Queen's University

Portuguese language course to begin in September

 
2013-07-23

By Meredith Dault, Senior Communications Officer

 (Left to Right) Committee members Ana Maria Fonseca, Maria Silva, Paula Dorego, Susan Freitas and Ana Marques and the June 8 fundraiser. 

Though Susan Freitas is proud to count herself as a member of Kingston’s Portuguese community, she admits her command of the language is not what it could be. “I can speak Portuguese, but I don’t know how to read or write it,” she says. While as many as 15,000 people in the Kingston area have Portuguese heritage, Freitas says too many can’t converse in the language of their ancestors – particularly among the younger generations.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in learning. Thanks to a recent fundraising effort from within the Portuguese community, Queen’s will offer a class in the language for the first time this fall.

Less than a year ago, Father Manuel Tavares, a priest in the local Portuguese community, together with Ana Paula Rebeira from the Camões Institute, a Portuguese governmental agency focused on promoting culture, approached Donato Santeramo, Head of the Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures about the possibility of a course. Father Tavares was already teaching a weekly Portuguese class in the community, but they wanted to see a for-credit option at Queen’s.

“I had no idea that the first course would be offered as soon as this September,” says Dr. Santeramo, “but then, I may have underestimated the community’s love for its language and culture, and its desire and determination in having the Portuguese language represented and taught at Queen’s University.”

After learning how much money would be required to bring a course to Queen’s for at least two years, Ms. Freitas, who ended up serving as the chair of the fundraising committee, and her team (Ana Maria Fonseca, Maria Silva, Paula Dorego, and Ana Marques) got to work. The first effort – a fundraising dinner at Kingston’s Our Lady of Fatima Parish Hall – raised $25,000 and put the goal within reach. “We had to stop selling tickets because the event was full,” says Ms. Freitas happily, “but I think we could have sold 200 more tickets!”

With a fundraising golf tournament in the works and another dinner planned for the fall, Ms. Freitas and her team are confident they will be able to keep the course rolling into the future. Thanks to the efforts of the Portuguese community, Dr. Santeramo says the foundation has been laid for even a bigger task: raising sufficient funds to make the course a permanent one. “These courses will strengthen the department’s programs in Spanish and Latin American Studies (SLAS) and World Language Studies.”

In the meantime, Ms. Freitas says she’s considering signing up for the class in the fall. “It’s really wonderful that it will be happening,” she says that about her community’s achievement. “I can’t believe we actually did it!”

 

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