Latest Development, New Demand: Looking For a New Recipe to Produce Chinese-Portuguese Bilingual Students

8 Dec 2015


Source: umagazine

As the tertiary educational institute that offers the largest number of Portuguese courses in Asia, the University of Macao (UM) has made good use of the city’s Portuguese history and multicultural texture to cultivate bilingual professionals who are fluent in both Chinese and Portuguese. Anticipating the next wave of economic development in Macao and mainland China, both the Faculty of Arts and Humanities (FAH) and the Faculty of Law (FLL) will enhance their academic mission—innovating and revising their respective curricula in an effort to adapt to the rapidly changing international environment, and to discover the best means to train bilingual or even multilingual students.



New Bilingual Bachelor of Law Programme

Though Brook Tan represented Macao in numerous national and international science and technology competitions when she was in secondary school and received several awards at these competitions, she chose not to study the sciences at UM. Instead, she opted to enrol in a five-year bachelor of law programme, which was inaugurated by UM last year, and which is conducted in both Chinese and Portuguese languages. ‘Even in the fields of science and technology, there will be many opportunities for those working in the legal profession to resolve problems, and science and technology law is underdeveloped in Macao. Moreover, I have been interested in Portuguese since I first learned it in Form 6,’ she says. ‘When UM launched this new programme last year, I asked myself why not combine both things that I like in my major?’

This new programme has not been a disappointment. After participating in an exchange at the University of Coimbra, Portugal, in the first academic year, Tan’s Portuguese-language skills have increased tremendously: in less than 10 months, she achieved B2 level on the CAPLE (Centre for Evaluation of Portuguese as a Foreign Language) examination, which is the third highest of five levels in a test widely used to determine the fluency of non-native Portuguese speakers. ‘Right now most of us have a pretty good foundation in Portuguese. We only need to consolidate our knowledge after the exchange,’ Tan says. ‘This new programme is challenging, but if I can graduate successfully I believe I will have a competitive edge over others because Macao requires many people in the legal profession who are fluent in both Chinese and Portuguese.’




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Brook Tan, 譚知微


Producing Bilingual Graduates for the Legal Profession

Since the central government clearly stated in the 12th five-year plan that it supports Macao’s development into a world tourism and leisure centre, as well as a service platform for economic and trade cooperation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries (commonly known as ‘one centre, one platform’), the demand for legal professionals fluent in both Chinese and Portuguese has increased. Chair Professor Shijian Mo, dean of UM’s Faculty of Law (FLL), says the faculty is assisting the authorities to educate bilingual legal professionals, and most of Macao’s new magistrates and lawyers in recent years have graduated from UM, reflecting the faculty’s achievement in this sector. But he points out that the biggest difficulties in grooming bilingual legal professionals involve the students’ background linguistic knowledge and their time limitations, saying: ‘Most of our students did not learn Portuguese in secondary school, so it is really hard for them to study both the Portuguese language and law at the same time.’

Therefore, last year the FLL launched the five-year bachelor of law programme which is conducted in both Chinese and Portuguese, in addition to existing law programmes conducted exclusively in either Chinese or Portuguese. More than 20 students joined the first intake of the inaugural programme, which requires them to study in Portugal for the first academic year, and to study law courses in both Chinese and Portuguese in the subsequent four years (Portuguese law courses must account for 40 per cent of the total law courses). With the requirement of one additional year as compared to other bachelor programmes, the FLL hopes more students will reach the professional standards in both Chinese and Portuguese legal services after graduating from the programme.

Prof Mo remarks: ‘Bilingual students will undoubtedly have more advantages in the employment market. When we designed the curriculum of this bilingual law programme, we decided to allow all FLL students to participate in it. For instance, a student in the Chinese law programme can attain a bilingual law degree if he or she passes the Portuguese proficiency test and completes 40 per cent of the law courses in Portuguese. Our ultimate goal is that most of our students will be able to function professionally in both languages.’



因此,在中文法學士及葡語法學士的基礎上, 法學院去年開辦五年制的中葡雙語法學士課程,招收了第一批約20多名學生,要求他們第一學年前往葡萄牙交流,其後四年則需修讀中文及葡語法律科目,其中葡語法律科目需佔40%,冀望通過較其他學位課程長一年的時間,讓更多學生在畢業後達到中葡雙語法律人才的專業標準。



Prof Shijian Mo, 莫世健教授


Grooming Trilingual Students and Clarifying Teaching Goals

While attending the opening ceremony of the 25th annual meeting of the Association of Portuguese Speaking Universities held in Praia, Cape Verde, in July, UM Rector Wei Zhao emphasised that the courses offered by both the FLL and the Department of Portuguese of the FAH reflect the work UM has done in recent years to promote the use of Portuguese. As UM is now the president of the association, Rector Zhao pledged that the university would facilitate the development of other Portuguese-speaking institutions and promote Portuguese language and culture across the globe.

