Lisbon: When Deborah Fernandes first began studying Portuguese, little did she know where her love for the language would lead her.

“I never thought I would go so far with Portuguese. I did my first and second year of BA at St. Xavier’s College, Mapusa. While in the second year, I joined an A2.2 level course. It was here that my ‘professora’ encouraged me to continue with Portuguese and consider it as a career option,” says the Calangute-based youngster.

However, as the college only offers Portuguese as an elective subject up to the second year, Fernandes is now pursuing her TYBA in Portuguese at the Goa University and is looking forward to next pursuing an MA in Portuguese.

Renee Pinto’s journey bears similarities. Around 14 years ago, as a student at St Xavier’s College, Pinto knew she wanted to pursue Portuguese further. However, at that time, she only had the option of doing three papers in Portuguese and three in another subject for the third year. With no Portuguese teacher available at the college, she and her classmates, some of whom came from Margao, would make the trip from college to Goa University for classes on certain days. “It was a struggle. But the fact that we had that inclination towards learning the language and pursuing it later as a career kept us going,” she recalls. Pinto went on to complete her masters in Portuguese, and has since taught at various educational institutions around Goa like Sharada Mandir and Our Lady of the Rosary Higher Secondary School and is presently teaching at Estellar Academy in Margao.

In contrast, Munira D’Souza had no plans to pursue Portuguese further although she had learned it since Class 8. “I thought, ‘what will I do with Portuguese?’ So I did my bachelors and then masters in sociology,” she reveals. But during her masters her former Portuguese teacher encouraged her to do a proficiency course in the language. Realising she had a knack for languages, after completing her masters in sociology, she then did her masters in Portuguese and is now a Portuguese professor at St. Xavier’s College.

In fact, today, St Xavier’s College, Mapusa, is the only college apart from Goa University offering Portuguese at the BA level, albeit up to the second year only. And it was with the intention of addressing this gap, that the Goa University began the bachelors in Portuguese programme in 2019. The masters programme has been in operation since 1987 and is the only one in the entire subcontinent. Both programmes draw interest from students in Goa and beyond, with students coming in from other states like Andhra Pradesh and Bihar.

“In both programmes, we have skill-based courses. For instance, we have specialised courses in legal and commercial translation, multimedia and technical translation, and literary translation. There is also a course in didactics and methodologies of teaching and writing for media so that students have employability at the end of the programme,” says assistant professor, Discipline of Portuguese and Lusophone Studies, Goa University, Jeanette Barbosa Noronha.

However, despite the deep historical and cultural ties that Goa shares with Portugal, the number of Goan students in these programmes currently is small. In fact, Fernandes is the sole Goan student in the BA programme at Goa University presently. For the master’s programme, there are presently two Goans in MA Part II. However, at St Xavier’s, there are currently eight students in the second year and five in the first year. The new National Education Policy has also affected the numbers somewhat, as students now have to opt for different subjects each semester.

In contrast, the total number of students opting for Portuguese as a second/third language in schools and higher secondary schools in all of Goa is around 1,100, according to director of Fundação Oriente Paulo Gomes.

Pinto admits that one of the reasons that Portuguese tends to go on a backburner as students progress to higher classes and college could be the tendency to focus on subjects like physics, chemistry, mathematics, and biology.

And this, points out Jeanette, happens across many courses because of the tendency of students to look towards other professional courses. “But the the numbers have gone up in recent years at schools and higher secondary levels,” she says.

Visiting lecturer to Goa University and director of CLP- Institute Camões Delfim Correia da Silva further points out that while there may not be many students joining at the BA level, at the MA level, things differ. “If you see the average, over the years, half of our students are from Goa and half from outside the state,” he says.

In order to raise awareness about the numerous and lucrative career opportunities available in the Portuguese field, Goa University conducts outreach programmes.

“We conduct a lot of activities that serve as outreach for the students. One of our faculty has also spoken at schools and higher secondary schools. We also participated in the Education Fair by the Rotary Club of Mapusa. We are doing our best and more can be done,” says assistant professor, Discipline of Portuguese and Lusophone Studies Goa University Franz Schubert Cotta.

