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British Council and Inst. Cervantes publish book

The British Council and Instituto Cervantes have released a new book to help explain the political, social and economic factors influencing the growth of Spanish and English in global communication. The book highlights the evolution and importance that both languages have in today’s global society.

Rafael Rodriguez-Pong, Secretary-General of Instituto Cervantes at the London launch. Photo: British Council/Frank Noon

There are about 420 million native Spanish speakers, while the number of native English speakers is around 400 million

Word for Word – Palabra por Palabra is a compilation of essays from 22 experts – the result of a two-year collaboration between the two institutions as the official promoters of each language.

“We believe at the Instituto Cervantes and as linguists that languages shouldn’t be explained in terms of competition,” Francisco Moreno Frenández, academic director of Instituto Cervantes, told The PIE News. “That’s the book’s message. For any citizen in the world to speak English, that’s good. To speak Spanish, that’s good. But to speak both is so much better.”

“Languages shouldn’t be explained in terms of competition”

Published in both languages by cultural organisations which share a remit to pursue national advantage in the promotion of language learning, the book covers: language and intercultural communication, language in the educational system, language in Europe, English and Spanish in the Americas and the use of language in social and economic development.

The heads of Instituto Cervantes and the British Council, Rafael Rodriguez-Ponga and Martin Davidson respectively, were in London last week for the book’s launch and agreed that learning languages “opens the mind and promotes intercultural dialogue”.

“Learning another language increases the understanding of the world and produces personal enrichment” said Rodriguez-Ponga; “linguistic borders are eliminated and dialogue is promoted between societies and individuals.”

Globally there are about 420 million native Spanish speakers, while the number of native English speakers is around 400 million. Still, English is the most used language in the world with 20% of the population speaking it as a second language. It is used by about 1,600 million people.

Delegates attending the book launch heard that Europe has seen a 36% drop in the number of adolescents registering for foreign language exams, however the number of Spanish exam registrants has risen by 32%.

On the internet, English dominates content by 80% but the presence of Spanish has increased from 6% in 2000 to 8% last year, making it the third most used language on the web.

Francisco Moreno Frenández, academic director of Instituto Cervantes, concluded that expansion of the Spanish language depends largely on the US as the second largest Hispanic country in the world after Mexico.

The book is available in the UK via two stores: www.bebc.co.uk and www.eurobooks.co.uk, and in Spain in all good bookshops.

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