"Español UC": more than 30 years promoting the teaching of Spanish as a foreign language
Created in 1990, it is the first program for teaching Spanish as a second language in Chile and one of the first in Latin America. More than 4,000 people have learned Spanish in its courses.
"Español UC" has more than 30 years of experience teaching Spanish as a foreign language. This initiative seeks that international people at UC Chile can learn this language, both in its Chilean and Latin American variants.
"We want international people to fall in love with our language and culture. We want them to have the tools to accept in a better way the challenges imposed by cultural differences so that this gap becomes an area they enjoy exploring and experimenting with," explains Gloria Toledo, head of the program and professor at the Faculty of Literature of UC Chile.
To achieve this goal, Spanish lessons —held at San Joaquin campus— introduce students to the academic world in all its facets, from academic writing to bonding with peers.
"For 'Español UC' teachers, it is essential to provide guidance and orientation to our international students at UC Chile," said Professor Toledo. She added that this program's teachers are the authors of the unique textbooks of Spanish as a second language that exist in our country: a series of five textbooks for levels A1, A2, B1, B2 and C1, published by Ediciones UC.
For Toledo, the difference between a student who goes through these classes compared to someone who does not have this linguistic support, is considerable.
"The first ones show a better academic performance in all areas, have a better attitude towards the change of culture and carry out a better socialization, which translates into a better relationship with Chilean and Spanish-speaking classmates, more friendships with Chileans, and a more fluid communication with their teachers and host families," she explained.
One of the challenges for "Español UC" is to obtain the participation levels reached before the pandemic. Therefore, online courses for the lower levels (A1 and A2) and face-to-face classes for international students who come to spend one or more semesters at the UC, altogether with special programs for professors and doctoral students at the university are some actions taken to hopefully soon reach the previous participation levels.
"We want to promote immersion in our language through different face-to-face and online alternatives, providing the students a balanced approach to our culture (full of passion and tradition). International students at UC Chile can benefit themselves from professors and other students’ experiences, participating from a unique training," explained Cristián Bonilla, Coordinator of Special Programs & Liaison of the Office of the Vice President for International Affairs (VRAI in Spanish).
Beginnings and projections
In 1990, UC Chile began to register an increase in the number of international students, after the opening of the first exchange programs with universities from North America. These students, who were non-Spanish speakers, needed support to experience a better academic and social life in the university and in Chile.
This initiative made "Español UC" program the first to teach Spanish as a second language in Chile and one of the first in all Latin America. More than 4,000 students have studied in its classrooms during these three decades.
Other "Español UC" projects include the first certificate in Spanish as a foreign language endorsed by UC Chile. The exams will be held in June and November 2022.
“We are proud to offer a high-quality certification, which caters to our local (Chilean) and regional (Latin American) variant of Spanish,” explained Toledo.
In addition to the Spanish courses for international students, "Español UC" also offers Spanish classes to support diverse audiences, such as workers for foreign companies in Chile or diplomatic embassies staff.
"We have private, individual or group programs, focused on grammar, conversation, culture or for specific purposes such as: health, commerce, business, local and regional culture, among others," said Toledo.