Much is also being done at the school and higher secondary level to incite a stronger love for the language with active involvement of Fundação Oriente. Apart from awarding the best Portuguese students at the board examinations (since 2004-2005), it also offers scholarships for pursing higher studies in the Portuguese language. Last year, Fundação Oriente also began ‘Stars of the Future’, a quiz related to India but in Portuguese. The quiz was open to all Goan students, not just those studying Portuguese. “Each school had to send four teams, and in each team there had to be at least one Portuguese student. The quiz witnessed participation of more than 15 schools and around 400 students,” says Gomes. The winning team will now be going to Portugal for 15 days from May 10, all costs covered.

It is important to note that apart from the degree level, a basics course in Portuguese is conducted at a few other colleges like Goa Institute of Management, and the BBA section at Saraswat Vidyalaya College and Don Bosco College. Also, not all careers related to Portuguese necessitate a degree. One could also opt to do short term intensive courses from institutes like Communicare Trust and CLP-Institute Camões in the state.

Founded in 2005 by Nalini Elvino De Sousa, Communicare Trust offers courses in languages like Portuguese, Spanish, and a few Indian languages. The Portuguese courses are done online and are conducted by Sousa. These span six levels- A1, A 2, B1, B 2, C1, and C2. Each level takes around 90 to 120 hours. “Completing of B1 level is usually good enough to be able to communicate and have business meetings conducted in Portuguese,” says Sousa, adding that around 80% of her students are usually Goans, with quite a few being second-generation Goans.

“One of my students, originally from Goa, is working in Panama in South America. Since he has a lot of business dealing with Brazil, he is learning Portuguese. Another student from Goa is working in Portugal and is learning the language to help him in his business,” says Sousa, adding that she also gets students who are pursuing their PhD and require to research articles written in Portuguese.

At CLP-Institute Camões in Panaji, interested students can enroll for six-month courses (A1 to C2 level). “During the pandemic when the courses were online, we used to have 100-150 students. Our offline course now has 20 students,” says da Silva. The institute also offers an international certificate exam in Portuguese language which is held twice a year.

With a good command of the Portuguese language, a number of opportunities for working in multinational companies in India and abroad also open up. In fact, many alumni from Goa University have been hired by multinational companies like IBM, HP, and Amazon.

“India is also expanding into Angola and Mozambique in the petroleum and real estate sector and translators and interpreters in Portuguese can go to Mozambique. One of our students from Andhra Pradesh went to Angola and joined the IT sector,” says assistant professor, Discipline of Portuguese and Lusophone Studies, Goa University Dhruv Usgaonkar.

Corporate trainers are also growing in demand. These mostly work on a freelance basis offering language services to various companies.

Interpreters for government organised events could also be an interesting avenue to look into. In fact, Usgaonkar was hired as an interpreter through the Goa University for the Lusofonia Festival in December 2022. He was also hired by the government as a liaison officer for the G20 summit in Goa in 2023.

“With Goa being a tourist destination, a lot of people come to Goa for various conferences and interpreters are needed for these events,” says Pinto.

Apart from teaching, translation is another field that Goans choose to pursue. In fact, given the long presence of Portuguese in Goa in the past, there are tons of documents in Portuguese that require translation like certificates, land documents, passport, etc. To get into this field, a degree in Portuguese and a domicile status is necessary. The Department of Archives presently has 15 empanelled translators.

Among these is Saadia Furtado. Post completion of her masters at Goa University, Furtado answered an entrance test and qualified to be part of the panel. “On average, we get around 50 documents for translation per month. Knowledge of at least basic legal language is necessary for this as certain terminology is unique. Also, it is a lot of hard work as some handwritten manuscripts are quite difficult to decipher. One page could take five or six days,” she says. Furtado is now looking forward to pursuing her PhD in Portuguese.

Another translator authorised by the Department of Archives, Ruy Mascarenhas began translation in 2021. “With COVID-19 my businesses went awry. Since I had studied Portuguese in my younger days, I decided to try translation. I translated one of my documents and went to get it notarised. When the notary learned that I had done the translation myself, she asked her staff to get all her matters directed to me,” he shares. The price fixed by the Department of Archives is Rs. 350 per page.

