The door on the 14th floor of the HSB does not just open to a floor of offices; it is a gateway to the world. A world filled with people wearing berets, eating tapas and drinking beer.

Floor 14 of the HSB houses the lecturers of the Department of Modern European Languages. They teach French, German and the newest addition, Spanish. Perdeby went to find out more about learning the Spanish language.

The Spanish lecturers are some of the nicest people one could meet. They jumped at the chance to tell students more about their language. The Spanish department is very small with only three lecturers and consists of Pilar Cortabarría, Luis Lancho Perea and Ana García.

So why is Spanish important in a country where it is not an official language?

The answer from the lecturers: “Students who learn Spanish not only broaden their worldview but also expand their horizons to study, work or live overseas. Spanish is also the official language of 21 countries”.

Have you ever wanted to dance to flamenco music in Barcelona or look at the architecture in Buenos Aires? Then learning Spanish might just give you exactly that opportunity. The lecturers are very excited about the opportunities available to their students: “Students who study Spanish at Tuks are eligible to apply for scholarships in countries where Spanish is spoken. As a matter of fact, Spain, Mexico and Argentina are offering bursaries and three of our students are going to Argentina in August”.

The Spanish course also makes use of the internet, by using an innovative computer programme called AVE, to help students master the language. One Spanish student sums up the whole group’s opinion about the AVE course: “AVE is extremely important in our Spanish experience. It is a fun, new and interesting way of interacting even further with the language. In a non-Spanish speaking country, such as South Africa, a programme like this is needed so that we can receive as much exposure to it as possible”.

Not only do the lecturers speak Spanish but they know many other languages as well. García studied French (B1) and is able to understand it; she also studied German (A1). Cortabarría speaks a bit of Italian and Portuguese and Lancho Perea is seriously considering studying French next year. García also did a course in Afrikaans when she arrived in South Africa and Lancho Perea and Cortabarría can greet anyone in Afrikaans or Zulu. There should be no reason for them to be lost in translation.

García is originally from Spain but she was living and working in India for three years before she came to South Africa in July 2008. Cortabarría moved to South Africa in 2001, from Uruguay and Lancho Perea has been living here since October 1999, after having moved from Peru.

When asked if their experience adapting to the new culture in South Africa was difficult, the lecturers answered: “Fortunately, so far, all of us have had wonderful experiences at Tuks. We believe that going to a new country and experiencing its culture is a challenging venture that everyone should undergo to grow socially, emotionally and even academically”.

So maybe you should consider studying another language, even if you just want to impress everyone with your accent or understand Pan’s Labyrinth without the subtitles.

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