Romance Languages Major, B.A.–Portuguese

Department of Romance Studies

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238 Dey Hall, CB# 3170

(919) 962-2062

Richard Vernon, Undergraduate Advisor and Director of Portuguese Language Instruction

Ellen Welch, Chair

Amy Chambless, Director of Undergraduate Studies

Portuguese is the seventh most spoken language in the world, with over 250 million speakers. It is the language of Portugal, Brazil, and parts of Africa and Asia. Brazil, with a population of 185 million, is the largest country in South America and has the ninth largest economy in the world.

The program in Portuguese combines the study of the language, culture, and literatures of Brazil and Portugal. Emphasis is placed on the language as it is currently spoken and its historical development. Students study the literatures of Brazil and Portugal in terms of their historical development and analyze specific texts from different genres and literary periods. Students interested in Portuguese should consult the Portuguese language advisor.

Portuguese as a second language would open multiple job opportunities in various countries with expanding economies and a promising future. It would also provide a vehicle to the rich cultural traditions of Portugal, Brazil, and the Lusophone nations of Africa and Asia, including literature, art, and music.

Department Programs



Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Students will acquire competence in the practice and analysis of Romance languages together with a critical knowledge of the written, oral, and visual traditions of their origin and diaspora. Our faculty promotes interdisciplinary connections and incorporates the study of literature, culture, theory, and history across the curriculum. Through coursework that emphasizes language acquisition, rhetoric, composition, and written and oral expression, our majors receive sustained personalized training in critical thinking and close reading. Upon completion of the program in Romance languages, students should be able to:

  • Participate in conversations on concrete, social, academic, and professional topics
  • Speak in detail about experiences and events in a variety of time frames and moods
  • Represent points of view in discussions, both oral and written
  • Deliver well-organized presentations on concrete, academic and professional topics
  • Write on a wide variety of general interest, professional, and academic topics
  • Follow narrative, informational, and descriptive speech on concrete, academic and professional topics
  • Understand and discuss texts representing a variety of topics and genres


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • attain a final cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major course requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum of 18 hours of C or better in the major core requirements (some majors require 21 hours).

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

Core Requirements
Eight courses chosen from among the following:24
Advanced Communication in Portuguese: Media Entertainment
Brazilian Performance in Music and Dance: Capoeira 1
Advanced Communication in Portuguese: History, Nature, and Society
Modern Brazil through Literature and Film in Translation 1
Portuguese and Brazilian Fiction in Translation 1
Women Writers: Brazil and Beyond 1
Verbal Art, Identities, and Nation in Portuguese-Speaking Africa 1
Brazilian Religious Movements through Film and Literature 1
Portuguese, Brazilian, and African Identity in Film 1
Independent Study in Portuguese
Undergraduate Seminar in Portuguese
Portuguese Language and Culture for the Professions
Survey of Portuguese Literature I
History of the Portuguese Language
Brazilian Drama
Cultural Topics from the Lusophone World
Total Hours24

With the approval of the undergraduate advisor for Portuguese, students majoring in Romance languages with an emphasis in Portuguese may count up to nine hours in related areas in such departments, programs, and curricula as history, art, music, cultural studies, and women’s and gender studies.

Because few entering students have completed coursework in Portuguese prior to enrolling in the University, it is essential that interested students start the language as early as the first year. Completion of PORT 204 or PORT 402 is considered a prerequisite for the major.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans can be used as a guide to identify the courses required to complete the major and other requirements needed for degree completion within the expected eight semesters. The actual degree plan may differ depending on the course of study selected (second major, minor, etc.). Students should meet with their academic advisor to create a degree plan that is specific and unique to their interests. The sample plans represented in this catalog are intended for first-year students entering UNC–Chapel Hill in the fall term. Some courses may not be offered every term.

Plan of Study Grid
First YearHours
PORT 101 Elementary Portuguese I 3
PORT 102 Elementary Portuguese II 3
Hours 6
Sophomore Year
PORT 203 Intermediate Portuguese I 3
PORT 204 Intermediate Portuguese II 3
Hours 6
Junior Year
PORT ---Portuguese major course #1 1 3
PORT ---Portuguese major course #2 1 3
PORT ---Portuguese major course #3 1 3
PORT ---Portuguese major course #4 1 3
Hours 12
Senior Year
PORT ---Portuguese major course #5 1 3
PORT ---Portuguese major course #6 1 3
PORT ---Portuguese major course #7 1 3
PORT ---Portuguese major course #8 1 3
Hours 12
Total Hours 36

Special Opportunities in Romance Studies

Undergraduate Research

The Department of Romance Studies offers a gateway for research in the humanities, including the various fields that make up Romance studies. Research activities include the honors thesis, summer research fellowships, or engaging in mentoring projects with professors which lead to opportunities to present papers at conferences or for publication in the University's undergraduate research journal. 

