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Thursday, August 14, 2014


The DELE Renews Itself

by Lauris

Sometimes insomnia isn't so bad. I say that because unfortunately, more often than naught, some quality cultural programs are aired during the ungodly hours of the early morning. Even on the public television stations where this type of programming should be a priority (I'll stress should be) it is often relegated to a time when viewership is lowest.

Last Sunday night, my eyes were open like saucers in the early hours of the morning while at the same time I was constantly rolling around trying to find the perfect position for falling asleep. Then, as if the gods had given me the gift of opportunity, I decided to turn on the radio. I must admit that I am a member of honor in the group of people addicted to the radio. I always have one on my nightstand (with its corresponding earphone) and I tend to listen to it while I lay in a more or less horizontal position.

Well, that night, I ended up listening to a program on Radio Nacional Española (RNE) called Futuro Abierto and instead of helping me fall into the gentle arms of Morpheus, I became hooked on the subject that was being discussed. (One of the great things about RNE is that through their podcasts you can download any program that you may find interesting and listen to it when you want. The link to the program that I am referring to is here.) While listening to the program I realized, again, that as a teacher of the Spanish language (ELE) with more than 30 years of experience, my vision of teaching has become more warped over the years than a Dalí painting—and I'm not exaggerating a bit! Here's why I mention that:

Since the birth of the DELE exam, I have helped my students prepare for their different tests and each time the exam has been modified we, the teachers, have had to work double time to create new material that allows us to give our students the most current learning tools that incorporate these changes and updates while at the same time the textbook publishers are playing catch up—editing and publishing their latest books with the new content and changes.

A New International Certificate System for Spanish as a Foreign Language

Now, don Victor García de la Concha (who I imagine has to deal with one joke or another on his visits to Argentina) has just proclaimed at the annual meeting of the 86 directors of the various Instituto Cervantes held in La Rioja, that his organization is working on new international certificate system for Spanish as a Foreign Language (SICELE). This change has been promoted by the Instituto Cervantes, the Autonomous University of Mexico and the University of Salamanca along with other Spanish language organizations. The new SICELE will replace the present DELE in the hope of becoming an internationally recognized certification of Spanish language proficiency in the same way the University of Cambridge offers its certification in English.

Because of this, everyone teaching Spanish as a Foreign Language should start working now on anticipating the coming revolution (since this seems more than just an evolution) in the accreditation of our language. To see what I mean, all you have to do is to take a look at the certificate that the University of Cambridge issues and what it entails.

Even more, the ever growing segment of on-line classes implies that we will have to seriously consider the development and perfection of platforms and tools that will allow us to work in real-time with students (individually or in groups) all over the world.

Today, it is not enough to just be on top of the changes that the Instituto Cervantes presents us with. We must now think decisively and look at retraining ourselves. For some of us, that means forgetting about the autopilot method of teaching and breaking the routines that the day to day has forged in us. For all of the experience that we may have, we will have to swallow our professional pride and accept the teachings of a younger generation that has graduated recently carrying master's degrees under their arms. With the little experience they may have, they are prepared to leave us behind in their quest to maintain quality while pursuing their particular search for excellence.

It would be very sad if, after almost an entire lifetime of work, we throw it all down the drain due to that terrible saying that we have heard so many times that it is now a stereotype of the Spanish character: Let someone else do the inventing.

No. Let's all invent and now. Let's invent so that the rising and unstoppable tide that is Spanish and its teaching (in any format) doesn't catch us off guard in this ever-changing world. Just as language doesn't stop evolving, we too must continue to change and adapt. We must accept this educational revolution as an opportunity for us to use our experience to continue to better the Spanish language learning experience.

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