Languages of Brazil
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Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and is widely spoken by most of population. Brazilian Sign Language is also a official language, minority languages include indigenous languages, and languages of more recent European and Asian immigrants. The population speaks or signs approximately 210 languages, of which 180 are indigenous. Less than forty thousand people actually speak any one of the indigenous languages in the Brazilian territory .
Language is one of the strongest elements of Brazil's national unity. The only non-Portuguese speakers are members of Amerindian groups, and pockets of immigrants who maintain their heritage languages. Within Brazil, there is no major dialect variation of the Portuguese, only moderate regional variation in accent, vocabulary, and use of personal nouns, pronouns, and verb conjugations. Variations are diminishing as a result of mass media, especially national television networks that are viewed by the majority of Brazilians.
The written language, which is uniform across Brazil, follows national rules of spelling and accentuation that are revised from time to time for simplification. With the implementation of the Orthographic Agreement of 1990, the orthographic norms of Brazil and Portugal were made virtually identical, with some minor differences. Brazil enacted these changes in 2009, and Portugal enacted them in 2012.
Written Brazilian Portuguese differs significantly from the spoken language, with only an educated subsection of the population adhering to prescriptive norms. The rules of grammar are complex and allow more flexibility than English or Spanish. Many foreigners who speak Portuguese fluently have difficulty writing it properly. Because of Brazil's size, self-sufficiency, and relative isolation, foreign languages are not widely spoken. English is often studied in school and is increasingly studied in private courses. It has replaced French as the principal second language among educated people. Spanish is mutually intelligible with Portuguese to a certain degree, allowing Brazilians to considerably understand written and spoken Spanish without prior study, but finding difficulty in oral communication, while Spanish speakers usually have difficulty to understand spoken Portuguese.
In 2002, Brazilian Sign Language (Libras) was made the official language of the Brazilian deaf community.
Before the first Portuguese arrived in 1500, what is now Brazil was inhabited by several Amerindian peoples, who spoke different languages. According to Aryon Dall'Igna Rodrigues there were six million Indians in Brazil speaking 1,000 different languages. When the Portuguese settlers arrived, they encountered the Tupi people, who dominated most of the Brazilian coast and spoke a set of closely related languages. The Tupi called the non-Tupi peoples "Tapuias", a designation that the Portuguese adopted; however, there was little unity among the diverse Tapuia tribes other than their not being Tupi. In the first two centuries of colonization, a language based on Tupian languages (known as Língua geral) was widely spoken in the colony, not only by the Amerindians, but also by the Portuguese settlers, Africans and their descendants. This language was spoken in a vast area from São Paulo to Maranhão, as an informal language for domestic use, while Portuguese was the language used for public purposes. Língua Geral was spread by the Jesuit missionaries and Bandeirantes to other areas of Brazil where the Tupi language was not spoken. Then, until the 1940s this language based on Tupi was widely spoken in some Northern Amazonian areas where the Tupi people were not present. In 1775, Marquês de Pombal prohibited the use of Língua geral or any other indigenous language in Brazil.
However, before that prohibition, the Portuguese language was dominant in Brazil. Most of the other Amerindian languages gradually disappeared as the populations that spoke them were integrated or decimated when the Portuguese-speaking population expanded to most of Brazil. The several African languages spoken in Brazil also disappeared. Since the 20th century there are no more records of speakers of African languages in the country. However, in some isolated communities settled by escaped slaves (Quilombo) the Portuguese language spoken by its inhabitants still preserves some lexicon of African origin, which is not understood by other Brazilians. Due to the contact with several Amerindian and African languages, the Portuguese spoken in Brazil absorbed many influences from these languages, which led to a notable differentiation from the Portuguese spoken in Portugal.
Starting in the early 19th century, Brazil started to receive substantial immigration of non-Portuguese-speaking people from Europe and Asia. Most immigrants, particularly Italians and Spaniards, adopted the Portuguese language after a few generations. Other immigrants, particularly Germans, Japanese and Ukrainians, preserved their languages for more generations. German-speaking immigrants started arriving in 1824. They came not only from Germany, but also from other countries that had a substantial German-speaking population (Switzerland, Poland, Austria and Russia (Volga Germans). During over 100 years of continuous emigration, it is estimated that some 300,000 German-speaking immigrants settled in Brazil. Italian immigration started in 1875 and about 1.5 million Italians immigrated to Brazil until World War II. They spoke several dialects from Italy. Other sources of immigration to Brazil included Spaniards, Poles, Ukrainians, Japanese and Middle-easterns. With the notable exception of the Germans, who preserved their language for several generations, and in some degree the Japanese, Ukrainians and Italians, most of the immigrants in Brazil adopted Portuguese as their mother tongue after a few generations.
