As part of the Spanish Focus of Diplomacy&Trade, the Director of the Institute in Budapest, Iñaki Abad Leguina talks about the role of the institute in the Hungarian capital in disseminating Spanish culéture and in teaching the Spanish language.
“The Instituto Cervantes (Cervantes Institute) was established in 1991 from a reflection on the need of Spanish society to have a modern and effective tool of cultural diplomacy. Countries like England, France, Germany or Italy had had this type of institution (like the British Council, Institut Francais, Goethe Institut, Istituto Italiano di Cultura) for years. Nowadays, the Instituto Cervantes is present on five continents with more than 87 centers spread out across 44 different countries,” the Director of the Institute in Budapest, Iñaki Abad Leguina explains to Diplomacy&Trade.
“The crucial idea, I think, was not only to promote the teaching of the Spanish language around the world, but also the creation of a dialogue between Spanish and Latin American culture with the different cultures of the countries where we are established. The very complexity of our contemporaries’ societies needs mutual understanding between people,” he adds.
“We are aware that Spanish is currently the second language in the world by number of speakers and the second language of international communication. Spanish is the official or national language in more than 20 countries; there are over 470 million native speakers. The US is estimated to have 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050,” the Director says.
Instituto Cervantes Budapest
In Budapest, the Instituto Cervantes started operations as a cultural center in 2004. The present King and Queen of Spain, Their Majesties Felipe and Leticia, inaugurated it in the presence of the President of the Republic Ferenc Mádl and his wife Dalma. According to the Director, “the opening of the institute backed the excellent relations between Spain and Hungary, both countries with no easy and straightforward past (wars, dictatorships, lack of freedom), but nevertheless have been able to look to the future and to create a common space of peace, prosperity and reciprocal understanding. Since then, the Instituto Cervantes has been a vibrant center of culture, learning and social life, offering Spanish courses for all levels and a cultural program that provides the latest cultural manifestations of the Spanish-speaking world.”
Moreover, the Institute has a public library dedicated to Ernesto Sabato, a fundamental and terrific exponent of Argentinean literature, and provides convenient access to a wide selection of literature in Spanish as well as videos of the most important films produced in the Spanish language. The library, probably the most important Spanish library in Hungary, is a treasure to discover. It also contains ancillary material for the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language.
Teaching the language
Why are Hungarians interested in Spanish? Why are Spanish language courses growing at secondary schools and universities in Hungary? Why do Hungarians come to study Spanish at the Instituto Cervantes? Trying to answer these questions, Iñaki Abad Leguina says one certainly cannot single out just one reason. “My guess is that has a lot to do with the curiosity and sympathy of the Hungarian people.”
He is of the view that some students obviously come at the Cervantes to expand their business, to get a promotion, to pass an exam or to change their careers. Others do it because they like Spanish culture (music, cinema, literature, art, etc.) or want to make new friends at home or abroad. “Of course, many attend classes to travel more confidently and to enjoy the historical and cultural heritage of our countries, to enjoy nature and our beaches, weather, our landscapes, our tradition, gastronomy, fun, etc.”
The Director, a graduate in linguistics and Spanish literature, stresses that “at the Instituto Cervantes we work to offer the best quality Spanish courses in Budapest in a pleasant and friendly atmosphere. We know that the best way to learn Spanish is to have fun. All teachers of the Instituto are native Spanish speakers from Latin America and Spain. They are expert professionals with specific degrees related to the Spanish Language and are trained in teaching Spanish as a Second Language, so we offer a wide range of courses designed to address any need students might have.”
In addition to its Spanish courses, the institute promotes the quality Spanish education by organizing, in collaboration with the Embassy Education Department and different Hungarian universities, an extensive training program (workshops, courses and congresses, etc.) for Hungarian teachers. The institute also carries out the official Spanish (DELE) examinations issued by the Spanish Ministry of Education in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.
A window to culture
The Instituto Cervantes is part of the Spanish Embassy in Budapest with which it pursues avenues cultural action. The institute also works in collaboration with other local institutions and Latin American embassies in organizing cultural activities such as lectures, book presentations, concerts, cinema, art exhibits, and events such as Spanish Cinema at Uránia cinema.
The Director highlights that “basically, our activities are aimed at the broader Hungarian public. We work very closely with all of the Hungarian Universities' Spanish Departments to support them in conferences and workshops. We also collaborate with the Ludwig Museum, MÜPA, Liszt Academy, A30, BMC and different festivals, among others. We are also members of EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture), with our European partners, we promote activities such as the Night of Literature or the European Day of Languages, for example.”
The main idea that the institute wants to get across with our various programs is that culture in Spanish is a rich culture, full of traditions and values that began in the past but are projected into the future: above all it is a culture that integrates different people from different backgrounds through dialogue and mutual understanding.
As an institution of cultural diplomacy, the Institute focuses on raising exchanges and knowledge. But, as the Director points out, “it is important to remember that we are an actual, physical place made by people for people. The Internet now offers us a whole range of resources for the advancement of knowledge, but it is usually a virtual knowledge and often very aseptic and isolating. So, if you really want to know how Spanish tastes, how it sounds, how it smells, how it s and how the people talk it; if you want to feel in Spanish, you definitely have to come to the Instituto Cervantes. The Instituto Cervantes is an experience! The Instituto Cervantes is a wide-open window to the culture in Spanish in the heart of Budapest.”