Trying to master a foreign language

AIIC Spanish Language and Culture course

Barcelona, July 22-28 2012
(report to my employer)

As part of my training objectives, which include consolidating Spanish as a passive working language, I attended the AIIC course on Spanish Language and Culture in Barcelona, from July 22-28.

The course was offered by AIIC, and was designed by and for interpreters. The objectives were to expand the participants’ understanding of Spanish and Spanish culture, through lectures and workshops, followed up by a recap of the terminology and idiomatic expressions used during the sessions. The course included formal lectures, practical exercises and cultural visits.

The themes included: the Spanish economy and the root causes of the current debt crisis, the media in Catalonia, labor market reform, the “Modernismo” movement, modern Spanish history, women writers in Spanish, and the police forces in Spain. We also visited a brewery and the ALBA Synchrotron.

Participants were encouraged to speak Spanish among themselves, even outside the classroom, and surprisingly, we rarely reverted to other languages, such as English or French, which most of the participants also spoke quite well. The participants, all interpreters, except for one Spanish teacher, came from different countries and language backgrounds. For most, Spanish was a comparatively weak language. Yet we were all eager to speak it. In Spanish, we were all on an equal, albeit weak, footing, and perhaps this is why it did not feel artificial to be speaking it among ourselves.

At the end of the course, the organizers asked us to provide feedback in the form of a questionnaire. I appreciated the broad scope of themes, which ranged from economics, to law, science and culture. The one suggestion I made, which admittedly reflects my own personal preference, was to have fewer lectures and more workshops in small groups to focus on practical exercises.


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