Contrary to recent rumors, Portuguese has not and will not disappear from the UNM Department of Spanish and Portuguese.
Enrique Lamadrid, chair, said, "We get calls every week asking if Portuguese is being taught anymore, due to recent reports. Portuguese is not a failing program targeted for elimination," he said, noting that people picked up the misconception from reporting in the Lobo and the Albuquerque Journal because the program was "flagged" by the Provost's Office.
"The flagging did not tell the whole story, since it didn't count the numerous foreign language majors who take Portuguese as one of their languages. Nor did it count the many Spanish majors who also take Portuguese courses," Lamadrid said.
Lamadrid said that the numbers were easy to misinterpret. One year, UNM might get six Brazilian graduate students and the next year three, marking a 50 percent decrease. Statistics with small samples don't give a real image, he said.
Although the number studying Portuguese isn't high, the program is "dynamic," he said, because of the steady flow of new graduate students from Brazil.
The department recently hired Jeremy Lehnen, who brings not only linguistic, but technological skills. "We are poised to grow dramatically with our new colleague in place," Lamadrid said. "With very few faculty positions being filled in these tough economic times, we are an exception to the rule, and were able to make this critical hire for very special circumstances," he said. Lamadrid said that the Lehnen hire brings the faculty ranks to three.
"Portuguese is the only European language designated as a critical language by the U.S. government," Lamadrid said. Other critical languages are Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Dari Farsi, Hindi and Urdu. Portuguese is a critical language because of Brazil's rise in global economics and politics. "Brazil is the number one trading partner with China," Lamadrid said.
"The study of Portuguese gives students an advantage since they gain a better understanding of Latin America, which is increasingly important because of the strengthening economic and cultural ties within the Americas," Lamadrid said.
UNM's Portuguese program is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the nation, he said. "Zimmerman Library houses one of the largest collections of Brazilian books in the country. It is larger and more complete than any in Brazil," he said, adding that Brazilian researchers regularly come to UNM to use the collection.
Portuguese is the 3rd most spoken western language, behind only English and Spanish, as well as the 7th largest language in the world, with more than 250 million speakers in Brazil, Portugal, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde and Guinea Bissau.
Lamadrid added that Associate Professor of Portuguese Margo Milleret began the first U.S. program in Brazil to feature service learning. "More than 20 UNM faculty do research in Brazil and travel there," Lamadrid said.
Portuguese isn't dying at UNM and it certainly isn't dying on the world stage.
Media contact: Carolyn Gonzales, 277-5920; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org