JOINING the traditionally high interest in the German, English, and French languages, over the last 15 years, Spanish has become one of the most popular foreign languages among Slovaks, with the number of interested students steadily increasing.
Grammar schools and high schools with extended instruction in German, French, and English or bilingual schools at this level of education have been commonplace in this country for decades.
However, in recent years the choice of these schools has been broadened by grammar schools that teach Spanish as a second language.
As The Slovak Spectator learned from Dr Danica Bakossová, councillor general at the Ministry of Education's Department of General Education, at present, there are six Spanish bilingual grammar schools in Slovakia, each in a different region of the country.
Spanish Ambassador Alfonso Diez Torres confirmed for The Slovak Spectator that the existence of bilingual sections in Slovak high schools has been a successful mechanism for promoting the language.
"We have six bilingual sections - in Bratislava, Nitra, Trstená, Banská Bystrica, Košice, and Žilina. We have plans to potentially open three more. Over 1,000 students study in Spanish - at least 75 percent of their studies are in the language. As a result, there are a number of Slovaks who are quite fluent in Spanish," Ambassador Torres said.
Apart from extensive lessons in Spanish, the students also learn other subjects in the language. At the end of their studies, graduates receive certificates proving that their command of Spanish is sufficient for studies at universities in Spain or in other Spanish-speaking counties.
Spanish authorities provide assistance in the operation of these schools, in the form of qualified teachers and textbooks. Teachers from Spain even receive a compensatory salary from their home country in addition to their Slovak one.
Slovak authorities want to broaden instruction in Spanish to elementary schools as well. Recently, they placed an advertisement in the teachers' paper Učiteľské noviny to find out whether there were any interested schools.
Instruction of Spanish at universities has a long tradition and, according to Bakossová, it has always been dependent on the university's own personal resources. She pointed out that Spanish language teaching is especially well-developed at Bratislava's University of Economy.