Let’s say you’re new in Belo Horizonte and you need to learn Brazilian Portuguese fast. What do you do?
What do you do?
The most common option that people inquire about is taking group classes at the Federal University, UFMG. You probably came to this page looking for information on how to enroll in classes at UFMG. If that’s what you came for, you’ll find that information below. I’ll also give you a warning about why these classes might not be the best option and what you should do instead.
Information about UFMG’s Portugues Para Estrangeiros Program
One important point to note is that enrolling in Portuguese classes at UFMG allows you to apply for a Brazilian Student Visa. A student visa does not allow you to legally work in Brazil, nor does it allow you to apply for an ID card or open a Brazilian bank account but it does allow you to stay longer than a tourist visa. The process for getting a Brazilian student visa is covered in another article.
Class sizes at UFMG vary depending on demand; and are usually less than 15 people per class. Courses start twice a year in March and in September. It is possible to join the class up to two months after the start date for a reduced cost.
Three levels are offered: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. You will have to take a test and be placed in the level appropriate for you. The hour-long classes are held from Monday to Thursday and last 4 months for a total of 52 hours of instruction.
The Portuguese for Foreigners class costs R$595 (as of 2016), and must be paid at any bank or casa loterica within a day of registering or else your registration will be cancelled. Registration is done at the FUNDEP, a small office reminiscent of the DMV at the main Pampulha campus. In addition to this fee, you must also pay R$10 for the assessment test, and another R$5 for a declaration of enrollment, which you will need if you plan to get a student visa. There are several banks on campus where you can pay these fees, but remember that all banks in Brazil close at 4pm, so arrive early.
The declaration is obtained in the CENEX building, which is at the other side of the school. You will have to bring in a receipt of your payment in order to obtain the declaration, and you may have to wait up to a week in order to get your declaration. Its best to have a Brazilian friend or someone who has been through this process accompany you in order to make sure that everything is completed in a satisfactory manner. If you arrive as soon as they open at 10am you may be able to complete the process all in one day.
Enrolling in the Portuguese for Foreigners class at UFMG is actually quite a painless process. Its as simple as
- Enrolling at the FUNDEP office;
- Paying for your classes.
Now, it does get a bit more complicated when you go to apply for your student visa, for which you will need the declaration of enrollment noted above. You will need to get this document notarized at a cartorio, and conveniently there is one on campus nearby the office. You should get your declaration of enrollment notarized here as the line will be shorter than elsewhere.
Here is a link to UFMG’s Portuguese for Foreigners program.
Other Portuguese Classes in Belo Horizonte
I’m not a big fan of taking Portuguese classes at UFMG because of how much bureaucracy it takes to sign up and because the main campus is kind of far from the city.
For foreigners in Belo Horizonte looking to take Portuguese classes at a school that can help you get a student visa I would recommend contacting ELS. They are an English school in Savassi that employs only native speakers, and they are also the leader in Portuguese for Foreigners classes in Belo Horizonte. The founders have been in Belo Horizonte for close to 20 years and are a wealth of knowledge about everything related to life in Belo Horizonte.
If you’re looking to take Portuguese classes at a school where you can meet other foreigners and get a student visa, ELS is my recommendation. If you’re looking for cheaper classes and want to be around the college environment, UFMG is the way to go.
You’d also be well advised to look beyond the city for help learning Portuguese. For example there are a lot of great programs that can teach you Portuguese online, and there are many options for taking classes online.
Good luck, and if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment.