Paul Sileika recognized with the 2023 Pedro da Silva Award

May 6, 2024 by Berenice Villagómez

The Department of Spanish & Portuguese at the University of Toronto is proud to announce Paul Sileika as the 2023 recipient of the Pedro da Silva Award, sponsored by Caixa Geral de Depósitos. 

This award recognizes academic excellence in the Portuguese program courses offered in our department. Sileika is being recognized for his work in the Specialist program in Portuguese during the academic year 2023 / 2024. The award includes a scholarship payment, courtesy of the Portuguese bank Caixa Geral de Depósitos. 

When asked what motivated him to study Portuguese, he said: “I married into a Portuguese family from the Azores and Coimbra. Some of my extended family actually does not speak English, so I took it upon myself to learn Portuguese to better communicate with them. I started by taking some part-time courses at a community college but when I took them all I decided to take the program at the University of Toronto to continue my learning on an academic level.” 

“Because of my previous knowledge I was able to start in the second-year Portuguese course”, he shared about his experience in our department. Being exposed to a wider variety of Portuguese, he noted: “Interestingly, while my extended family is from Portugal I have started to watch lots of Brazilian TV shows, movies and music and the consequence of this is my accent is sort of in-between Portugal and Brazil. Some people say it sounds like I am from Rio de Janeiro because I have the "sh" sound at the end of words like Portugal, but I tend to favour Brazilian grammatical structures.” 

No stranger to education, Paul works as a manager for Teaching Support Services in the The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education at Toronto Metropolitan University. Managing a successful career and excelling at part-time studies at the University of Toronto is no easy feat, which is why he was glad to learn that he is the recipient of the 2023 Pedro da Silva Award. “After I learned the news, I read up on who Pedro da Silva was. I am proud to receive this award that honors a person with connections to both Portugal and Canada – which I do too. It also means a lot to me because I love learning languages! I already speak Lithuanian, French, ASL, and a little bit of Hebrew. It is very satisfying to receive recognition for this effort.” 

For students considering learning Portuguese, Paul shares one important reason to do so: 

“Through this program, I've gotten to learn about many Portuguese-speaking cultures! Portugal, Brazil, and all Portuguese-speaking countries have really wonderful music, literature, culture and food. I absolutely recommend learning Portuguese to have a stronger connection to these great cultures! For instance, some shows I like include Coisa Mais Linda (Girls from Ipanema), Samantha! and the movie Musica. And the musical universe in Portuguese is so wide! Some of the genres of music I enjoy most are Sertanejo and Musica Popular Brasileira. Portuguese will definitely expand your cultural vocabulary in new and exciting ways.” 

The Pedro da Silva Award, sponsored by Caixa Geral de Depósitos, was created in 2012 in honor of the very first postman in Canada, of known Portuguese ancestry, in order to recognize the academic commitment and merit of Portuguese students in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Toronto. 

Caixa Geral de Depósitos is the Portuguese state bank and, being the top bank in the country, is a reference both to Portuguese citizens, in Portugal and around the world, as well as to all of those wishing to invest in the country. As Canada represents a significant share of the Portuguese immigration abroad, Caixa Geral de Depósitos intends to be present within the communities, and very close to those dedicated to teaching and promoting the Portuguese language. It is our pleasure to join the prestigious University of Toronto (Department of Spanish and Portuguese) in rewarding the best student in one of the Portuguese programs.  Through this award, we aim to recognize good performances in the Portuguese language, which year after year gains international prominence. Through the Pedro da Silva Award, we reinforce our commitment to support the Portuguese community, to promote the Portuguese language and to strengthen the ties with Canadian institutions.