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New Spanish language exam aims to resemble English counterparts

Instituto Cervantes has launched a new Spanish language competency exam that will be computer-based, offer a quick turnaround on results and aims to be the equivalent of English counterparts IELTS and TOEFL.

Spanish King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia with the rector of the Universidad de Salamanca Daniel Hernández Ruipérez, rector of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, José Narro, and director of Instituto Cervantes, Víctor García de la Concha. Photo: Casa de S.M. el Rey

Instituto Cervantes aims to have 300,000 candidates annually increasing to 750,000 by 2021

The SIELE (Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española) will grade learners’ listening, reading, writing and oral fluency on a scale of 1,000 and will incorporate the variants of Spanish found in Europe and across Latin America.

The exam was launched last week in Mexico in collaboration with the world’s largest Spanish speaking university, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) and the oldest, Universidad de Salamanca (USAL).

“There weren’t any highly regarded or agile certificates that would stand in line with the offering in the English language”

Spain’s King Felipe VI attended the event and highlighted that the test manages to capture the different forms of Spanish as it is spoken today.

“In the Spanish as a foreign or second language sector, there weren’t any highly regarded or agile certificates that would stand in line with the offering in the English language,” he remarked.

“If we want our language to be the second language of international communication, we need to overcome our short-sightedness, centred on individuals [countries], and pool our resources to achieve our goal which will benefit everyone.”

The test is set to roll out at the beginning of the 2016 academic year around the world, but during the initial three years, Instituto Cervantes said it will specifically target markets in Brazil, the US and China.

According to the latest Instituto Cervantes annual report, El Español: una lengua viva, there are more than 15 million Spanish learners in these countries.

Until now, the leading test of Spanish language competency has been Instituto Cervantes’s diploma accreditation DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera) backed by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport in Spain.

Instituto Cervantes said the more nimble SIELE will compliment the DELE which only grants pass or fail grades on hand-written exams that test a specific level of Spanish. DELE certificates are valid indefinitely but students must wait three months for results.

“The SIELE is not a test of fluency but a way to promote the Spanish language of everyone equally”

SIELE candidates meanwhile will be able to take the computer-based exam year round with an appointment at official centres worldwide. Results, certified by Instituto Cervantes, UNAM and USAL, will be given within three weeks and are valid for two years.

In the 2013-2014 academic year there were almost 62,000 DELE test takers, and 66,000 the year before. For the SIELE, Instituto Cervantes aims to have 300,000 candidates annually increasing to 750,000 by 2021.

“The SIELE is not a test of fluency but a way to promote the Spanish language of everyone equally,” commented Instituto Cervantes director Víctor García de la Concha. “We expect 900 Latin American universities to participate and all of the ministries of education from the region.”

According to Instituto Cervantes, there are 470 million native Spanish speakers in the world. With the addition of second language speakers and learners, the number of Spanish speakers in the world reaches 559 million.

After the US and Brazil, the countries with the most Spanish language learners are France, Italy, Germany, the UK, Benin, Ivory Cost, Sweden and Senegal.

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