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22/07/2017 - 07:00hs

UFSC seeking Portuguese teachers for Arabs

Volunteers are wanted to teach the language to refugees from Arab countries who are living in Brazil. According to the project’s organizers, Arabic speakers require a different teaching method.

São Paulo – A project backed by the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) is seeking volunteer teachers in the Greater Florianópolis area to teach Portuguese to Arab refugees. The plan is to build a network of teachers specializing in Portuguese lessons to Arabic speakers, who require a teaching method all their own.

Bruna Kadletz, the coordinator of Grupo de Apoio a Imigrantes e Refugiados em Florianópolis (Gairf, the immigrant and refugee support group in Florianópolis), which is involved in the project, explains that the differences in methodology for teaching Portuguese to Arabs are a consequence of the fact that the Arabic alphabet and reading direction are different – Arabic is read from right to left, unlike the Latin languages.

According to her, Portuguese lessons are being taught to refugees from several nationalities within the UFSC, but the Arabs, in particular, have a hard time adapting. “The reasons are many, the Roman alphabet being one of them, and ultimately they’ll drop out, because the teachers fail to realize that there’s a difference there. The very class dynamics – from Monday to Friday and far from downtown – poses obstacles, since these refugees work regular hours,” explains Kadletz, who has been working with Syrian refugees in Florianópolis since 2015. She has also been in missions to the Middle East a few times.

After realizing that Arabs learning Portuguese have special needs, the university’s Department of Vernacular Language and Literature (Departamento de Língua e Literatura Vernáculas - DLLV) suggested a purpose-made course for Arabs to the UFSC management. The course got the green light in late June. Now, funds are being raised and volunteers are being sought.

“We want to bring in UFRJ professor João Baptista Vargens, who wrote the book Português para Falantes de Árabe (Portuguese for Arabic Speakers), to train the volunteers. We are looking for the funds to pay his expenses,” said Kadletz, who’s also seeking partners to make the learning material. The site for the classes has been chosen: the UFSC will provide a room in its downtown Florianópolis campus. “This is a good thing, because it’s closer to where most Syrian refugees live and work,” she explains.

Meanwhile, the UFSC is accepting entries from would-be teachers of Portuguese to Arabs. No formal training in Languages or knowledge of Arabic is required. “More than 80 prospective teachers have gotten in touch with us. The idea is to have a screening process to create this network of teachers, and to add other nationalities to it as well,” says the Gairf coordinator.

Kadletz, who works with Syrian women and children in other projects, estimates that some 30 refugees are interested in learning Portuguese. However, according to her, there are over 150 Syrian refugees living in Florianópolis, and all are potential students.

Classes should begin in September, and volunteers can submit any inquiries to the chair of the UFSC commission, Cristiane Severo, at crisgorski@gmail.com.

Cristine Severo – crisgorski@gmail.com
Bruna Kadletz – brunacka@yahoo.com.br

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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