EDITORIAL: Get cracking on Spanish immersion
IF THERE IS one thing that has been talked about non-stop in Barbados over the past two decades but which has not been delivered on the scale and with the impact expected, it is making Spanish this country’s second language. The non-establishment of this necessity is most unfortunate and is certainly a lamentable failure on the part of the Ministry of Education.
While we appreciate that English is still the language of international trade and commerce, having no facility with another language has severe drawbacks in a modern and fast-changing world. This is particularly true for Barbados if it must look to new destinations for business and employment opportunities.
Our proximity to Latin America as well as to a changing Cuba and the Dominican Republic, which is already part of the CARIFORUM grouping to which we belong, highlights clearly why Spanish must be the second language of choice. It is the second most widely spoken language today, after Chinese, and is recording continuous growth. The United States is expected to be the world’s leading Spanish-speaking country in 2050.
Some attempts have been made, even if in an unenthusiastic manner, to teach Spanish in Barbados’ primary schools. Clearly, these lukewarm efforts have gone nowhere and this neglect will continue until there is someone at a very senior level held accountable for the successful implementation of the programme. It must begin at the nursery and primary levels where there must be a targeted focus and the teachers competent and trained to provide the quality instruction required. The children will be eager and the parents will get on board.
We cannot seek to have direct airlinks established between Barbados andLatin America, talk about enhanced trade links and the need to attract large numbers of visitors here, yet have very few front-line workers capable of communicating in Spanish. We must not allow language in such circumstances to be an unnecessary barrier to opening opportunities. Neither must we simply go for survival Spanish, but rather understand the necessity of becoming a bilingual nation.
Perhaps, it may be necessary to engage Goddard Enterprises Limited and Sagicor, both of which have significant presence in Latin America and to help realise this goal of Spanish as a second language. They best exemplify the real world link between financial success and exploitation of opportunities in the bigger and growing economies in Latin America. At a national level, we must also look beyond our traditional Anglophone partners, in United States and Britain, which have virtually closed the doors to new Barbadian emigrants on any mass scale.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones’ comments over the weekend on the failure to make Spanish our second language indicates a level of frustration. He has the authority to redress this situation and should set clear guidelines and deadlines to achieve meaningful results. He must make it happen.