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Saturday 17 August 2019
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UWI makes Spanish mandatory

THE University of the West Indies has signed an agreement with the Mexican Government to make the teaching of Spanish compulsory for all UWI students from 2017, Vice Chancellor Sir Hilary Beckles said yesterday.

“We are hoping to have all the facilities in place by next year,” he said.

Responding to concerns expressed about the English-speaking Caribbean countries being at a disadvantage in negotiations at the level of the European Union (EU) without the United Kingdom (UK) and in Latin America, at UWI’s symposium on “Brexit implications for the Caribbean” at the UWI, Mona campus on Wednesday, Beckles said the university was aware of the situation.

“We are having very detailed conversations with the Government of Mexico to provide the capacity building for Spanish teaching across the region,” he said.

With support across the system, he said, “We are going to make Spanish proficiency the norm for the next generation of young people in the region. We have to do this.” According to economist Dr David Tennant of the Mona Campus, the English-speaking Caribbean needs to emancipate itself from the language barriers which were allowed to develop in the Caribbean. “We do need to get beyond the fact that the English-speaking Caribbean is something special. It is not. It is an accident of history,” he said.

If the Caribbean is going to work and negotiate with Latin American and EU countries in the wake of the UK’s exit from the EU, Tennant said, with their sheer language and sheer numbers “we might just get pushed out also.” He described the Caribbean as a series of islands and countries bounded by the Caribbean Sea with a GDP of about US$324 billion for over 40 million people including Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic — Spanish speaking.

The Spanish-speaking Caribbean makes up over 35 million people while the English-speaking Caribbean has a population of about five million people. Welcoming Beckles’ announcement, Minna Israel of the Mona School of Business and Management said, “For those of us who sit at the Inter-American Development Bank council meeting, we realise that as a Caribbean people, we as English-speaking people have become so marginalised.” Gone are the days, she said, when Spanish speakers would ensure that interpreters were in place to be understood at meetings. magic spells


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