Solimar Hillier: Helping students enjoy the colors and flavors of Brazilian Portuguese

By Rafaela Lombardino

Over the past decade Brazil has seen a surge in its economy and is currently the destination for sports lovers. Brazil was recently the host country for the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Soccer and will host the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympic Games. It is only natural that more people are eager to learn this Romance Language for both business and pleasure.

hillier_solimar.jpg  Solimar Hillier, Portuguese for Communication instructor

According to a news story by Canada's The Globe and Mail, Brazilian Portuguese classes being taught in North America and Europe are packed with oil and mining executives, jewelers and retailers who have a need to buy and sell in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, the two largest cities in Brazil. With close to 240 million speakers worldwide, Portuguese is now the world’s sixth most-spoken language―and it is Brazil’s version that is spreading.

This trend can be confirmed by native Brazilian Solimar Hillier, who has taught Portuguese classes at UC San Diego Extension for nearly 12 years. As the primary instructor for the Brazilian Portuguese program, she teaches Portuguese for Communication levels one through five.

Solimar has worked as an English and Portuguese teacher since she finished college in Brazil. When she first arrived in the United States, she worked as a substitute teacher in middle schools while pursuing her Master’s degree in Education. Once she completed her Master’s degree, she transitioned to teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) as well as Portuguese, and has been doing both ever since.

“I used to teach Portuguese to a completely different audience in Brazil, because I was teaching Portuguese to native speakers in a high school setting,” she recalls. “At Extension, I started teaching Portuguese to non-natives, which is quite different in terms of student goals as well as the content and techniques I need to use.”

In discussing her diverse UC San Diego Extension student population, she highlights that many students who come to her classes are married to Brazilians and want to learn the language in order to communicate with their spouses' friends and family. “Something that is really interesting to me is that these students who are dating or married to Brazilians often complain that their significant others don’t teach them Portuguese, and that is why they take a class―which is something I can relate to from my own experience,” she jokes.

She says other students also come to UC San Diego Extension because they work with Brazilians or their companies trade with Brazil, which may require some business trips to the South American country. A third group is taking classes because it is a requirement for their Master’s degree, and Solimar says their motivation is very different from the other two groups.

The fourth type of students she interacts with are those who are looking for cultural enrichment. “I have students who take classes just because they like the culture and the music, or simply because they love Brazil.”

Solimar moved to the United States after falling in love with California during a visit, and soon decided to stay. When she's not teaching, she enjoys learning more about Modern Art, going for walks on the beach and exercising her creativity in the kitchen. “Cooking is a passion for me. It is when I relax and can become creative with ingredients and spices. I cook almost every day and enjoy it each time.”

To learn more about the UC San Diego Extension programs, please visit the Foreign Languages page for details, course descriptions and more.

Posted: 5/26/2015 12:00:00 AM with 0 comments

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