Catering for language learning

Students, staff, and members of the language exchange outside La Cónsula.
Students, staff, and members of the language exchange outside La Cónsula. / M.B.
  • Foreign residents visit La Cónsula to help students with their English

The ability to speak English is a crucial part of any industry, with a British Council study revealing that over 80 per cent of employers believe that the English language is a vital part of success in their companies.

The hospitality industry is no exception; being able to greet customers, serve them, and communicate with them in their mother tongue is “an essential part of success in hospitality”, as articulated by Antonio López Parra, the English teacher at La Cónsula catering and hospitality college in Malaga. This is why he got together with the Gerald Brenan Cultural Association (ACGB) to organise the 'Brunch with Brenan and Hemingway' event last Friday.

The morning combined a Spanish and English language exchange with Spanish and English cuisine, with the aim of encouraging the students at the school to converse in English with the members of the ACGB, many of whom are British. López Parra gave the examples of French, German and English as languages which increase employability among hospitality students.

The future chefs and maître d's all understand the value of speaking multiple languages in their fields of work given the high number of non-Spanish speakers who come to the Costa del Sol.

“The restaurant here is currently closed, but when it is up and running lots of tourists come into the restaurant and it is good to speak English with them,” said hospitality service student Antonio.

“The students start their day with English lessons, at 8am,” explained Ana Escabias, the English teacher at the Benalmádena Pueblo catering and hospitality collage. “It makes them focus and start their day thinking about English,” she said, to demonstrate how the structure of their timetable is important to their learning.

The students make lunch for the staff in both centres every day, and the English teachers refuse to speak Spanish to them while they serve them. There are also German lessons at the schools.

To demonstrate what they have gained from their English classes at La Cónsula, catering and hospitality students had prepared presentations in English for the event with the ACGB last week. They told the stories of English-language writers Ernest Hemingway and Gerald Brenan, and spoke of their enthusiasm for speaking Spanish and English.

This presentation was accompanied by another from the members of the ACGB language exchange about Brenan's diet; the members of the ACGB are mostly Spanish and British and gave their talk in a bilingual format.

Lola Ortega Muñoz, president of the Gerald Brenan Cultural Association, stressed the values of language learning beyond a professional level. “We are people, we are trying to improve communication with other people and the language exchange helps us to accept our mistakes as part of learning,” she said.

The talks were followed by a tour of the centre's stunning gardens and then a meal made and served by the students. The “brunch” comprised of mostly traditional English breakfast foods, with fried and scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes, bacon, and sausage, as well as some Andalusian classics like porra, tortilla, and ajoblanco.

While enjoying the meal, guests from the ACGB language exchange relished the opportunity to practise the Spanish they had been learning or to help the students who were serving them with their English, with several offering to speak to the students afterwards.

The catering students had designed the menu themselves. “They were all very interested to cook English food, especially the dessert team who love to learn international recipes and were really keen to make scones and other English cakes and pastries,” said López Parra. Staff are hoping that the restaurant attached to the school in Churriana will be opened once again in January.

The language exchanges at the Gerald Brenan Cultural Association, which happen every Wednesday, are all free, and run by volunteers. Classes start off with members reading Spanish and English texts and then speaking about unprepared themes.

On Friday 22 December the ACGB is having an event in the culture room at El Corte Inglés in Malaga. During this evening, there will be a screening of South From Granada, the film based on the book by Gerald Brenan, with English subtitles, followed by conversations about the film in both language.