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Hola everyone, let’s speak Spanish

HT Education kick-starts a series on the cultural hotspots – foreign and Indian – that dot the city and give the Capital its unique buzz. This week, we profile the Spanish cultural centre

education Updated: May 08, 2012 13:24 IST
Rahat Bano
Rahat Bano
Hindustan Times

Instituto Cervantes is a window into the culture, language and traditions of celebs like actor Penelope Cruz and singer/actor Ricky Martin. Attached to the Embassy of Spain, it introduces you to a host of things Spanish/Hispanic, be it literature, art or cuisine.

Inaugurated in 2009, this foreign cultural centre in the Capital is rather new when compared to its other Western counterparts in India. Before launching a full-fledged institution of its own, it used to run an Aula (or classroom) Cervantes on the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) campus. From the erstwhile single-room aula at JNU to the current three-storey, 4000-sq-m complex on Hanuman Road, the institute has grown and how.

“We have about 3000 enrolments every year. There are 78 (Cervantes) centres in the world and we are now on the seventh position (by number of enrolees),” says Oscar Pujol, director, Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi.

Meanwhile, the institute is collaborating with Indian institutes to teach the Spanish language on their premises, sending staff and giving students fee discounts as well. “We are signing lots of agreements with Indian institutions to teach outside Institute Cervantes – Hindu College in Delhi and Sydenham College in Mumbai,” Pujol says.

It also has a partnership with Indira Gandhi National Open University for online courses since 2008. “We are going to start the second batch with 500 students in the beginner’s level and 200 in level 2,” says Pujol.

Plus, they have “Associate” institutes which can use the Cervantes logo, an assurance of certain standards being met.

Recently, the head of Instituto Cervantes (headquarters) in Spain, Victor Garcia de la Concha, said in a video speech to institutes directors around the world, “We have to expand in countries like India, China and also in America.”

Courses: The institute runs Spanish language courses at different levels, for general students as well as for corporate houses on-site (in-house) (see box). It’s also a testing centre for the Diplomas in Spanish as a Foreign Language or DELE, its Spanish acronym, which are awarded by Spain’s education ministry.

The general requirement for regular courses is a minimum age of 14. The institute also offers special courses for children aged five and older as well as tailor-made, on-site courses for corporate houses.

Most students are in the 25 to 35 age bracket, including professionals such as engineers.

Activities: Instituto Cervantes regularly holds book discussions, seminars, conferences, exhibitions, and occasionally, Salsa classes and cookery workshops. Sunday is for film screenings. Every year, it organises day-long events on Spanish Day in June - where different Latin American countries take part and showcase their culture and traditions.

Infrastructure: The institute has 17 modern classrooms, equipped with smart boards, an exhibition hall and a 145-seat auditorium.

The library, earlier named after Spanish Nobel laureate Juan Ramon Jimenez, has been renamed to prefix his wife Zenobia’s name to it. The couple translated Tagore’s work into Spanish, with the US-educated Zenobia assisting the scholar with translation, explains Pujol, himself a Sanskrit scholar. “Tagore is very famous in Spain, thanks to them. They translated Tagore into Spanish. That’s why we put his name here as a homage to Tagore.”

The Zenobia-Juan Ramon Jimenez library boasts 16,000 books, including Spanish translations of works of Indian authors like Tagore and Hindi versions of Spanish books, such as Don Quixote by Cervantes, after whom the institute is named.


First Published: May 08, 2012 13:08 IST