New Portuguese Course to Serve as Pilot for Teletandem Project

After years of studying a second language, Emily feels that she is proficient enough to communicate with native speakers, but during a visit to Brazil she soon discovers her skills required a little ‘fine tuning.’ Being new to the area, she decides to ask a local for directions to the nearest street market, but judging from his nonverbal cues, he could not understand her.

The previous scenario is an example of the challenges that many language learners face while communicating with native speakers.

Assistant Professor of Portuguese, Edvan Brito, is working to bridge the gap between language learners and native speakers through his teletandem project.

Teletandem is an online language exchange program, wherein foreign language students in one country are paired with native speakers from universities abroad where the target language is spoken. The students collaborate via Skype and other video conferencing applications.

Brito’s course, Portuguese for Spanish Speakers (PORT 1103), will lead the efforts of the Department of World Languages, Literatures & Cultures by serving as a pilot for the teletandem project at the University of Arkansas.

"It is important to have a real-time assessment of where you are with your language skills," said Brito. "Having a conversation with native speakers allows you to negotiate meanings and words in ways that enhance significantly what you learn in the classroom."

The idea of offering this course is to build on and take advantage of the linguistic knowledge that students already have in Spanish.

Portuguese for Spanish Speakers (PORT 1103) will be offered during Fall 2017. The only prerequisite for the course is Intermediate Spanish II (SPAN 2013) or equivalent.