Portuguese is the official language of Brazil, and is the only language used in schools, newspapers, radio and TV. It is used for all business and administrative purposes. Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, giving it a national culture sharply distinct from its Spanish-speaking neighbours and also being a major factor contributing to the differentiation between Brazilians and people from the rest of South America. Brazilian Portuguese has had its own development, influenced by the Amerindian and African languages. Due to this, the language is somewhat different from that spoken in Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries, mainly due to phonological differences, of similar importance to the differences between British English and American English.
During the 18th century, other differences between the Brazilian and European Portuguese developed, mainly through the introduction of lexicon from African and Tupi languages, such as words related to fauna and flora. At that time Brazilian Portuguese failed to adopt linguistic changes taking place in Portugal produced by French influence. The Brazilian Portuguese remained loyal to the pronunciation used at the time of its discovery. However, when Don João, the Portuguese king, and the royal entourage took refuge in Brazil in 1808 (when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Portugal), he influenced the Portuguese spoken in the cities, making it more similar to the Portuguese of Portugal. After Brazilian independence in 1822, Brazilian Portuguese became influenced by Europeans who had migrated to the country. This is the reason that, in those areas (such as Rio de Janeiro and Recife), one finds variations in pronunciation (for instance, palatalization of post-vocalic /s/) and a few superficial lexical changes. These changes reflect the linguistics of the nationalities settling in each area. In the 20th century, the divide between the Portuguese and Brazilian variants of Portuguese widened as the result of new words for technological innovations. This happened because Portuguese lacked a uniform procedure for adopting such words. Certain words took different forms in different countries. For example: in Portugal one hears "comboio," and in Brazil one hears "trem," both meaning train. "Autocarro" in Portugal is the same thing as "ônibus" in Brazil, both meaning bus.
Despite the fact that Portuguese is the official language of Brazil and the vast majority of Brazilians speak only Portuguese, there are several other languages spoken in the country. According to the president of IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) there are an estimated 210 languages spoken in Brazil. Eighty are Amerindian languages, while the others are languages brought by immigrants. The 1950 Census was the last one to ask Brazilians which language they speak at home. Since then, the Census does not ask about language. However, the Census of 2010 will ask respondents which languages they speak, allowing a better analysis of the languages spoken in Brazil.
European immigrant languages
According to the 1940 Census, after Portuguese, German was the most widely spoken language in Brazil. Although the Italian immigration to Brazil was much more significant than the German one, the German language had many more speakers than the Italian one, according to the Census. The Census revealed that two-thirds of the children of German immigrants spoke German at home. In comparison, half of the children of Italians spoke Portuguese at home. The stronger preservation of the German language when compared to the Italian one has many factors: Italian is closer to Portuguese than German, leading to a faster assimilation of the Italian speakers. (One might compare this to the United States, where a huge wave of German immigrants almost completely switched to English and assimilated more thoroughly than the Italian-Americans.) Also, the German immigrants used to educate their children in German schools. The Italians, on the other hand, had less organized ethnic schools and the cultural formation was centered in church, not in schools. Most of the children of Italians went to public schools, where Portuguese was spoken. Until World War II, some 1.5 million Italians had immigrated to Brazil, compared to only 250,000 Germans. However, the 1940 Census revealed that German was spoken as a home language by 644,458 people, compared to only 458,054 speakers of Italian.
Spaniards, who formed the third largest immigrant group in Brazil (after the Portuguese and Italians) were also quickly assimilated into the Portuguese-speaking majority. Spanish is similar to Portuguese, which led to a fast assimilation. Moreover, many of the Spanish immigrants were from Galicia, where the dominant language was not Spanish, but Galician, which is even closer to Portuguese, sometimes even being considered two dialects of the same language. Despite the large influx of Spanish immigrants to Brazil from 1880 to 1930 (over 700,000 people) the Census of 1940 revealed that only 74,000 people spoke Spanish in Brazil.
Other languages such as Polish and Ukrainian, along with German and Italian, are spoken in rural areas of Southern Brazil, by small communities of descendants of immigrants, who are for the most part bilingual. There are whole regions in southern Brazil where people speak both Portuguese and one or more of these languages. For example, it is reported that more than 90% of the residents of the small city of Presidente Lucena, located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, speak Riograndenser Hunsrückisch, a Brazilian form of the Hunsrückisch dialect of German.
