The Instituto Cervantes and the Agencia Española de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AECID) are organizing training programs for Spanish teachers in five African countries: Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, and Gabon. The program will expand to other sub-Saharan countries to “reinforce the status and presence” of Spanish on the continent.
The director of the Cervantes Institute, Luis García Montero, said that learning a language is not just knowing its vocabulary, it is understanding culture and values, which, in the case of Spain, include “democracy, development, equality, respect for human rights, and the fight against poverty.” According to Montero, the institute “shows the best aspects of Spanish society to the world,” which is linked to “cooperation and development.” He also stressed the importance of the agreement in helping to establish advice networks for Spanish teachers in Africa, who often have to do professional development alone, and the fact that the continent’s population is set to double over the next 30 years to 2.4 billion people, presenting “new opportunities and challenges that need to be addressed now.”
Africa has become a playing field for linguistic influence, with government-backed initiatives from China and now Spain aimed at challenging the dominance of the colonial languages: English and French.
The Cervantes Institute also announced that it would start offering Spanish classes in Iraq for the first time thanks to an agreement with the French Institute of Baghdad and the Goethe Institute, so that the people of Baghdad will be able to study any of the three languages like in any other major city, having suffered 30 years of conflict.