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
Portuguese sites and resources from the Taylor Institution Language/Country Resources page
Portuguese weblinks from the Language Centre web site
Ciberportuguês Dr. Stephen Parkinson’s guide to Portuguese web resources
Cantigas de Santa Maria
Instituto Camões Portuguese Centre website (http://www.clpic.ox.ac.uk/)
The Sub-Faculty of Portuguese is generously supported by the Camões institute in Lisbon: