Students Master the Portuguese Language in Hybrid Course


PUC-Rio graduate student Veronica Gomes Afonso (center) leads a classroom discussion.

SUNY New Paltz students are “traveling” to Brazil to learn Portuguese thanks to a distance learning course run in conjunction with Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio).

Students enrolled in the hybrid course, called Elementary Portuguese I, receive traditional classroom instruction from Veronica Gomes Afonso, a PUC-Rio graduate student based in New Paltz, complemented by instruction from PUC-Rio professor Ricardo Alencarvia via videoconferencing. Together, they set the syllabus, lesson plans and testing for the course.

“Students are learning Portuguese with native speakers of the language whose training in teaching Portuguese as a second language is of the highest caliber in the world,” said Mary Christensen, associate professor and chair of the Languages, Literatures and Culture Department. “The students’ progress thus far is impressive.”

According to Bruce Sillner, dean of the Center for International Programs, students also have the opportunity to take advantage of study abroad opportunities through the course.

“After completion of the distance learning program here on campus, our students have the opportunity to continue their language study at PUC-Rio as exchange students,” said Sillner, who noted abroad experiences are in high demand by New Paltz students.

”An ever-growing number of our students are recognizing the centrality of an international experience to the quality of their undergraduate education,” he said. “They realize the importance of being prepared to live and work in the global society of the 21st century.”