Some immigrant communities in southern Brazil, chiefly the German and the Italian ones, have lasted long enough to develop distinctive dialects from their original European sources. For example, Brazilian German, also known as Riograndenser Hunsrückisch. In the Serra Gaúcha region, we can find Italian dialects such as Talian or italiano riograndense, based on the Venetian language.
Other German dialects were transplanted to this part of Brazil. For example, the Austrian dialect spoken in Dreizehnlinden or Treze Tílias in the state of Santa Catarina; or the dialect Schwowisch, from Donauschwaben immigrants, is spoken in Entre Rios, Guarapuava, in the state of Paraná; or the Pomeranian (Pommersch) dialect spoken in many different parts of southern Brazil (in the states of Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Paraná, Espírito Santo, São Paulo, etc.). Plautdietsch is spoken by the descendants of Russian Mennonites. However, these languages have been rapidly replaced by Portuguese in the last few decades, partly due to a government decision to integrate immigrant populations. Today, states like Rio Grande do Sul are trying to reverse that trend and immigrant languages such as German and Italian are being reintroduced into the curriculum again, in communities where they originally thrived. Meanwhile, on the Argentinian and Uruguayan border regions, Brazilian students are being introduced to the Spanish language.
In the city of São Paulo, Korean, Chinese and Japanese can be heard in the immigrants districts, like Liberdade. A Japanese-language newspaper, the São Paulo Shinbun, has been published in the city of São Paulo since 1946. There is a significant community of Japanese speakers in São Paulo, Paraná, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará and Amazonas. Much smaller groups exist in Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul and other parts of Brazil. Many Chinese, especially from Macau, speak a Chinese creole called Macanese (patuá or macaísta), aside from Hakka, Mandarin and Cantonese.
Many Amerindian minority languages are spoken throughout Brazil, mostly in Northern Brazil. The main indigenous languages are: Apalaí, Arara, Bororo, Canela, Carajá, Caribe, Guarani (also in Paraguay), Kaingang, Nadëb, Nheengatu, Terena, Tucano and Xavante.
One of the two Brazilian línguas gerais (general languages), Nheengatu, was until the late 19th century the common language used by a large number of indigenous, European, African, and African-descendant peoples throughout the coast of Brazil—it was spoken by the majority of the population in the land. It was proscribed by the Marquis of Pombal for its association with the Jesuit missions. A recent resurgence in popularity of this language occurred, and it is now an official language in the city of São Gabriel da Cachoeira. Today, in the Amazon Basin, political campaigning is still printed in this Tupian language.
Nearly a hundred per cent of Brazilians have Portuguese as their mother tongue.
Spanish is understood to various degrees by most Brazilians, due to the similarities of the languages. However, it is hardly spoken well by individuals who have not taken specific education in the language, due to the substantial differences in phonology between the two languages. In some parts of Brazil, close to the border of Brazil with Spanish-speaking countries, Brazilians will use a rough mixture of Spanish and Portuguese that is sometimes known as Portuñol to communicate with their neighbours on the other side of the border; however, these Brazilians continue to speak Portuguese at home. In recent years, Spanish has become more popular as a second or third language in Brazil due in large part to the economic advantages that Spanish fluency brings in doing business with other countries in the region, since seven of the ten countries that border Brazil use Spanish as an official language.
In São Paulo, the German-Brazilian newspaper Brasil-Post has been published for over fifty years. There are many other media organizations throughout the land specializing either in church issues, music, language etc.
The Italian online newspaper La Rena offers Italian lessons.
There are many other non-Portuguese publications, bilingual web sites, radio and television programs throughout the country. For example, TV Galega from Blumenau shows German-language programming on their channel on a weekly basis.
On the Rio Grande do Sul state, there are several German and Italian colonized cities, communities and groups. Most small cities have German or Italian as their second language. In the capital Porto Alegre, it is easy to find people who speak one of those or both.
There are also at least two ethnic neighborhoods in the country: Liberdade, bastion of Japanese immigrants, and Bixiga, stronghold of Italian immigrants, both in São Paulo; however, these neighborhoods do not count yet with specific legislation for the protection of Japanese and Italian languages in these sites.
Co-official languages in Brazil
This century has seen the growth of a trend of co-official languages in cities populated by immigrants (such as Italian and German) or indigenous in the north, both with support from the Ministry of Tourism, as was recently established in Santa Maria de Jetibá, Pomerode and Vila Pavão, where German also has co-official status.
The first municipality to adopt a co-official language in Brazil was São Gabriel da Cachoeira, in 2002. Since then, other municipalities have attempted to adopt their own co-official languages.
The states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul have Talian officially approved as a heritage language in these states, and Espírito Santo has the Pomeranian language, along with the German language, such as cultural heritage state.
