Stellenbosch University (SU) reached a significant milestone with the announcement at the end of last year that the Department of Modern Foreign Languages will introduce Spanish to its curriculum thanks to an agreement with the Spanish government.
The University signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Spanish officials in December to formalise the establishment of a Spanish lectorate at SU. At the signing, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor Prof Wim de Villiers said the collaboration marks a pivotal moment for cultural and educational exchange.
“This MOU aids SU in our goal to build networks and foster new partnerships across the globe,” De Villiers said. “Learning Spanish opens doors to more than just another language; it also creates opportunities that encourage students to engage with the cultures of numerous Spanish-speaking countries in the world, from Europe to Latin America. This is a significant development for the Department of Modern Foreign Languages.”
Jesús Silva, Consul General of Spain in Cape Town, conveyed a message of gratitude and congratulations on behalf of the Spanish government. “The signing of the Memorandum between Stellenbosch University and the government of Spain concludes a process of almost two years of work to establish a Spanish lectorate in this prestigious academic institution. It brings not only language but also culture and arts from the Spanish-speaking world, a community of 500 million people – a wide window to more knowledge and intellectual richness,” Silva said.
Raimundo Robredo Rubio, Spanish Ambassador to South Africa, also extended his gratitude to SU. “This is an important contribution to strengthen our bilateral relationship. Very few universities in the world have been chosen this year to create a new lectorate, and Stellenbosch was one of them,” he noted.
Incorporating Spanish into the Department of Modern Foreign Languages has been a long-time dream, said Prof Catherine du Toit, Chairperson of Modern Foreign Languages at SU.
“Spanish is the second most spoken language globally (as a mother tongue), with a substantial number of speakers in both Spain and Latin America. It is crucial for students to engage with a language that has a widespread and growing influence on the global stage. In an era of globalisation, effective, authentic human communication is paramount,” Du Toit said.
She also highlighted the economic significance of the collaboration. “The Spanish-speaking world, particularly Latin America, is home to emerging economies. Proficiency in Spanish is an excellent ability for young graduates seeking opportunities in international business, trade, and collaboration. Knowledge of Spanish can be particularly beneficial for students interested in careers related to technology, especially in markets where Spanish is prevalent.”
The integration of Spanish into the academic offerings will not only focus on language proficiency but also cultural diversity and contemporary literature, Du Toit explained. “Contemporary Spanish literature reflects the diverse cultures and experiences within the Spanish-speaking world. Authors from different Hispanic countries contribute to a rich tapestry of narratives that resonate with modern readers.”
Du Toit said the presence of a Spanish lecturer would enable the Department of Modern Foreign Languages to give more momentum to the existing public programme of Spanish evening classes at SU. “Spanish literature and film will also feature in our future coursework MA in Comparative Literature. If all goes well, we hope to later include Spanish in our official undergraduate curriculum, aligning with the language’s global relevance, cultural diversity, and economic significance. As students and colleagues engage with the language, it will not only enhance their cultural and linguistic proficiency but also position them for a competitive edge in the contemporary job market,” Du Toit said.
In closing, Du Toit thanked the Consul General for initiating talks with the Department about the creation of a Spanish lectureship. “We further thank Prof De Villiers for his enthusiastic encouragement and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Strategy, Global and Corporate Affairs, Prof Hester Klopper, for her support and contribution to this project. Lastly, we thank His Excellency Ambassador Raimundo Robredo Rubio for facilitating the process and for travelling to Stellenbosch for the signature of the MOU,” Du Toit concluded.
PHOTO: Ignus Dreyer