Annual Research Opportunities:


The departmental honors program is open to any qualified major with a cumulative grade point average of 3.3 or higher and 3.5 or higher in their major courses. Eligible honors candidates will formulate a topic and select an appropriate faculty member to supervise the writing of an honors thesis. Specific coursework for the major with honors consists of enrollment in the honors thesis courses in the language of the major emphasis.

Honors Thesis in French
and Honors Thesis in French
Honors Thesis
and Honors Thesis in Italian
Honors Thesis
and Honors Thesis in Portuguese
Honors Thesis
and Honors Thesis in Spanish

691H is taken in the fall semester of the senior year and 692H is taken in the spring semester. FREN 390, ITAL 398, PORT 398, SPAN 397 and SPAN 398 may be substituted for the 691H research course if the subject of the seminar is central to the research project chosen. In the 692H course, the thesis will be completed and the student examined by the supervisor and two additional readers, to be agreed upon by the student and supervisor. The director of honors, in consultation with the examiners, will recommend that the student who has defended the thesis graduate with honors, highest honors, or with course credit. FREN 390, FREN 691H, ITAL 398, PORT 398, SPAN 397 and SPAN 398 may count toward the eight courses for the major, but FREN 692H, ITAL 692H, PORT 692H, and SPAN 692H may not. Students who intend to graduate in December should adjust the scheduling of these courses in order to allow for completion of the honors project in December. Students meeting the required grade point averages should contact the undergraduate advisor for their language. For detailed information on the B.A. with honors, visit the department's Web site.

Out-of-Class Language Experience

The department offers credit-bearing internship opportunities through ROML 293 and service-learning opportunities through ROML 194. Both courses satisfy the experiential education (EE) General Education requirement. While ROML 293 is a stand-alone course, ROML 194 is always connected to a specific course. 

Students may enrich their cultural and language experience by applying to the Spanish House, a section of Craige North residence hall. Equipped with a lounge and a kitchen, the house has space for eight male and 16 female students. Students make an effort to speak only Spanish while in residence.

Students also find opportunities to speak Spanish and meet native Spanish speakers in an informal weekly tertulia (gathering). Additional activities involving Spanish include publishing and editorial involvement in the student journals Mezcla and Aguas del pozo; attending lectures, receptions, and films organized by the department and student organizations such as CHispA (Carolina Hispanic Association); and serving the community through a variety of volunteer opportunities.

For further opportunities to speak French, students are encouraged to participate in the weekly meeting of the Table Française and become members of the French club, les Francophiles. Departmental lectures and film series are also offered.

Students interested in Italian language and culture may attend film series, guest lectures, and a series of other extracurricular events including games and conversation hours. They may also wish to join the undergraduate Italian Club.

Students who wish to practice Portuguese can meet weekly for the bate-papo (chat). Students of Portuguese also engage in editorial work and publish in the student journal Revistinha.

Study Abroad

The Study Abroad Office sponsors many year-long, semester-long, and summer programs appropriate for students of the Romance languages and has special arrangements with the Department of Romance Studies for the UNC in Montpellier, UNC in Seville, and Florence programs. Students from UNC–Chapel Hill and from other institutions may earn up to 30 semester hours of undergraduate credit in these programs, which are open to qualified undergraduates regardless of academic major. While, in general, students may satisfy up to 50 percent of major or minor coursework abroad, courses that are taught by Romance studies faculty may count differently. For example, students completing the Spanish minor for the professions in health and business may complete all or most of the minor in faculty-led programs abroad.

Students who participate in Study Abroad during the semester have the opportunity to work as course correspondents for a course in Romance studies. Course correspondents report back to the class they serve throughout the semester via online tools and may receive one hour of credit for their informative work.

General inquiries concerning any of these programs should be addressed to the Study Abroad Office, CB# 3130, FedEx Global Education Center, (919) 962-7002.

Students may also contact the Study Abroad Advisors in Romance Studies to learn more about how to integrate those programs into their major or minor programs.


French: Dorothea Heitsch
Italian: Amy Chambless
Portuguese: Richard Vernon
Spanish: Liz Bruno

Undergraduate Awards


Students have the opportunity to be inducted into Pi Delta Phi, the national French honor society. Those with outstanding records in French are recommended as candidates for the Jacques Hardré Award, which is given to the best graduating senior in French; it includes a cash award.


Students are nominated for membership in Gamma Kappa Alpha, the Italian honor society, by undergraduate instructors. The society recognizes “outstanding scholastic performance in the fields of Italian language and literature” and encourages students “to acquire a greater interest in, and a deeper understanding of, Italian culture.” The Kimberly Kyser Award for Excellence in Italian is awarded to the most outstanding student in Italian and includes a cash prize.


Each year the department awards the Camões Prize to the outstanding student in Portuguese during that year. The prize carries a monetary award made possible by a donation from the Gulbenkian Foundation.


Students have the opportunity to be inducted into Sigma Delta Pi, the national Spanish honor society. Those with outstanding performance in the Hispanic literatures and cultures or the Hispanic linguistics majors are eligible for several prizes including the Chancellor’s Award, given to the top graduating senior, the Stoudemire Awards, and the Larry D. King Fellowship.