Seventy years teaching the language of Cervantes

The UMA rector with staff from CIE language school.
The UMA rector with staff from CIE language school. / SALVADOR SALAS
  • The city's international Spanish centre, now part of the University of Malaga, takes in 2,000 foreign students every year

More than 20 years before the city's university opened its doors, young people from all over the world were already being drawn to post-civil war Spain and especially Malaga, where they could attend Spanish language classes designed for foreigners.

During its early years the Centro Internacional de Español (CIE) was affiliated with the Spanish council for scientific research (CSIC). However when the University of Malaga (UMA) was established in 1972, the language school was incorporated into its Faculty of Humanities.

On Monday this week, the rector of the UMA, José Ángel Narváez, hosted a ceremony to celebrate the language school's 70th anniversary. There he recognised the work of students, staff, associates and former teachers, who, he said, have “helped to transform and modernise the city of Malaga”.

Antonio Peláez, director of the CIE, explained that the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language in Malaga was a very “bold” thing to do 70 years ago. Back then, he said, the city was already showing signs of claiming a place at the forefront of culture.

Today, the centre's union with the UMA means that some CIE courses can offer students ECTS credits, counting towards their university studies in other European countries. Today the centre, located in El Palo, is still expanding, explained Peláez, and currently welcomes some 2,000 students every year.

Looking to the future, Peláez said that the school faces two challenges: to bring innovation into the classroom and to adapt the courses on offer to suit a “heterogeneous public”.

The rector expressed his gratitude to Manuel Alvar, who took the “risky decision” to come to Malaga and begin teaching Spanish 70 years ago. According to Narváez, those courses “transformed this city”, encouraging international students to come to Malaga to learn the Spanish language and culture. The rector thanked the students for putting their trust in the school and said that the university was committed to supporting the CIE and quality teaching.


During the ceremony, awards were given to teachers, students and members of staff at the centre. Among those recognised were Gino Norani, figurehead for former students; José Antonio Mesa Toré, in representation of former teachers; and Helga Dobler Stelzer, a representative for the administration staff at the CIE.

The centre's partner universities around the world were represented by Mark Aldrich of Dickinson College, Pennsylvania (US), whose programme with CIE is one of the oldest. Heidi Mae Doerr received regonition for the workd of International Studies Abroad; Juan Carlos Izquierdo Villaverde, for the work of the firm Gestión Educativa Consultores; and Christian Gutiérrez Samuelsson for the collaboration of Accom Consulting Spain (UniSpain).