Also in production is the documentary video Brasil Talian, with directed and written by André Costantin and executive producer of the historian Fernando Roveda. The pre-launch occurred on November 18, 2011, the date that marked the start of production of the documentary.
Brazilian states with linguistic heritages officially approved statewide
- Espírito Santo (Pomeranian and German)
- Rio Grande do Sul (Talian and Riograndenser Hunsrückisch German)
- Santa Catarina (Talian)
Municipalities that have co-official indigenous languages
Mato Grosso do Sul
- Tocantínia (Akwê Xerente)
Municipalities that have co-official allochthonous languages
Municipalities that have co-official Talian language (or Venetian dialect)
Rio Grande do Sul
Municipalities that have co-official Pomeranian (or Pommersch) language
Rio Grande do Sul
- Canguçu (under approval)
- Espigão d'Oeste (under approval)
Municipalities that have co-official language Riograndenser Hunsrückisch language
- Antônio Carlos
- Treze Tílias (language teaching is compulsory in schools, standing on stage in public official of the municipality)
Rio Grande do Sul
Municipalities in which the teaching of the German language is mandatory
Rio Grande do Sul
Municipalities in which the teaching of the Italian language is mandatory
Rio Grande do Sul
- List of Brazil state name etymologies
- Reintegracionism (About Portuguese and Galician)
- "Geography of Brazil". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 2016. Retrieved 31 October 2016.
- According to the Brazilian Constitution: "Art. 13. A língua portuguesa é o idioma oficial da República Federativa do Brasil."
- Aryon Dall'Igna Rodrigues (April 2005). "Sobre as línguas indígenas e sua pesquisa no Brasil" (in Portuguese). Sociedade Brasileira para o Progresso da Ciência. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
- Portuguese language in Brazil and other languages
- "A última falante viva de xipaia". Revista Época. Editora Globo. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
- Línguas Africanas
- Línguas indígenas
- "Brazil". Ethnologue.
- "Hunsrik". Ethnologue.
- "German" here meaning varied Germanic dialects spoken in Germany and other countries, not standard German.
- Línguas europeias
- Políticas lingüísticas e a conservação da língua alemã no Brasil
- History – Brazilian Portuguese
- Censo 2010 fará a soma de casais homossexuais
- Language Born of Colonialism Thrives Again in Amazon New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2008
- The Italian Immigration and Education
- Census of 1940
- Spanish people in Brazil
- O Brasil como país de destino para imigrantes
- Rota Romântica.
- São Paulo Shimbun – Brazilian Newspaper in Japanese.
- Portal do Bairro Liberdade
- História da Imigração Japonesa
- Bairro do Bixiga
- Bairro do Bixiga, reduto italiano em São Paulo
- Bexiga e Liberdade
- Os italianos de Bixiga, São Paulo
- "Vila Pavão, Uma Pomerânia no norte do Espírito Santo" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Pomerode institui língua alemã como co-oficial no Município." (in Portuguese). Retrieved 9 May 2010.
- "Lei municipal oficializa línguas indígenas em São Gabriel da Cachoeira" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Na Babel brasileira, português é 2ª língua - Flávia Martin e Vitor Moreno, enviados especiais a Sâo Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM)]," (in Portuguese). Retrieved 16 December 2012.