Chair Professor Hong Gang Jin, dean of the FAH, says the Department of Portuguese is not only the oldest department at UM, but it is also the largest Portuguese department outside Portugal and Brazil. Over the years, the department has been committed to studying the Portuguese language and culture and training students’ skills in the Portuguese language. Currently the department offers bachelor’s, master’s and PhD programmes. The total number of students enrolled in these programmes has increased from 50 in 2008 to 87, a yearly increase of between 20 and 35 per cent. Incorporating the government’s vision to establish ‘one centre, one platform’ in Macao, the FAH has positioned itself as a base for ‘grooming trilingual students who are fluent in Chinese, English and Portuguese’.

Dean Jin says: ‘As the pillar industries of the city are gaming and tourism, the socio-economic development of Macao depends on the language skills of its residents. So it is essential to develop professionals who are fluent in Chinese, English and Portuguese. Besides, the multilingual environment in Macao is conducive to language learning. Our goal is to ensure that students majoring in Portuguese will be able to earn a minor degree in English, while those majoring in English can earn a minor in Portuguese.’

Since taking office in December last year, Dean Jin—a seasoned linguist— has begun reforming the bachelor’s programme in Portuguese Studies, explicating the specific learning outcomes and teaching goals of the four-year programme, to be achieved in three phases. First, there will be an emphasis on basic language training during the first two years, through an intensive and interactive methodology, so that the students’ Portuguese proficiency can reach B1 or B2 level. Second, the faculty will increase the number of available student exchanges at universities located in Portuguese-speaking countries so that each student in the department will ultimately complete an exchange; this will compare favourably with the current exchange rate of about 70 per cent. Third, there will be a focus on content-based instruction in the third and fourth years, when the language skills of the students will be applied to translation, literature, linguistics, and other areas.


澳大校長趙偉教授今年7月在佛得角普拉亞市出席葡語大學聯會第25屆會議開幕式上稱, 澳大多年來推廣葡語的工作可體現在法學院及人文學院葡文系所開辦的課程,現在擔任該聯會的主席,將促進各院校教學的發展以及推廣葡語在世界範圍內使用。

澳大人文學院院長靳洪剛教授表示,葡文系在澳大建校史上歷史最悠久,而且是葡萄牙、巴西以外最大的葡文系。多年以來,他們一直致力於葡萄牙語言文化的研究及葡語人才的培養。葡文系設有本科生、碩士及博士學位課程。招生人數由2008年約50人,增加至現在87人,年增長率為20-35%。澳大為配合政府的「一中心一平台」政策,將學院定位為「培養中英葡三語人才」的基地。「澳門的主要產業是旅遊博彩業,這個社會經濟發展取決於居民的語言能力,而澳門學生是有基礎學好不止一種外語,所以發展中英葡三語人才更為重要。下一步要做的是,如果學生主修葡語,副修應該是英語。反過來說, 主修英語的學生應該副修葡語。」

自靳教授去年12月上任後,這位傑出的語言學家開始推行葡文學士學位課程的改革,明確學生四年內的學習成果及教學目標,把課程劃分為三大階段:大一及大二是基礎語言訓練,透過密集的互動式訓練,希望學生在四個學期內葡語能力能夠達至中級階段(B1 或B2);第二階段是前往葡語國家交流,現在葡文系學生出國交流比率是70%,冀望在未來數年達至100%;最後是大三及大四的專業訓練,將葡語應用至不同領域,如翻譯、文學或語言教學、應用。


Prof Hong Gang Jin, 靳洪剛教授


Cooperation and Exchange to Create a Good Learning Environment

Intending to conclude the reform of the Portuguese Studies curriculum within the next two years, Prof Jin says she hopes to develop cooperative projects with other universities in Portuguese-speaking countries over the next three to five years. Signing such partnership agreements will not only allow UM students to participate in exchanges in countries like Portugal and Brazil, but it will also attract more Portuguese-speaking students to UM, thus creating a vibrant Portuguese-learning atmosphere.

In addition to the exchange programme, Prof Jin reveals that some of the residential colleges on the UM campus will develop Portuguese-related themes and organise cultural talks and activities on a regular basis, so that students will develop a better understanding of both Portuguese language and cultures of various Lusofone countries. In her words, this will ‘allow learning to occur both inside and outside of the classroom, as well as bringing together the language with the culture.’

