At the Escuela Oficial de Idiomas in Malaga, learning English isn't just a matter of studying in a classroom. The staff also organise cultural activities in English and it has become traditional to have a guided tour of the English Cemetery, like the one which took place earlier this month with Liz Parry (a trustee of the English Cemetery Foundation) as guide.
After a brief introduction to the Foundation itself, explaining that it was created in 2006 to halt the deterioration of the oldest Protestant cemetery in Spain and preserve it as a garden and monument to be enjoyed by future generations, Liz went on to explain the history of the cemetery. She emphasised its many connections with the industrial past of the city, and with its current identity as a cosmopolitan, hospitable and generous city, open to the world.
This was illustrated with references to the monument to victims of the Gneisenau disaster in 1900; to the tomb of Dr Joseph Noble, whose legacy to the city was a charity hospital; to the part played in Spain's struggle against oppression by Robert Boyd, and to the British Consul William Mark, whose determination to provide a decent burial place for his compatriots led to the opening in 1831 of a precinct which fast outpaced its original purpose as an Anglican cemetery and became the last resting place of the international community of Malaga. Students were also shown the graves of the more prominent individuals buried in the cemetery, and heard anecdotes and explanations of Remembrance Day and other traditions.
The participants commented afterwards that not only had they learned a lot of 'cemetery' vocabulary and expressions not usually taught in the classroom, but they had also discovered a part of Malaga and of its history of which they had previously been unaware.