- "LEI Nº 14.951" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Rotary apresenta ações na Câmara. FEIBEMO divulga cultura italiana" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Fóruns sobre o Talian - Eventos comemoram os 134 anos da imigração italiana" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Aprovado projeto que declara o Talian como patrimônio do RS]" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "O povo pomerano no ES" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Plenário aprova em segundo turno a PEC do patrimônio" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Emenda Constitucional na Íntegra" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "ALEES - PEC que trata do patrimônio cultural retorna ao Plenário" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Filme Brasil Talian é pré-lançado" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Brasil Talian documentado em filme" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Marisa busca apoio para documentário sobre cultura italiana produzido em Antonio Prado" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- O povo pomerano no ES
- Plenário aprova em segundo turno a PEC do patrimônio
- Emenda Constitucional na Íntegra
- ALEES - PEC que trata do patrimônio cultural retorna ao Plenário
- Aprovado projeto que declara o Talian como patrimônio do RS, accessed on 21 August 2011
- LEI 14.061 - DECLARA INTEGRANTE DO PATRIMÔNIO HISTÓRICO E CULTURAL DO ESTADO DO RIO GRANDE DO SUL A “LÍNGUA HUNSRIK”, DE ORIGEM GERMÂNICA
- LEI Nº 14.061, 23 July 2012 - Declara integrante do patrimônio histórico e cultural do estado do Rio Grande do Sul a língua hunsrik, de origem germânica
- LEI Nº 14.951, 11 November 2009
- Rotary apresenta ações na Câmara. FEIBEMO divulga cultura italiana
- Fóruns sobre o Talian - Eventos comemoram os 134 anos da imigração italiana
- "Lei municipal oficializa línguas indígenas em São Gabriel da Cachoeira]" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Na Babel brasileira, português é 2ª língua - Flávia Martin e Vitor Moreno, enviados especiais a Sâo Gabriel da Cachoeira (AM)]" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Município do MS adota o guarani como língua oficial]" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Paranhos poderá ter a co-oficialização de uma língua Indígena]" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Tocantínia passa a ter Akwê Xerente como língua co-oficial e recebe Centro de Educação Indígena" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- Aprovada em primeira votação projeto que torna o Talian segunda língua oficial de Bento Gonçalves
- Co-oficialização do Talian é oficializada pela câmara de Bento Golçalves
- Câmara Bento – Projeto do Executivo é aprovado e Talian se torna a língua co-oficial
- "Vereadores aprovam o talian como língua co-oficial do município" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Talian em busca de mais reconhecimento" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "A escolarização entre descendentes pomeranos em Domingos Martins" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "A co-oficialização da língua pomerana" (PDF) (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Pomerano!?" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "No Brasil, pomeranos buscam uma cultura que se perde" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Lei dispõe sobre a cooficialização da língua pomerana no município de Santa maria de Jetibá, Estado do Espírito Santo" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Vila Pavão, Uma Pomerânia no norte do Espirito Santo" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Descendentes de etnia germânica vivem isolados em área rural de Minas" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Pomeranos em busca de recursos federais" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Resistência cultural - Imigrantes que buscaram no Brasil melhores condições de vida, ficaram isolados e sem apoio do poder público" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- "Pomerode institui língua alemã como co-oficial no Município." (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Vereadores propõem ensino da língua pomerana nas escolas do município" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- "Ontem e hoje : percurso linguistico dos pomeranos de Espigão D'Oeste-RO" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Sessão Solene em homenagem a Comunidade Pomerana" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Percurso linguistico dos pomeranos de Espigão D Oeste-RO]" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- "Comunidade Pomerana realiza sua tradicional festa folclórica" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- Cooficialização da língua alemã em Antônio Carlos
- "Vereadores de Treze Tílias se reuniram ontem" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- TREZE TÍLIAS
- "Um pedaço da Aústria no Brasil" (in Portuguese). Treze Tílias. Retrieved 21 August 2011.
- A sala de aula de alemão para falantes de dialeto: realidades e mitos
- Brasil: dialeto do baixo-alemão torna-se segunda língua oficial de cidade gaúcha
- Apresentando... Santa Maria do Herval
- "Dialetos Hunsrik e Talian na ofensiva no Sul] - Em Santa Maria do Herval, regiăo de Novo Hamburgo, RS, surge forte a mobilizaçăo em favor do Hunsrik - a faceta brasileira/latino-americana do Hunsrückisch. Em Serafina Correa, RS, floresce o talian" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- Câmara Municipal de Vereadores de Nova Petrópolis
- Ata 047/2010
- Art. 153 § 3º da Lei Orgânica
- Em Nova Petrópolis 100% da população é alfabetizada, quinto parágrafo
- Língua italiana na rede municipal de ensino
- Aprovado em primeira votação, projeto emendado propõe um ano de caráter experimental em Venda Nova
- LEI Nº 3018/2003 - 02.10.03 - Dispõe sobre a oficialização de aulas de língua italiana nas escolas da Rede Municipal de Ensino
- Lei Ordinária nº 3018/2003 de Francisco Beltrão, dispõe sobre a oficialização de aulas de língua italiana nas escolas
- "Elaboração de Projeto de Lei para o ensino obrigatório da língua italiana nas escolas municipais" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- "Língua italiana em Antônio Prado, Italiano integra currículo escolar" (in Portuguese). Retrieved 24 August 2011.
- Lei 3113/08, Brusque - Institui o ensino da língua italiana no currículo da rede municipal de ensino e dá outras provicências
- Lei 3113/08 | Lei nº 3113 de 14 de agosto de 2008 de Brusque
- Art. 1 da Lei 3113/08, Brusque
- Secretaria de Educação esclarece a situação sobre o Ensino da Língua Italiana
- Lei 4159/01 | Lei nº 4159 de 29 de maio de 2001 de Criciuma
- Lei nº 4.159 de 29 de Maio de 2001 - Institui a disciplina de língua italiana