BY LUKE DOUGLAS Career & Education senior reporter email@example.com
JAMAICANS need to increase and improve their study of the Spanish language in order to create business and job opportunities both locally and abroad.
So says Spain's Ambassador to Jamaica Celsa Nuno.
The ambassador, who is also president of the Spanish-Jamaican Foundation (SJF), spoke with the Jamaica Observer recently about a number of initiatives she is spearheading to encourage the study of Spanish here.
She said Jamaicans must learn Spanish to help them take advantage of opportunities, particularly in the growing Latin American market.
"Globalisation has made it an absolute requirement to speak a foreign language. Given its geographic position, Jamaica is in an advantageous position to use the opportunity to interact with the 375 million Spanish-speaking people in the region, at a time when their economies are doing very well," Nuno said. "With the Government now targeting visitors from Spanish-speaking countries as alternatives to the North America and European markets, it makes sense that Spanish would be the foreign language of choice."
The ambassador noted that the Singapore Government, which is admired as a model of development by many Jamaicans, recently announced that it will incorporate Spanish into its school curriculum.
There are an estimated of 500 million Spanish speakers worldwide, with 375 million being in the Americas region.
Among the efforts by the Spanish Ambassador to increase the learning of her language was participation in Read Across Jamaica Day in May when she and other representatives of embassies of Spanish-speaking countries read in English and Spanish to children in 13 primary schools.
"We read in English and Spanish, interacted with the children and made donation of books," said Ambassador Nuno, who was assisted by her eight-year-old daughter in reading to the children in grades one and two.
"We reached over 500 children and donated over US$1,500 in books and educational materials. It went very well and hope it can be repeated every year."
SJF general manager Dr Rebecca Tortello noted that in addition to receiving copies of bilingual books in English and Spanish, some schools also purchased copies of the books, which included popular cartoon figures, such as Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Tortello also said the reading sessions were filmed by students of Mico University College for use in their training.
Nuno was impressed by the students' knowledge of Spanish.
"They knew the numbers, colours, and even some difficult words. We have to encourage them and their teachers at this young age. If they maintain their studies, it will pay off because knowledge of Spanish will open professional opportunities for them in the future," she said.
Also being planned is a two-week residential workshop next month for Spanish teachers at Shortwood Teachers' College in St Andrew.
"It will be an intense training session to assist teachers in their profession," the ambassador said.
About 90 teachers are targeted for the workshop, which will involve an online course designed by the Cervantes Institute, which is the main organisation for the teaching of Spanish worldwide.
Free licences for the online Spanish courses have also been donated to the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology, she disclosed.
Tortello also disclosed that the SJF is considering establishing a Spanish language lab at Shortwood, and scholarships for hospitality students at Montego Bay Community College to study Spanish.
The SJF is a non-profit organisation intended to deepen the friendship between the people of Jamaica and Spain. Founded in 2006, the SJF's primary objectives include the promotion of cultural and educational exchanges between the two nations as well as the promotion of trade, investment and better integration of communities with the tourism industry.
The Spanish ambassador serves as its president, and it has an executive board made up of representatives of several Spanish investors in Jamaica's hospitality sector, and an advisory board made up of prominent Jamaicans, including former Prime Ministers Edward Seaga and PJ Patterson.