You cannot say you have learned Spanish without knowing what many of our expressions, references, homages, historic events or even regional parties mean to us,” says Juan Pérez-Urriti of Universidad de Málaga Ronda’s Programa Internacional de Estudios de Español (PIEE). The school has offered a Spanish plus culture and civilisation programme since 2010, he says, which has “seen noticeable growth from the first year to the second”. Students on the course spend time studying important social and political events, he enthuses, explaining that students gain deeper insight by taking in Spanish artwork, “Whether it is a poem by Antonio Machado, a movie about Francisco de Goya or a painting by Picasso,” he adds. “[Students] do an oral presentation about the period of time or event [they like] the most.”
In Salamanca, Letra Hispánica offers a Con Todas las Letras course, incorporating language lessons and “exposing students to the panoply of Hispanic culture: history, art, literature, cinema and more”, according to Martina Steinhartová. The programme consists of seven-hours-a-week of Spanish literature, contemporary history and history of art studies, she says, noting, “At our school, students get to know the other side of the language, not only the Spanish stereotypes [such as] bullfighting, but also the daily life of [Spaniards]. Thanks to the Spanish environment, students are able to connect with native Spanish people, practise the language and learn about Spaniards’ [way of] thinking.” There are also a number of free cultural activities available, she adds, including excursions and a cinema forum.
Along with the Spanish plus general cultural tuition courses on offer, there are a number of institutions running courses that specialise in particular aspects of the country’s culture. Such programmes at Malaca Instituto in Malaga have been running for 15 years, and include Spanish plus dance and Spanish plus cookery, both incorporating intensive language tuition. Bob Burger at the school relates, “Flamenco is obviously one of the main cultural attractions associated with the south of Spain and a form of music and dance which is growing in popularity around the world, and Salsa is in demand in all the markets.” And on the cookery course, “Participants learn to complete a three-course menu and enjoy a meal with wine together,” says Burger, adding that the cookery section is now led by an internal staff member with experience at a Michelin star restaurant.
Instituto Hispánico in Murcia also offers a Spanish and cooking course, “where students have a great opportunity to extend their vocabulary connected with cooking in practice while preparing delicious Spanish meals”, informs Jakub Sochacky, adding, “This course allows [clients] to find out more about the famous Mediterranean diet, including local food and drinks.” Students get to visit local markets to learn about fruit, vegetables and pork products, “and activities which are part of the whole package include a guided visit to Casa Ermita vineyard with wine tasting included, and a visit to Olimendros, [an] olive oil press and bottling company”, he says. “Students will also eat together five times with a member of the [school] who speaks both Spanish and English.”
In Seville, meanwhile, Taller Flamenco offers Spanish plus flamenco (dealing with the technique and choreography of the dance separately), guitar, singing and percussion courses. “We have been offering such courses since 1994, [and have introduced] new courses in activities in response to customer demand, such as combinations of Spanish, Flamenco and cooking,” explains Eukene Izagirre, adding that one of the school’s main assets is its location. “Culturally speaking this area is a good sample of authenticity a great opportunity to understand Spanish culture in a real context.”
While Izagirre notices “a more demanding and exclusive clientele who may request extra services [such as] booking tickets for performances”, Burger at Malaca Instituto notes that the popularity of Spanish plus culture courses is increasing, along with the popularity of Spanish culture in all its forms. And at Instituto Hispánico, “All of our Spanish plus culture courses are so popular that enrolments have increased by 60 per cent in the last five years,” says Sochacky, adding that the courses tend to be popular with the Western world in general.
A selection of executive English courses in the UK
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