Despite different accents and regional variations, Portugal and Brazil have the same official language. In practice, however, Portuguese schools and universities report the differences, and students and tutors report episodes of lower grades and discrimination because of Brazilian Portuguese.
While her daughter was taking online classes due to the pandemic, Goiás psychologist Adriana Campos attended a dialogue between the young woman and the Portuguese teacher. During the conversation, the student questioned why she scored lower than the Portuguese colleague with whom she did double duty.
“The teacher said the work was excellent, praised their creativity, but said to my daughter: ‘Only that unfortunately you still speak this inappropriate Portuguese, this Brazilian Portuguese. And you have to learn to speak well ”. I couldn’t believe it, ”he said.
According to her, the same teacher had already carried out, months before, another episode of linguistic discrimination with the teenager, when she made fun of her accent.
“The teacher asked the students a few questions. When my daughter’s turn came, she said her diction was very bad, that she couldn’t speak well. But the problem wasn’t the diction, it was the accent. The teacher told my daughter to put a pencil in her mouth to practice and “learn to speak better.”
According to Adriana, the 17-year-old was embarrassed and said she would exercise at home, but the teacher insisted.
“The teacher was always funny, she put a pencil in her mouth to make fun of it. My daughter was so embarrassed that she left the room crying, ”she adds.
A doctoral student in psychology at the University of Coimbra, Adriana says she visited the school twice, but the teacher limited herself to justifying her behavior based on alleged directives from the Ministry of Education, without specifying details.
Seeking advice, Adriana reported the case to a support group for Brazilian women in Portugal. She says the amount of reports of immigrants going through the same situation was a surprise – there are at least 20 public testimonies to date.
“I was amazed at the number of mothers who wrote the comments, saying it also happened to their son. In other words, it is not an isolated fact, ”he assesses.
Ana Abrantes, from Minas Gerais, says her seven-year-old son was scolded so much for his accent that he developed a panic about going to school.
“My son has always been a happy boy, who loved to go to school. Now he cries before he leaves. He has a classmate who is also from Brazil, but who has already assimilated the Portuguese accent. There is clearly a different treatment for the two, ”he reports.
Ironically, the success of Brazilian youtubers among Portuguese children and teens meant that certain slang, expressions and even a little Brazilian accent eventually spread among young Portuguese.
But the phenomenon, which is confirmed by educators, does not seem to have been enough to change the treatment of the inferiority of Brazilian Portuguese reported in some schools.
In some families, there are even fears that the use of Brazilian Portuguese may reduce the marks of Portuguese students.
Although the subject of language prejudices is the subject of recurring conversations among Brazilians in the country, including within immigrant rights groups and social media reports, there is no trace of complaints. official. According to the General Inspectorate of Education and Science, the agency has not received any such complaint.
Parents and students often complain that it is difficult to follow up on complaints made to schools. As foreigners, many say they don’t know where to turn.
The ministry’s recommendation is to file the complaint with the educational institution itself or to seek the file directly.
In a note, the Portuguese Secretary of State for Education, João Costa, criticized the existence of any segregation or discrimination due to differences in the use of the language.
According to him, the guidance documents for the teaching of the Portuguese language “provide for the mastery of standard European Portuguese, also incorporating the awareness of the diversity of recordings and the characteristics of the variants spoken by the world”.
“I am Secretary of State, but I am a linguist. I can’t help but say that such an imposition [avaliações mais baixas por conta do português do Brasil] it is nothing more than linguistic prejudices, which denote a great ignorance of the language itself. The differences between the dialect variants are also significant in Portugal. Portuguese is a pluricentric language, and this cannot be ignored when planning your teaching, ”he says.
The secretary also underlined that Portugal has a long history of reception policies, including a compulsory discipline that works in the field of interculturality and human rights. “Our network of school libraries and the National Reading Plan have encouraged reading by authors from all Portuguese-speaking countries and reading aloud with various accents.”
According to the most recent data from the Directorate General of Education and Science Statistics, for the academic period of 2018 and 2019, Portugal had 129,534 foreign students (including basic, secondary and higher education). Of these, 47,682 (36.8%) are Brazilian.
Although it is already an expressive community, the number of Brazilians is under-represented. This sum does not include those who have dual nationality from Portugal or from another country of the European Union.
The integration of immigrant students is a challenge for all European countries and Portugal is no exception. One difference with the Portuguese scenario, however, is that the Portuguese language does not appear to be a facilitator for Portuguese-speaking foreigners in general.
A survey published in April analyzed the performance of foreign students in schools across the country, based on official statistics of 3rd cycle students in 2016-2017. In a universe of 404 schools analyzed, more than a third separated migrant students into classes with many more foreign students.
While there was virtually no difference in performance between the Portuguese and students from the European Union, those from Eastern Europe had slightly lower scores. Students from Brazil and Palop (Portuguese-speaking African countries), on the other hand, scored much lower. Brazilians and Africans were also more frowned upon throughout the academic journey.
In the assessment of Luís Catela Nunes, professor at the Nova School of Business and Economics and one of the coordinators of the work, segregation is closely linked to the custom of creating groups of repeaters or students with difficulties in learning. These more “problematic” classes, over time, end up being overlooked.
The researcher draws attention to the fact that the EU and Eastern Europe have, in many cases, a more solid basic education. Meanwhile, Brazil has a much lower performance in international ratings, such as Pisa.
“My opinion is that it is not discrimination, it is that the segregation comes more from the fact that they [imigrantes] come with bad grades from the past. What is the conclusion? Schools need to pay more attention, early on, to the difference in student performance, ”he said.
Complaints are not limited to schools. College students also complain of lower grades and language discrimination.
Undergraduate language and international relations student Carime Costa, 23, says she moved to Portugal in 2018, with the aim of completing her university studies and continuing to live in the country.
“In the first year I had two subjects in Portuguese and in the tests some teachers said that if we didn’t write in European Portuguese we would be left out. And that’s what happened. Many of us have had to find resources not to be frowned upon. “
The young woman says that the lack of reception at the Portuguese university and the discrimination of certain professors led her to leave the country. At the start of the year, she returned to São Paulo and will complete the distance learning course.
International student associations across the country report that there are many similar complaints.
To get around language discrimination, there are Brazilians, for example, who prefer to deliver their work in English.
This is possible because, due to the Erasmus program, which promotes academic mobility between different European countries, it is common for Portuguese universities to accept students to submit articles written in English.
For Brazilian linguist and lexicographer Débora Ribeiro, who has lived in Portugal since 2008, Portuguese universities still have a lot of linguistic prejudices, even with Brazilian Portuguese teachers.
“You don’t expect this to happen in an academic environment, in an arts faculty, among Portuguese professors. You expect that from an ignorant person on the street. But, unfortunately, there is still a lot going on, ”he laments.
She also criticizes the fact that Europeans say that another language is spoken in Brazil – Brazilian. The teacher believes that while there are some small structural and spelling differences between Portuguese people in the two countries, it doesn’t make sense to say that they are separate languages.
“Language is a question of identification. When they make us speak Brazilian, they clearly indicate that we do not speak the same language as them. It is an attempt at inferiority.