Pupils at the new Kids&Us centre learn English through play.
The words ‘lengua’ ‘lenguaje’ and ‘idioma’ all mean ‘language’ and are often interchangeable. If you are studying ‘lenguas modernas’ or ‘idiomas modernas’ you are studying modern languages - ‘lenguaje’ is a form of communication which includes ‘lenguaje periodístico’ (‘journalese’), ‘lenguaje computacional’ (‘computer language’) and ‘lenguaje jurídico’ (‘legal jargon’).
The number of language schools in Marbella and the surrounding area never ceases to grow; some are opening for the first time, while others are opening new branches all along the Costa del Sol. They all agree that this sector has not been affected by the crisis. “On the contrary, we have been in this business for 30 years and this year we have decided to open a branch in San Pedro Alcántara again because our clients are asking us to do that. This sector has suffered a lot less than many others. In the good years, before 2006, everybody saw stable growth, but we have to recognise that now, the diversified education sector that has never relied upon public funding for its survival, is growing. We are even considering setting up a franchise next year”, says Julio Morales, the owner of the Instituto Internacional de Idiomas, which has three branches on the Costa del Sol.
“In total, we are forty professional language teachers, the biggest school in Malaga province and among the three largest in Andalucía”, adds Julio, who has just decided to include Russian in the languages taught and has employed three more teachers for that purpose.
“We have opened two new centres this year, one in Marbella and the other in Coín, because things have gone so well in the 11 years since we began”, says Susan Sorrell, the owner of a chain of centres with their own method of teaching modern languages, ‘The Language House’. “I have just interviewed two English teachers and we may need a third. This is a real boom”, says Susan.
The demand for tuition in foreign languages is partly due to the effects on the Spanish education system of the Bolonia Plan, which demands a good standard of another language in order to gain a university place. That, and the fact that a foreign language, especially English, opens up new work opportunities.
The latest centre to open in Marbella is Kids&Us, which uses the language immersion method of teaching. “It is the one which is most similar to the way we learn our native language”, explains the owner, Marta Ortega, who decided to set up this franchise, which has 140 schools all over Spain, in the town where she spent her holidays. “Here, as in many other places, many parents are frustrated because they spend money on language classes but the children still have no idea how to speak the language”, she says.
“The demand is obvious”, says Rodrigo Otamendi, who opened the Centro de Idiomas ELA at the height of the crisis and is still taking on new students four years later. “What we have to fight against now is the fact that people are opening up clandestine ‘academies’ in apartments”, he points out.