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Trovoada de ideias: linguistic and social inclusion of Portuguese-speaking African students

Trovoada de ideias (or brainstorming in Angolan Portuguese): linguistic and social inclusion of Portuguese-speaking African students in Portuguese higher education, is an action research project. It is dedicated to the linguistic and social inclusion of Portuguese-speaking African international students within the Portuguese higher education system.

The project is based on the recognition and legitimisation of African variants of Portuguese,as well as on the development of academic skills and in-depth knowledge of the school pathways for the Portuguese-peaking African students.

Image: Trovoada de ideas logo, ©ISCTE - IUL

The project is being developed in ISCTE - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE - IUL), a higher education institution in Lisbon.

Issue/challenge and goal/assumption


The project addresses the challenges faced by African international students whose basic and secondary education has been obtained in Portuguese language in their countries of origin, but whose academic performance within the higher education system in Portugal is significantly lower compared to their Portuguese peers'. 

The issue was further diagnosed thanks to 2016 focus groups carried out with students and professors in ISCTE-IUL. These discussions highlighted that the sociolinguistic background of these students often leads to situations of incomprehension which, however, tend to remain ignored, thus hindering their social inclusion and, consequently, their academic performance.


The project adopts a multi-level inclusion approach, encompassing linguistic, cultural and social aspects, in order to increase the understanding between students fluent in different Portuguese language norms and the university community in Portugal. Through this understanding, the learning success of third-country students is enhanced.

How does it work

A partnership was established with two internal ISCTE-IUL services, the Laboratory of Languages and Transversal Competences (LLTC-IUL) and the Social Action Services (SAS-IUL), in order to create a course on transversal skills in Portuguese language, as well as to set up a student team of mediators and mentor students of different origins.

In addition, the project team took part in focus groups with African students' associations from other Portuguese higher-education institutions, also working together to produce a brochure with pedagogical guidelines for professors. 

Thus, the project includes the following actions and outputs:

  • Running a course of academic Portuguese: starting in May 2018, it consisting of 16 weekly sessions of 120 minutes each); the course was free for members of the target group, but also open to other interested students;
  • Producing academic Portuguese teaching resources;
  • Creating an e-learning training programme (a MOOC) in academic Portuguese, based on the resources listed above;
  • Publishing a book on the school path of the participating students, including heir biographies;
  • Creation of a pedagogical guidance brochure;
  • Setting up of a team of student mediators and mentors (set up in September 2019 and including both Portuguese and African members);
  • Organising a conference to disseminate the results

An in-depth analysis of all actions is meant to further contribute to the practice of inclusion.


In addition to the project outputs listed above, the initiative also resulted in:

  • 39 third-country students attending the courses in academic Portuguese (at introductory, elementary and intermediate levels);
  • 58 participants attending the dissemination conference which took place on 5 February 2020



A survey was conducted with the beneficiaries of the physical course (but not the ones who took part in online training sessions, or the members of student mediator and mentors group). 'The opinions of the students are mostly positive, with constructive criticism and remarks that reflect the usefulness of the course's content and illustrate the advantages the project can have for the academic success and integration of students," as noted in first working version of the final report. 

The students rated the actions developed throughout the project in the following way: 55 percent described it as 'very good', 30 percent as 'good', and 15 percent as 'sufficient'.

Following the direct work with the African international students, it is also important to deepen the engagement of the rest of the academic community in order to encourage the acceptance of the African varieties of Portuguese language.

Who will benefit?

Students of third-country original, already fluent in different Portuguese dialects.

The direct beneficiaries who attended the physical courses (as opposed to the online ones and also excluding the team of student mentors and mediators) include 20 students, of which 65 percent were Guinean, 20 percent - Angolan, and another 20 percent coming from other African countries.

Source of funding and Resources used

The project is funded by the European Union's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), through the Portuguese High Commissioner for Migration (ACM).

The overall budget amounts to approximately 58 000 euro, covering a team of two coordinators, two research fellows, two teachers, two social services techniques, two 2 audio-visual technicians and 3 consultants.


Ana Raquel Matias, Paulo Feytor Pinto
Project Coordinators
Trovoada de ideias: Didactic resources for academic Portuguese language
(3.84 MB - PDF)

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