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Immersion into the Lusophone World

By Simone Aguilera 

As high school students around the world began their VHS Learning courses last week, a special few embarked on a unique language journey. Our new Portuguese course opens doors to unique cultural connections and opportunities that go beyond traditional Euro-centric perspectives of familiar Romance languages like Spanish, French, and Italian. Lack of cultural diversity in most Portuguese courses offered today limits students from exposure to cultural contributions that Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) countries have made throughout history. VHS Learning offers students a language and culture immersion into the Lusophone world.

At VHS Learning, we’ve developed a Portuguese 1 course that is not Euro-centric in nature. This unique high school course offers first year students diverse cultural perspectives. As a result, students explore and discover the vast tapestry of shared history and language — stretching across continents and bridging cultures. From Portugal's maritime explorations to Brazil's colonial legacy, and the influence of African and Asian traditions in Angola, Mozambique, and East Timor, students come to understand that the roots of these cultures intertwine in a beautifully complex way.

At the same time, Portuguese-speaking regions have evolved uniquely, embracing their historical connections while cultivating their own distinct cultural identities. The fusion of indigenous, African, European, and Asian elements has given rise to vibrant traditions, music, dance, cuisine, and architecture, each reflective of their respective roots and stories. For students, witnessing how these influences morphed and evolved over time is nothing short of captivating.

Language is not just a means of communication; it is a gateway to understanding the essence of a culture. It gives students access to the rhythms of kizomba and fado music, the artistry of azulejos (Portuguese tiles), and the flavors of feijoada and pastéis de nata.

For students living in areas with significant Portuguese-speaking communities, the language becomes more than just a subject in the classroom; it becomes a gateway to engaging with the local culture and community. It offers students possible career paths that will encourage them to return to their communities in their adult lives and become meaningful contributors.

The goal for our first year Portuguese course is to offer students a window into the Lusophone world—a treat filled with discoveries that lead to the appreciation of cultural diversity. Students are introduced to vocabulary and grammar through thematic units; they are taught context-embedded vocabulary and grammar introduced and supported by themes throughout the year. As they learn to communicate in Portuguese, they gain an appreciation for the depth of human expression and the profound ways in which language shapes cultures.


Learn more about VHS Learning’s World Language offerings here. Portuguese 2 will be available in Fall 2024.

Simone Aguilera is the World Languages Curriculum Coordinator at VHS Learning.