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Modern Languages and LinguisticsPart of Humanities

Portuguese Studies

Once seen as a niche or minor language, Portuguese is an increasingly popular choice on our degree programmes at Southampton. It’s little wonder — with over 200 million speakers worldwide, Portuguese is the sixth most spoken language in the world, and the third most spoken European language after Spanish and English.


It is an official language in ten countries across four continents, meaning that it increases your employability not only in Europe and Latin America, but also in the rapidly growing economic environments of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. It is no surprise, then, that the British Council’s ‘Languages for the Future’ report identified Portuguese as one of the top six most useful languages for the UK public to learn.

Alongside our specialised Portuguese language teaching, which is organised according to a pioneering stage system and covers all levels of ability — including that of many heritage speakers — here at Southampton we offer a range of courses that allow you to learn more about the complex and fascinating cultures of Portugal, Brazil and Portuguese-speaking Africa. Among our staff, we have experts in Portuguese linguistics and migration and diaspora studies, in addition to scholars of Portuguese, Brazilian and Portuguese-speaking African history, politics, literature, film and visual arts. We offer year abroad opportunities in both Portugal and Brazil, and also have a thriving extra-curricular community in the shape of the SLAPS society.

If you’re looking for a degree component that allows you to learn a booming world language, and to explore history and culture on a truly global scale, Portuguese might just be for you.

Course combinations

As a named language in a degree, you can currently combine Portuguese with French, or Spanish, and it can also be combined with two more languages in the three-language degree entitled Modern Languages. Portuguese can also be studied as part of the Languages and Contemporary European Studies degree programme. Whatever degree you choose to apply for, it is usually possible to change course at a later date if you wish to, including if you wish to include Portuguese as a named part of your degree.

Find about more about course combinations either through our Flexible study page or by looking our programme pages in the Find a course section of the Humanities website.

Language learning

Portuguese language learning is organised as a series of seven language stages, which operate independently from your year of study. This means that in your first year you begin at the stage most appropriate for you. If you are starting Portuguese from scratch, as most of our students do, you will begin with Stages 1-2, which is an accelerated course designed to get you up to just below A-level standard in a year. You can then take another accelerated course in your second year – Stages 3-4 – which will bring you to the level of post A-level students finishing their first year of University language study.

At each stage, the courses are designed to develop your skills in spoken and written language and to enable you to make steady and rapid progress. You will have regular discussion classes with native speakers, as well as classes based on the use of written materials. In addition, you will use the excellent facilities in the specialist Library and Learning Commons right here on our campus, which includes an extensive library of books, DVDs, and Portuguese-language newspapers and magazines, in addition to fully-networked PCs and comfortable workspaces.

Programme structure

The first year

The first year will provide you with a foundation for further study. If you are a beginner, you will start with the Stages 1-2 accelerated course, designed to get you up to just below A-level standard in a year. Whether you are a beginner or not, however, you will follow a language course which will develop the four fundamental practical skills of reading and writing, listening and speaking.

Further options in your first year will include one or two courses specific to the language(s) in which you are specialising, focusing on cultural expression, social and political structures, and/or linguistics.

In addition to your Portuguese language modules, your choices might include:

The second year

In your second year you will develop your practical language skills to a high level of proficiency, particularly in relation to text handling and oral communication.

You will choose language-specific courses that belong within one or more of the fields of study, and field-specific courses that draw material from all the languages and cultures studied in Modern Languages, according to your own interests. Throughout your programme of study, you will be encouraged to adopt interdisciplinary perspectives, and to cultivate awareness of the place and role of the countries you have chosen to study in the wider global context.

In addition to your Portuguese language modules, your choices might include:

You will also take the Managing Research and Learning course, which is designed to equip you for your Year Abroad and is a compulsory module for all second-year Modern Languages students.

The third year - the year abroad

You have a number of options for how you spend your third year abroad, and can choose to stay in Portugal or Brazil. You might choose to study at a university, work as an English language assistant in a Portuguese-speaking country, or find other appropriate employment.

During the year, all students work on an investigative project. It will ensure that you get to know the area where you are staying very well indeed, and that you become integrated into the local community.

Our current ERASMUS links in Portugal are with the the New University of Lisbon, the University of Porto, the University of Coimbra, and the University of Minho in Braga. In Brazil, we have links with the Federal University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis and University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, and further opportunities are being developed.

Our students are passionate about the value of the Year Abroad, and return to Southampton full of stories about their experiences. In his blog post A Year Abroad in Brazil: The Adventure of a Lifetime,’ David Williams talks about his year studying at the University of Santa Catarina in Florianópolis. Katie Uniacke spent her year in Brazil, too, and has written a goldmine of blog posts about her experiences as an AISEIC intern. Lewis Blakey spent time in both Brazil and Portugal, and blogged about his experiences.

The final year

This year involves specialisation within your field, and gives you greater independence with your options for study. You will follow an advanced Portuguese language course, and also choose a number of special subject courses.

Example final year course module options are:

Photo credit: Dr Eleanor K. Jones

Postgraduate study opportunities

We offer a range of postgraduate programmes from one-year masters to four-year PhDs, including a one-year MA Transnational Studies programme, which focuses on the socio-political, historical, cultural and linguistic aspects of transnationalism, and the more advanced three- to four-year PhD Modern Languages programme. These programmes are run in collaboration with other departments within Humanities and are eligible for postgraduate funding.

Our research in Portuguese Studies covers most regions in the Portuguese-speaking world, including diaspora and migratory communities and Galician studies, and includes sociolinguistics, phonetics, sociopsychology, literature, visual culture, film, history and the medical humanities.

Find out more about Dr Jaine Beswick's research.

Find out more about Dr Eleanor K. Jones’s research here.


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