Vanessa Castagna
Language and translation - Portuguese and Brazilian

What do you teach at Ca’ Foscari? What are your main research interests? 
My name is Vanessa Castagna and I was born in Setúbal (Portugal), but I have spent most of my studies in Italy, although I have spent some focused time abroad. At Ca' Foscari, I teach Portuguese and Brazilian, coming from a diverse academic field that enjoys exploring through interdisciplinary contributions. My research interests essentially concern two areas, which often end up intertwining: teaching Portuguese as a foreign language, especially to Italian speakers and with a contrastive approach, and translation from Portuguese into Italian and vice versa, both as a performance practice and as a multipurpose subject of study and a key channel for literary and cultural relations between Italy and the Portuguese-speaking world.

What is the aspect of your research you are most passionate about?
I am fascinated by the possibility to explore very diverse geographical and cultural areas that fall under the generic definition of "Portuguese-speaking world" or "lusophone world" (despite the problematic nature of this term), to explore their interactions and to keep finding out how studying a language is an endless process involving different domains of knowledge. Portuguese is a globally widespread, highly vital language, which is fascinating to observe and follow as it evolves at this point in history, both within each country where it is recognised as official language and in its movement across the network created by these communicating countries.

What does teaching and researching mean to you?
I consider myself privileged to be able to dedicate to a research field that keeps exciting me, that I deeply identify with, and to be able to share and pass on some of the results of my research to young minds. For me, however, teaching also means stimulating critical thinking, getting used to observing and interpreting available data, and fostering the curiosity to seek out and discover new or additional data. We need to be prepared for a "life-long learning" perspective, so I feel greatly responsible for conveying this kind of attitude by teaching my subject and sharing my research.

What has given you the greatest satisfaction in your career?
They are linked to situations where the fruit of an almost solo work was able to meet a wider audience, going beyond academic boundaries. I am thinking, for instance, about the Portuguese translation of Emilio Salgari's novel Across the Atlantic in a Balloon, who dedicated considerable space in this work to Portuguese lands and characters: the book was included in the Portuguese Government national reading plan's list of recommended readings for kids. Or the long lexicographic effort that led to the publication of an Italian-Portuguese dictionary that, despite its compact format, bridges some existing gaps, providing all those who are interested with a handy, effective and, in some ways, innovative tool.

Why Ca’ Foscari and Venice?
After graduating from Ca' Foscari, my first teaching and research experiences took place at other universities, but over time I had the opportunity to return to Ca' Foscari and become involved in the Department I still belong to. Venice and Ca' Foscari therefore represent the confirmation of a choice I made when I was still a student, one determined by the relevance of this university in the linguistic area and by the extraordinary lagoon setting, a historical crossroads of languages, cultures and civilisations. Being able to be part of such an environment, in a unique city and in a top-class department is a privilege, as is being able to work with extraordinary colleagues and motivated students and carry out stimulating projects.

Last update: 28/02/2023