Support sought for Portuguese language courses

  • Photo by Tamell Simons ¬ ¬ Andrea Moniz-DeSouza, new president of Vasco da Gama club.

    Photo by Tamell Simons ¬ ¬ Andrea Moniz-DeSouza, new president of Vasco da Gama club.


A Portuguese national walked into a local business and attempted to voice a concern over a piece of equipment.

He was greeted with deep, impatient sighs from the customer service representative who made it clear that she could not understand him.

Another employee witnessing the event, turned to a customer and declared: “I hate serving those kind of people.” She spoke into her microphone and her words were broadcast to the entire line of customers waiting, including the Portuguese speaker.

The incident was recorded on Facebook with the name of the company. Readers were outraged. It could have been avoided if the business had a Portuguese speaking employee on site (and perhaps also basic customer service training).

Despite the number of Portuguese on the Island many businesses do not have a person who speaks the language on staff.

The Portuguese culture club Vasco Da Gama Club is now advocating for the Bermuda College to begin offering language courses to increase the pool of Portuguese speakers here.

They are asking anyone who would like to see the classes offered to attend a meeting at the club later this month.

“We had a government official come from Portugal to visit in July,” said Vasco president Andrea Moniz-DeSouza. “She was Dr Maria Da Graca Castanho, regional director of the communities for the Azores. She thought it was a bit strange that the Portuguese descendants have been here so long and the language is not taught in school.”

A group visited the Bermuda College and suggested to Irving Berkowitz, vice president of Academic Affairs, that a Portuguese language course be offered.

He was interested but said Vasco da Gama would first have to demonstrate interest from the community.

“We have had a couple of our members interested in learning Portuguese,” said Mrs Moniz-DeSouza. “In many families the language hasn’t been carried on. Also, we have some members who are not Portuguese who would like to learn; maybe their spouse or family member is Portuguese.”

The Reid Street club will hold a meeting on October 17 at 8pm where everyone is encouraged to come out and show their support for a Portuguese language programme at the Bermuda College. The meeting will be conducted in English. No prior understanding of Portuguese is required to attend.

“We want to show that there is a large interest in the community,” Mrs Moniz-DeSouza said. “At the same time it would be a great move to have the language and culture acknowledged at the Bermuda College. It isn’t just a benefit socially; it would be a good skill to have on your resume.”

Mrs Moniz-DeSouza, a lawyer, is frequently sent on business trips to Brazil because of her Portuguese language skills.

“It is definitely a marketable skill,” she said. “Businesswise, it is a smart move to have someone on staff who speaks Portuguese. The Brazilian economy is growing and many companies are moving down there.”

For more information e-mail vasco@logic.bm or telephone 292-7196.

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Published Oct 3, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated Oct 2, 2012 at 3:58 pm)

Support sought for Portuguese language courses

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