Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed into law Friday a bill making Spanish a mandatory option in all public and private Brazilian high schools as of 2010.
It is estimated that over 9.1 million high school students in South America’s largest country could become proficient in Spanish once the law is enforced.
The law had been stalled in the Brazilian Congress since 1993, when it was first presented and has undergone dozens of modifications during the course of the last 12 years.
“This will contribute to have closer cultural links with the rest of Latinamerica, including members of Mercosur”, said Francisco das Chagas Fernandes, head of the Education Ministry Basic Education Department.
During the long delay in Congress the bill encountered opposition of all sorts, not least from countries such as Germany, France and Italy who insisted that their languages be privileged in the compulsory secondary school curricula.
Brazilian students are already forced to take a foreign language in the final years of their basic education.
However high school students have always favored English even when the bill leaves the door open to other languages. Now Spanish is another option.
At preschool and elementary level, the new law leaves the teaching of Spanish as a decision to be made by each individual school.
Legislator Atila Lira of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) and author of the law’s current text said that restrictions introduced over time had given the law a greater dose of “democracy”.
“The approved legal text is more democratic because the original bill gave no option to the students, who would have been forced to study Spanish” he said.
Just like in other parts of the world, demand to learn Spanish is also growing among Brazil’s 180 million people.
Spanish has gained significant importance in Brazil over the past decade mainly because of the increasing importance of Mercosur, the regional customs union that besides Brazil includes Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, as permanent members, and all other South American countries as associated members.
A Ministry of Education report revealed that for the bill to become effective, mainly in the eleven Brazilian states which have borders with Spanish speaking South American countries, they will have to contract a minimum of 1.411 Spanish teachers.
This article appeared originally in Mercopress – www.mercopress.com.