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China’s demand for Spanish going unmet, says government

The demand for Spanish language tuition in China has “increased 30 fold” over the past 15 years but it is not being met with sufficient teachers and educational support according to Lu Jingsheng, the Chinese government’s National Coordinator for Spanish.

Spanish industry leaders and representatives of the Real Academia Española and Instituto Cervantes at the inauguration of Foro Internacional del Español

The trend to learn Spanish has put it on course to overtake other French and German learning in China

Speaking at the Foro Internacional del Español, Lu said job opportunities for Spanish speakers are constantly growing in China, especially for Spanish teachers.

“The increased demand is dizzying, besides the Chinese government has decided to extend its policy of liberalising the economy and Spanish is able to obtain greater benefit from it,” he said.

“Spanish speakers in China have a good systematic infrastructure, but strong pedagogical work needs to be developed in order to harness the economic opportunities provided by China.”

“Strong pedagogical work needs to be developed in order to harness the economic opportunities provided by China”

Also speaking at the event, Jesús Juan Ciro Martín Sanz, president of Plataforma del Español, a network of Spanish-speaking companies, said as the most common alternatives to the world’s lingua franca, English, Chinese and Spanish have a connection that could benefit both economies.

“The axis of communication and, therefore, culture has shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific where most of the world’s population is concentrated,” he said. “The 21st century is the era of the Pacific, that’s why the Spanish language should have a more prominent presence in the region.”

In 2013, the Spanish government made targeted efforts to increase its influence in Asia, specifically China. The Minister of Foreign Affairs José Manuel García-Margallo said Spain was ready to make up for lost ground in China and Japan.

Trade ties between Spain and China have grown considerably over the last decade despite insufficient support for language learning. In 2001 the countries generated €2.9m in trade while current bilateral commerce totals more than €25m.

“The job opportunities for Spanish speakers is constantly growing, especially for teachers,” commented Lu. “China is a challenge, but also a great business opportunity.”

He added that around 40,000 students are enrolled in Spanish teaching courses creating a trend that has put Spanish on course to overtake traditionally studied European languages French and German.

After Mexico and Colombia, Spain is the third largest Spanish speaking country in the world.

Representatives from the tourism sector and the Federación Española de Asociaciones de Escuelas de Español para Extranjeros said countries including Turkey and Brazil, should be targeted in promotions of Spain as a language learning destination.

“The 21st century is the era of the Pacific, that’s why the Spanish language should have a more prominent presence in the region”

According to 2014 figures from El Instituto Cervantes, the sector received some 40,000 language tourism visitors.

The first annual forum was presided by King Filipe and organised in collaboration with the Madrid-based Plataforma del Español and IFEMA in a bid to bring together business leaders involved in promoting the culture around the Spanish language.

Other sessions at the four-day event focused on how Spanish industry can harness the buying power of Spanish speakers. Instituto Cervantes figures show that 6.7% of the world speaks Spanish and they together contributed 9.2% of the global GDP last year.

Business leaders discussed leveraging Spanish’s digital influence- the third most used language online and the second in social media- as well as recognising its growing ubiquity in the Unitied States which, according to Instituto Cervantes, will be the largest Spanish speaking country by 2050.

“You can’t speak about Spanish as a future option because it’s already here,” advised journalist María Peña.

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