics of graduate dissertations include:
- Diogo de Teive’s Epithalamium
- The Myth of Antigone in Portuguese Drama
- Fernando Pessoa and Oscar Wilde
- Queer Theory and the poetry of Al Berto
- Machado de Assis: from Serial to Book
- The Poetry of João Cabral de Melo Neto
Seminars and Colloquia
The Portuguese Graduate seminar meets at least four times each term, to hear papers by invited speakers and members of the Sub-Faculty. Graduate students are encouraged to present their research to this seminar.
The Sub-Faculty regularly organises colloquia on topics in Portuguese and Brazilian Literature and Culture. Recent events include Journeys of (Self)Discovery in Brazilian Cinema, a one-day conference on Brazilian road movies and travel narratives, organised by Sara Brandellero in 2007, From Renaissance to Post-Modernism: Rewritings of Myths in Britain and Portugal, organised by graduate students Inês Alves Mendes and Catarina Fouto in 2008, and Negotiating Power in the Literature of the Iberian Inquisitions: Courts, Crowns, and Creeds, organised by Catarina Fouto and Tyler Fisher in 2010. The sub-faculties of Spanish and Portuguese jointly organised the 2009 annual conference of WISPS (Women in Spanish and Portuguese Studies) in Lady Margaret Hall.
The Instituto Camões Portuguese Language Centre organises regular workshops and symposia on Portuguese history, politics, and current affairs, as well as sponsoring plays, concerts and poetry readings. The proceedings of a 2006 conference on The Treaty of Windsor (1386) and 620 years of Anglo-Portuguese Relations are published on the Faculty website.
Graduate students are encouraged to join the Association of British and Irish Lusitanists (ABIL) which holds biennial coinferences. The most recent ABIL conference was in Maynooth, Ireland, in September 2009.