Fifty years of expanding frontiers through language learning

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Juan Vicente Vega Expósito (director), with Sara Alarcón Moreno, head of studies (left) and Marta Perles Aguado, secretary. / FRANCOIS SILVA

Nearly 7,000 people study another language at the Official Language School in Malaga, as two million have done in the last half century

In the Spain of the 1970s, open to foreign trade and tourism, it was very rare to learn another language. However, the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas (official language school) in the city of Malaga celebrates its 50th anniversary today; during this half-century, nearly two million students have passed through its doors. This year, around 7,000 people enrolled in one of 11 languages, including Spanish as a foreign language, taught by 88 teachers.

When it was created (school year 1970/71), the school started with three languages ​​- English, French and German – and others were gradually incorporated: Arabic in 1983, Spanish in 1984, Italian in 1985, Russian in 1987, Japanese and Greek in 1991, Portuguese in 1997 and Chinese in 2006.

To mark its 50th anniversary (the celebration has been delayed by the pandemic), the school has prepared a program of events. Last week there was a conference in German, a conference on language learning, a workshop for children on Matryoshka dolls and another on Chinese crafts, among other events.

It was the first official language school to open in Andalusia, and for almost 20 years it was the only one in the region until 1990. Today there are 52 in Andalusia.

Evolution

The school has evolved over the years, adapting to new technologies and also expanding its academic program.

“You could say that there was an uneven initial approach in the 1970s and 1980s, due to precarious regulations regarding our teaching methods,” explains the director, Juan Vicente Vega Expósito.

At that time, methodologies very centered on grammar coexisted with other, more communicative types. Between the 1990s and the first years of the current century, the communicative method was used more. Then, since the mid-2000s, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages ​​has governed language teaching in Europe.

It provides a method of learning, teaching and assessment that applies to all languages ​​in Europe, using an action-oriented approach and focusing on students’ ability to communicate. It gives guidelines on what foreign language users should know and what they should be able to do.

More of a necessity now

Learning other languages ​​is always useful, but in tourist areas like Malaga and the Costa del Sol it has become much more of a necessity.

“In a province like ours, which is so popular as a tourist destination, language learning is essential for practically all professional and service sectors,” said Juan Vicente.

He explained: “It is no coincidence that the first language school in Andalusia (and the third in Spain) was founded in Malaga, because many tourists were already coming here in the 1970s and their number was increasing. .”

He also sees Malaga as a “very welcoming place for immigrants looking for a decent life, as well as for people from central and northern Europe who have come to live in different places along the coast of Malaga”.

And they are all potential students of Spanish or other languages ​​at the official language school

Regarding the individual choice to enroll in the official school or one of the many other language academies, Juan Vicente Vega said: “If you are interested in learning a language, your experience in the official school will most likely be a success. If you also need a certificate, especially if you need it for a public administration, we are also certified to issue them.”

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