Spanish In Indian Schools: Present And Future

There is no doubt that for a long time French has been the most common foreign language or second language subject taught in Indian schools, especially in the CBSE and ICSE schools. However, the scenario is changing rapidly across the country, and during the last two decades, Spanish has become the most sought after language in IB and IGCSE curricula and trickled down towards the national curricula as well.

Who could have imagined that even in the second tier cities like Lucknow or Varanasi, there would be jobs for Spanish teachers?Just to give a quick overview of Spanish language: it is the official language of 21 countries, ranging from Spain in the European continent, Guinea Equatorial in Africa to the magical 19 Latin American countries across the Atlantic. Moreover, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the USA, a historical fact that the southern USA was once part of greater Mexico. Also, there has been a huge influx of Spanish speakers to the USA, from adjacent countries like Mexico, Cuba and other Hispanic nations.It is a curious fact that Spanish presence in the USA is a vital fact in its popularity in Indian schools. As we know a huge number of NRI children are travelling back and forth, and most of them have studied Spanish at some point during their schooling. When these children join any international school in India, they intend to continue with their subject group without compromise and schools try to cater to their needs.However, if we look at the Indian scenario, Spanish teaching in the country can be divided into three broad categories –

a) Costly international schools offering IB or IGCSE curricula
b) Traditionally elite CBSE and ICSE schools located in the hill stations or metro cities
c) Rest of the CBSE and ICSE schools including Kendriya Vidyalayas

The advent of IB curriculum in the country in 1976 was a watershed moment in the schooling culture in India. Their innovative teaching approaches, flexible curriculum, focus on international mindedness, foreign faculty members and international students, emerge as a fertile ground for experiments like offering foreign languages in a serious manner. In fact, second language is one of the major components in the higher secondary classes for IB, and since most of the students aim to attend international universities, having studied a foreign language proves to be an edge. Apart from AB Initio in IBDP, there is possibility to carry on Spanish in many IB schools, and the students having done Spanish B are expected to use the language proficiently. This is going to have a major impact on the education culture and economic ecology in the long run.

Schools like Dhirubhai Ambani International School, even carry out student exchange programmes to Spain. Just imagine the broadening of cultural horizons of the participants and the impact on their life goals.On the other hand, the traditionally elite CBSE, ICSE schools like Modern School, Sanskriti School, Doon School, Mayo College and the like too offer Spanish. However, it is more like getting into the game or to reap the status symbol the foreign languages carry. The serious didactics is missing there. However, thanks to enough resources, they can hire and run departments of foreign languages and can introduce many innovative steps towards modernization of schooling. The third category of schools which cater to the maximum number of hard-working students as well teachers have to face major challenges in offering foreign languages.

These schools have limited budget allocation for foreign languages. So, on the one hand they do not get qualified teachers, as they don’t pay enough and on the other they are at the receiving end of bureaucratic or administrative dictates.

We all are aware of what happened with German language at Kendriya Vidyalayas. The programme ‘German in 1000 Schools’ launched in 2011 in a very short span of time garnered more than 50,000 learners at KVs. This was scrapped by the HRD Minister Smriti Irani, seeing it as a threat to Sanskrit. Such a regressive situation was further aggravated by the CBSE proposal to the HRD ministry to enforce the three language formula at the schools of offering Hindi, English and a third Indian language. The decision is not yet final but who would choose a fourth language if this is made compulsory at the CBSE schools as it is proposed?

Just look at our neighbour China! They recently began offering Spanish, German and French in their government schools, apart from Russian, Japanese and English which they have been offering since a long time. This fiercely monolingual country knows that in the era of globalization the developing nations need the western world more than they need us.

Spanish language in Indian schools does not seem to have a smooth ride except in the international schools. However, we hope that the eclipse on its future gets cleared in coming days and Indian students reap the benefit of the growing importance of this global tongue before joining universities.


Learn Spanish: the Language of Future

Subhas Yadav


The Spanish emperor Carlos I (1500 AD Germany-1558 AD Extremadura, Spain), an emblematic ruler of not only the Spanish empire but also the entire Holy Roman Empire, wittingly have said “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men and German to my horse.” If Spanish could elevate a king to communicate with none other than God, then why not it could enable us to communicate with more than 550 millions native Spanish speakers spread over many continents. Long before the British took to roam around the world and spread their tongue, Spanish was used as a global language of commerce by the Arab traders, Portuguese and of course the Spaniards. It should not appear to be surprise that when Vasco da Gama set foot on the Indian soil in 1498, he was greeted in Spanish by an Arab trader. So, technically India is not disconnected from the Spanish speaking world. 