U Kuok Kun, a third-year student in the Portuguese Studies bachelor’s programme, agrees that curriculum reform may enhance the students’ learning, and he is looking forward to travelling to Portugal next year for an exchange that will provide firsthand experience of Portuguese culture. He believes the key to learning Portuguese is having the courage to engage with others in the language. He is also thankful that his instructors at UM provide him with many opportunities to practice Portuguese in real-life situations, such as volunteering at the Lusofonia Festival. In addition, the FAH holds the Portuguese Language Day on campus every year, enhancing the students’ interest in the language through poetry-reading, short dramas, and folk songs.

‘There is a huge development potential in the Portuguese-speaking market as China has developed economic ties with Brazil and various countries in Africa. This creates opportunities for a significant number of professionals who can assist with translation and interpretation of Chinese and Portuguese,’ U says. ‘This programme helps stimulate my interest and polish my skills in the Portuguese language, hopefully preparing me for a career in translation, education or law.’


靳教授表示,學院期望明、後年完成課程基本改革,而未來三至五年,大力發展合作項目,與葡語國家大學簽署合作交換協議,一方面讓澳門學生前往葡萄牙及巴西等葡語國家的大學深造交流, 另一方面澳大歡迎更多葡語國家交換生,營造豐富的葡語學習氣氛。此外, 靳教授透露,為了配合交換生計劃,澳大將把部分住宿式書院的主題之一定為葡語語言文化,定期舉辦葡語國家語言文化演講及體驗活動,讓學生更好地掌握葡語技能及瞭解葡語國家的風土情懷,「把課堂跟課下結合起來,亦把語言跟文化結合起來。」



U Kuok Kun, 余國權


Emphasising Academic Staff Training and Research Quality

Apart from implementing changes in the curriculum of the Portuguese programme, the FAH is also promoting the training of academic staff and the development of a research culture. Prof Jin notes that recruiting professors to work in the Portuguese department has become a challenge in recent years as other jurisdictions have rapidly increased the size of their Portuguese programmes. While global recruitment is one solution to this predicament, she also emphasises the importance of internal promotion for staff, which will likely increase departmental stability. She stresses that the FAH requires Portuguese instructors to be involved in developing teaching goals for each class, as well as implementing different pedagogical strategies, in an effort to help students improve their Portuguese language ability. Also, next year UM will host, for the first time on the new campus, a conference focused on teaching Portuguese as a second language.

The department now has 20 active researchers working in three key areas, namely literature and culture, applied linguistics, and translation. The department aims to expand the size of its master’s and doctoral programmes in the near future. The FAH will also establish a new cognition laboratory this year to examine the processes by which the human brain processes information in language learning; this knowledge will enable the university to improve staff teaching strategies.



培養科研人才方面,葡文系現有20多位專業研究人員,針對三個領域進行不同研究,包括文學文化、應用語言學及翻譯學,未來將進一步招收葡語碩士及博士課程研究生。另外,今年人文學院將新增認知研究實驗室, 以研發人類資訊處理與語言學習的關係以及有效的學習策略及方法。


Strengthening Global Vision and Learning Motivation

Prof Mo indicates that the FLL is exploring the best strategies for developing the bilingual Chinese-Portuguese abilities of law students, and next year the faculty will assess the outcomes of the two-year-old bilingual law programme. Following that assessment staff will revise the curriculum if necessary. ‘The teaching methodology cannot be static, and must be regularly evaluated and revised; we live in a rapidly changing society, and our law programmes must keep up with the pace of development.’

The FLL’s next step is clear: the faculty aims to strengthen the students’ global vision in order to support Macao’s development. ‘While the governments of both Macao and mainland China hope to turn the city into a trade and exchange platform for China and Portuguese-speaking countries, an important task for Macao’s legal professionals is to promote their bilingual legal services. Local legal professionals really need to go global.’

Developing fluency in a foreign language is never easy, but Dean Jin does not doubt the abilities of Macao students. She believes there will be a significant increase in the quality of the students who graduate from the Portuguese programme after the department implements the revised curriculum. ‘Macao students have a lot of abilities. Some people may claim that local students don’t have much motivation to learn, but this is not true. What we need to do is to maximise the students’ opportunities to pursue their interests and equip them with the necessary skills. If their learning is effortless and quick, they will surely develop strong motivations.


莫教授明言,法學院仍不斷摸索培養中葡法律人才的不二法門,明年將評估中葡雙語法律課程首兩屆學生的學習成果,思考課程是否需要調整。「教育模式是不能一成不變, 需要不斷探索修改;社會發展瞬息萬變,我們法律課程亦要跟得上步伐。」但他明確指出,法學院下一步需加強學生的國際視野以更好地迎合澳門的發展。「澳門及中央政府皆想將澳門打造成中葡交流、貿易平台,故此,澳門法律界的其中一個重要任務是讓外界知道澳門具備條件提供中葡法律相關服務,法律界人才要走出去推廣自己。」



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