“I suggest that students learn languages so they can have avenues in translation, especially Portuguese, We seniors will not last for long,” he says.

Apart from legal translations, literary translations is another avenue that could be explored. “The market for translations from English into Portuguese (and vice versa) is huge not only for Goa, but for India as a whole,” says founder of the publishing company Goa 1556 Frederick Noronha.

Noronha shares that they have published a handful of books in Portuguese and also done a few more in translation like Espi Mai’s short stories for children and Laxmanrao Sardessai’s poetry. “We also published two books by Orlando Costa, the late father of former Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa, one of which was commissioned by the Indian Embassy in Lisbon, and presented by Prime Minister Modi to Antonio Costa, during the latter’s official visit to India,” he says. They also translated a 17th-century book written by an anonymous Jesuit priest called ‘Arte Palmarica’ which deals with the coconut tree cultivation in Goa. Another translation undertaken was the biography of the Goan supporter of the Black nationalist cause, Aquino Braganza.

“In almost every case, we depended on scholars from Brazil, Portugal, and Texas to get these works translated. One book was translated by professor Isabela Santa Rita Vas, another by architect-musician Carlos Gracias. This shows how we are losing out because of the lack of language skills here,” says Frederick, adding that getting into translation could be useful skill building and bring in great potential. He suggests having more centres of excellence, or a Centre for Translations that could help people enter this field in a holistic manner.

Usgaonkar echoes these sentiments. “Presently, apart from the Department of Archives, the others who are doing translations are doing it on their own. People should get together and create an agency or company,” he says.

Opportunities abound in the media field too. Souza, who is also a filmmaker, works on episodes for RTPi, a Portuguese international channel besides running a podcast.

She reveals that presently there is hardly anybody else in this area in Goa. “If someone in Portugal wants to come to Goa to do some programmes about Portuguese presence in Goa and wants to meet people in Goa they always come to me because it is difficult to find someone who can communicate with them. I wish there were more people. We could have so many more programmes connected to television there, and here we could show Goa in Portuguese to the world,” she says.

Working on subtitling in movies could also be an interesting area for those who have an interest in films and have knowledge of Portuguese.

Until two years ago, prior to becoming a mother, Aileen Carneiro did exactly this. While pursuing her masters in mass communication in Bengaluru, she secured a job as an applied language technician in a company where at first, she was only doing transcription work, i.e., putting English subtitles for English films and television shows. However, when her company learned of her knowledge of Portuguese language, she was quickly given a language proficiency test and, on passing it, moved into the language services department which took care of translation, subtitling, dubbing, and other localisation processes for films, documentaries, and television shows. She performed technical and content checks on dubbed or subtitled scripts. Apart from Portuguese, in due time, she also learned Italian and Spanish and began doing work in these two languages too. “Depending on my proficiency in the language, I was tasked to check for anything from missing or erroneous translation; to reporting spelling mistakes or character corruptions; to fixing synchronisation issues between audio and subtitles.” she shares.

“I always wanted to do something with languages but never knew what. This job was a nice confluence since I had studied mass media,” says Carneiro, who studied Portuguese up to her second year of BA.

Given that Brazil is a massive country and puts out a lot of media content, Carneiro believes that there could be a lot of scope for those who would want to get into this field of translation or technical work within the localisation industry. She herself plans to get back to doing this in the future.

Frederick also believes that there could be scope in localising television or movie content and taking Goan content to the world. “Tiatrs and Goan shorts on YouTube, if subtitled, could open new audiences. Goan music, which is charming at a global scale, could find new audiences,” he says, adding that while students from other parts of the country realise this, in Goa, this is a rather complex issue, and is also linked to how the Portuguese language has been viewed here over the past 60 years.

The hope however is that Portuguese will remain an integral part of Goan culture and that Goans students will avail of opportunities that knowledge of this language presents to them.

“Promoting the opportunities available with Portuguese is not just the work of colleges and schools, the government should work on this. We cannot change the past. So instead of clinging to the past, it is more important to focus on the present and the future and how we can win with these ties,” says Gomes.