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Málaga at the epicentro of Language Tourism

Published on Tuesday, January 23, 2018

During the first few days of the year, Malaga has seen intense discussions about Language Tourism and the position of Spanish as a key world Language. Today it is the 2nd most spoken nother-tongue language, being the language of 8% of the world’s population.  Spain is the principal destination in the world for learning Spanish and especially Andalucia and Malaga.


Málaga Education Week was organised by NACEM (the Association of Spanish Language Schools in Malaga) with the support of AEEA (Spanish in Andalucia) and FEDELE (Spanish in Spain). This iniative was made possible by the Tourism Department of the Townhall of Malaga and the “Patronato de Turismo” of the Costa del Sol. It was also supported by Turespaña, Turismo Andaluz, ICEF, SIELE, GUARDME, SRM, EXTENDA, Instituto Cervantes, Universidad de Málaga, ICEX, Chamber of Commerce, The Picasso Museum, CEM  and Festival de Cine de Málaga. During this week, more than 500 professionals have shared views, exchanged information and debated the current situation and future trends. The week was made up of 3 separate but interrelated events:


The 8th ECELE meeting (Encuentro Internacional de Centros de Enseñanza de Español) was opened by Malaga’s Mayor, Francisco de la Torre, the President of FEDELE, Mari Carmen Timor, the President of NACEM and AEEA José María Casero, the representative of the Instituto Cervantes Isidoro Castellanos and the Director General of “Turismo y Planificación Costa del Sol”, Arturo Bernal. They all emphasised the strong points of Malaga which make it one of the best places in the world to study Spanish: its climate, its range of cultural activities, the quality of its schools, its location, gastronomy and quality of life. It’s not for nothing that, of the almost 100,000 people who come to study Spanish in Spain each year, 13,000 choose to do so in Malaga. 


33 teachers of 17 different nationalities met with representatives of 34 schools from all over Spain. They enjoyed 2 full days of activities, including visits to places of cultural interest and to the schools in Malaga, all helping to cement existing contacts and create new opportunities for co-operation.


The Malaga Congress came next, bringing together the Instituto Cervantes, the University of Malaga and the private language schools and encouraging them to work together in the promotion of Spanish in the world and Malaga as the main destination for studying Spanish.


The Rector of the University of Malaga, José Narváez Bueno, accompanied by Richard Bueno Hudson, the Academic Director of the  Instituto Cervantes and Monsalud Bautista, the representative for Tourism and Culture of the  “Junta de Andalucía”  officially opened the 1st Malaga Congress which took place in the University of Malaga’s “Rectorado”.  It was closed by the Mayor of Malaga, Francisco de la Torre, who then accompanied the participants to Calle Larios (Malaga’s High Street) to visit the Malaga Education Week exhibition which will be open until 30 January and which helps to explain the importance of language tourism to Malaga and the importance of Spanish in the world through its 40 posters and messages.       


The Congress was made up of 4 round tables discussing the importance of Spanish as an Economic Resource. Firstly the focus was on the impact of the Spanish Language as an element in helping Spain and Spanish products compete in the world economy. The speakers were José Luis García of the Telefonica Foundation, Fernando León of ICEX (Spain’s overseas Trade Board), Markus Badde of ICEF  and Mónica Bellido, linguist and dancer who spoke of Flamenco as an art form capable of transmitting the quintessential essence of Spain and its language throughout the world.  


The 2nd table dealt with the profile of the typical student of Spanish and the markets and their potential for expansion. The president of FEDELE (Federación de Escuelas de Español en España) María del Carmen Timor presented figures from 2016 indicating that 97,000 students Study Spanish in Spain each year, of which 13,000 do so in Malaga, the leader in Andalucia as a destination for studying Spanish. Language tourism generates more than €32 million for Malaga according to calculations by  José María Casero, president of the Association of Schools of Spanish in Andalucia. The round table was completed by Stefan Kolibar of StudentMarketing, Krister Weidenhielm of the ESL Agency, Antonio Peláez of the CIE/University of Malaga and Isabel Martín, the Spanish Tourism Attaché in Poland, who provided the surprising statistic that more than 122,000 Poles studied Spanish in Poland in 2017. 


The 3rd table looked at the current situation of Spanish in the world and its future prospects. Antonio Guevara, dean of the Tourism Faculty of the University of Malaga (UMA), highlighted the increase in the number of students who, having first studied Spanish in a language school in Malaga, then go on to study for a Degree in la UMA. Richard Bueno Hudson, Academic Director of the Instituto Cervantes detailed some of the strategies and reasons which result in Spanish reaching increasingly large areas of the planet.  Further participants included Alberto Matesanz, of SIELE and Kurt Grötsch of Chinese Friendly who produced some interesting facts about the tremendous potential of the Asian market and the importance of not delaying in exploiting it. “The future of Spanish lies in Asia” stated Grötsch.


The 4th table looked at the concept of the Cosmopolitan Tourist with analysis by Javier Rodríguez of Turespaña, who explained that Turespaña is concentrating its marketing strategies on the pursuit of the tourist who is not only looking for a Mediterranean climate and beaches but also wants to find out about and experience the Spanish way of life, meet the local people, enjoy their culture, museums and gastronomy. He mentioned Malaga as an ideal example of a destination suited to this type of tourist and agreed that the language school tourist does fit this definition.  José Lebrero of Malaga’s Picasso Musem, Esther Cruces from the Town Archives of Malaga and Iván Bravo chef of “Grupo  Premium” completed the table, the latter emphasising the importance of Spanish gastronomy around the world.


All together this resulted in a comprehensive analysis of the position of the Spanish Language in the world and of Malaga’s role in this.  An entire week focused on Language tourism, was rounded off by the Alphe Conference, in the NH hotel in Malaga, in which 400 professional took part. In parallel, one of the most interesting aspects of the 1st Malaga Education Week was the exhibition in Calle Larios which will continue for the rest of January.

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