The Value of the Spanish Language
The recent conference regarding the value of the Spanish language enjoyed the participation of all of the sectors involved in the teaching of Spanish as a second language: the Instituto Cervantes, the Junta of Castilla and León, Turespaña and even universities, private schools and agencies. Thanks to the collaboration of all participants, distinct points of view were exchanged and the current situation and future prospects of the Spanish language were analyzed.
The event was held at the Conference Center in Salamanca (Spain) and was attended by 500 people dedicated to the sector as well as by university students.
The Spanish language has gone from being a peripheral language to being at the forefront of global commerce, which is clearly reflected in the growth in demand for the language over the past few years.
The Spanish language has become a source of wealth for Spain and other Spanish-speaking countries, though we do not have data for the latter. In Spain, calculations place the wealth generated by Spanish at 15% of the Gross Domestic Product (PIB), or 462,549,000€, of which 176.5 million Euros come from courses and the rest from leisure, hotel and other related industries. The future of the language has also been analyzed and deemed very promising. Spanish has become a business language. We cannot forget that Spanish is the official language of almost all of the countries comprising Latin America, all of which are up-and-coming countries. Additionally, Brazil has proposed a law that would institute teaching Spanish as a second language in schools, which will inevitably result in an increased demand for learning Spanish among teachers and students.
During the three days of the conference, diverse lectures were given which addressed all of the topics that affect the sector: the history of the teaching of Spanish as a second language, new teaching methodologies, sociocultural aspects, communication lines, agencies, private schools and universities, as well as each topic’s abilities and the collaborations that can be established between the various sectors.
In the lectures, particular emphasis was placed on one issue: the student client is changing. He has new interests and the learning centers dedicated to teaching Spanish as a second language are adapting to those changes. This has been called “specialization”. Small class sizes provide the greater personalized attention that allows us to gain important insight into the needs of students depending on their nationalities, ages and cultural backgrounds. This type of specialization can be more easily undertaken in private schools than in institutionalized centers, as the former enjoy a greater degree of flexibility.
The mobility of students, within both Europe (Erasmus program) and the United States (Study Abroad programs), was also discussed, as the number of students taking advantage of these programs is constantly on the rise. It was specifically mentioned that in the United States over half of the students studying other languages pick Spanish as their chosen language of study. The interest in Spanish is also growing among students coming from China, despite the legal obstacles that they must overcome in order to obtain the necessary visa.
The concluding discussion recognized that the potential for the advancement of the Spanish language throughout the world is great. However, for various reasons the language is currently experiencing a slowdown and getting it back on track will require the collaboration of all sectors, both private and public.
By Agustín Sánchez