UGA students at the state capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

A $3 million grant to the University of Georgia‘s “Portuguese Flagship Program” is bound to increase the number of students who know the difference between “obrigado,” and “obrigada.” In Brazil the men say “obrigato” and the women say “obrigada” to express gratitude.

Flagship program director Robert Moser, associate professor of Portuguese in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, should pass along a heartfelt “obrigado” to the U.S. Defense Department‘s National Security Education Program that is funding the $3 million ensuring the UGA program’s existence for an additional four years.

“The Flagship Program at UGA is the only one of its kind in Portuguese in the U.S., and it represents, arguably, one of the largest federal investments in Portuguese instruction in the history of higher education in this country,” said Dr. Moser, in a news release announcing the grant May 27.

“Study abroad is one of the truly transformative experiences that a student can have in college, and the Portuguese Flagship Program takes that experience to a new level.”

According to the release, students enrolled in the program reach the highest levels of proficiency in Portuguese, which the Defense Department considers critical for U.S. interests. The students then spend a year in Brazil, studying at the Federal University of São João del Rei and completing an internship related to their area of study.

jessica luton 4
Students during orientation at their “pousada” (bed and breakfast, inn) in Sao Joao del Rei.

Since the program began in 2011, nearly 100 UGA undergraduates have participated with more than 60 having studied abroad in Brazil. Students have interned in the areas of business, health, foreign affairs, science, agriculture, technology and the arts.

They have held internships at companies and organizations including PricewaterhouseCoopers, National Botanical Gardens, Portuguese Language Museum and Deutsche Bank. The program has also partnered with several public school systems to promote Portuguese instruction at the kindergarten-through-12th-grade level.

Portuguese is the seventh most spoken language in the world, but very few U.S. high schools and only a select number of university programs offer instruction in the language.

To learn more about the program, click here.