THE continued influx of Venezuelans has not necessarily resulted in an increase in locals wanting to learn Spanish as a second language.
In fact, officials of at least two language institutions told Sunday Newsday while some people have expressed a casual interest in learning Spanish so as to better interact with the Venezuelans, businesses appear to be exploring opportunities for work in Latin American countries.
Joanne Mottley, manager of the Language and Innovation Centre on Rust Street, Port-of-Spain, observed there has been an increase in interest within the past six months, particularly among companies asking for bi-lingual individuals.
“Companies that did not traditionally ask for that are now asking for that,” she said. “I have been noticing ads from all kinds of companies asking for people to be bi-lingual and more people have been enquiring about learning Spanish.”
Asked what she attributed to the trend, Mottley said: “As far as the companies are concerned, my guess is they are probably seeking business in Latin America for various reasons and they want people who are bi-lingual.”
“Previously, you would see things like a knowledge of Spanish would be an asset. Now, people are asking for people to be bi-lingual. So, I think it is a mixture of having people here who could speak Spanish and who can work legally and people looking towards Latin America for increased business.”
Luis Arreaza, CEO of Caribbean School of Languages on Tragarete Road, Port-of-Spain, said while there may be some students who want to communicate with Venezuelans, it was not a significant figure.
“Our students want to learn Spanish basically because of work, to migrate or for travel and leisure,” said Arreaza, a lecturer/translator/interpreter.
“We have about the same number of students locally wanting to learn Spanish. For the past year, it has been kind of steady.
“But we have noticed that sometimes we get students and when we ask them why they want to learn Spanish, you do get one or two, not a significant number, per class, that want to learn Spanish because they want to interact with the Venezuelans that are coming in for events that may involve Latin nights.”
Arreaza said some students have indicated an interest in learning Spanish to interact with Venezuelans. He said store workers were also willing to learn Spanish to better attend to the needs of Venezuelans.
“So, we do get that which we did not get before. Even so, Arreaza believes Spanish should be made mandatory in schools. “I don’t know why it has not materialised because it would have been a really useful way to prepare the population in Trinidad to the influx of not just Venezuelans but Cubans, Dominicans that are coming in here to stay and moreso, with companies that are conducting trade within the hemisphere.”
Mottley also agreed Spanish should be made mandatory in schools. “Yes, indeed, it should be mandatory for people to learn one or even more than one foreign language.”
She added: “In terms of high school, one of the things we always push is that learning a foreign language basically opens up your life to a whole lot more opportunities, increased work.
“People can go abroad and enjoy themselves more and it also opens the doors to new cultures.” Mottley said the average European and Latin American national is bi-lingual.