History of Spanish language in India

The formal instruction of Spanish language took place only after India’s independence from the British crown, when Ministry of Defence began training the defence personals long back in 1958 at their foreign language school. During the following decade, it entered in our universities like DU and JNU and spread across the country. Today, more than dozen universities formally offer Spanish language course. The best thing that has happened is that, management and technical institutions too have noticed the importance of Spanish in the wake of the rocketing globalization of Indian economy. IIM Ahmedabad recognises the importance  of language training because most of their case studies, collaboration, course content impinge upon foreign examples. So, it appears pragmatic to teach those languages to the management students, because those societies are fiercely monolingual e.g. Japanese, Spanish, French, German and so on. 

Source: Instituto Cervantes, Nueva DelhiIndia on the other hand, needs market for its products, so instead of depending solely upon the English speaking world, requires to explore the non-English geographies. Just look at China! They have set-up not only hundreds of foreign language departments across the country but also specialised Foreign Language Universities, and recently they have introduced Spanish in their schools. We are going actually backward. The decision of the then MHRD led by Smriti Irani to withdraw German from the Kendriya Vidyalaya, and blocking foreign language now by implementing compulsory third language formula, the little hope of government students getting exposure of the wider world would come to an end. However, the Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi, the official Spanish language institution in India and the multitudes of private language institutes spread across the country, who prepare the students for DELE examination appear as a hope, because the universities are unable to supply the speeding demand of Spanish in the country. Instituto Cervantes, New Delhi has become number one among all the ICs in the world by having imparted maximum hours of teaching last year. It has on roll around 5,000 students and must have trained more than 50,000 students since its inception. Let’s also have a look at the scenario of other private institutions. This is, however, an old data and by now this number would have swollen to very high figure.  

India-Latin America Trade and outsourcing from the USA

No doubt, the outsourcing industry has fuelled the Indian economy to such an extent that this humongous elephant have gained enough energy to walk on its own. But it is need of the day to keep it fuelling. Let’s first have a glimpse at the bilateral trade between India and Latin America. 

Indian motorbikes, medicine, textile, software etc. have a huge market in Latin America. Like during the last decade in India, Pulsar was too a fad in Colombia. Bullet has also gained considerable market. Just google the bikers in Latin America and the presence of Indian bikes will be a surprise. Moreover, Bajaj tempos have also entered into fray with huge success. Indian medicine companies which are more people centric than business centric have gained preference over the American or European drug companies. Here, Indian government has to play a role in paving a way of these lifesaving drugs into Latin American pharma ecology. No matter how much we can boast of numbers, figures and technology, there is something more powerful than the statistics, “soft power” or the cultural power. Interestingly, India has a very positive image among the Latinos and the recent rise of Bollywood music, movies, dance, Yoga has created a huge population which appreciates Indian culture. If India wants a longer success, can’t forget to forge deeper bonds with this sector of the population. So, learning Spanish and landing into Latin American market through the Indian companies will strengthen the bilateral relationships not economically but culturally as well. Indian professionals must take a note of this market, which spreads from Mexico to Argentina, covering the huge South American continent. 

Spanish speaking world

Moreover, as we have talked earlier that the outsourcing industry has given a boost to India economy, a major credit goes to the foreign language sector, specially Spanish. Since, a firm wants to outsource it services to the third party, it would require people proficient in the costumers’ languages. Since, Spanish is second most spoken language in the USA, it is obvious to pay a considerable attention at it. If not, other markets, which are more flexible with languages could garner the opportunity e.g. Filipins. They were once Spanish speaking nation, but due to the USA intervention turned towards English. However, they have a big number of Spanish speakers and as a matter of fact Filipins is also hub for the USA outsourcing. 
Advantages of learning Spanish

Spanish, however, is going to open lot more possibilities for the Indian professionals, directly or indirectly. Once open the linguistic gate, a new world awaits us, and in the era of globalization we must be prepared to explore these news gates. Once upon a time, Nelson Mandela said “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Without doubt, in the era of globalization a deeper connection across the cultures would fetch greater results. Learning Spanish language will certainly open 21 gates to that many nations, their unique cultures and subsequently their huge economic market for us.