Economy Pushes Spanish to Learn English

This is the VOA Special English Education Report, from |

Spain is struggling with a recession. More than one in five Spaniards are out of work. The unemployment rate is the highest of the seventeen nations that use the euro. But one area of the economy that seems to be doing well is English classes. A report this year from the EF Education First company listed Spain is a “low proficiency” country in English. Spain ranked just below Italy and just above Taiwan.About a fifth of the world speaks Spanish. There are many Spanish language TV shows and movies. Spaniards can also watch Hollywood movies dubbed in Spanish or news from Latin America. One of the few English voices on Spanish TV belongs to Richard Vaughan. Mr. Vaughan is from Texas but for thirty-five years has lived in Spain. He operates that country’s biggest English teaching company. It even has its own TV channel. “Aprende Ingles” — Learn English — is Spain’s only national channel in English. He says people watch his channel and take his classes to get a better job. “People don’t learn English here for cultural reasons. Some do. But the motive is always, ninety-nine percent of the time, professional.” Modern changes in the world economy — globalization — may offer chances for a better job in another country. But economic problems at home can also make people feel they have few other choices. The director of the language center at the London School of Economics says “language learning is up” across Europe. In Spain, some of those studying English hope for jobs in Britain or the United States. But others want to work for international companies with offices in Spain. Many companies now require workers to be bilingual.Dominic Campbell is an American who lives in Madrid and teaches English part time. He says a lot of jobs now “want at least Spanish and English. And a lot of them are asking for Spanish, English and French — especially airlines.” He says many of his students thought “I’ve got Spanish, that’s all I need. ” But people also need jobs. More than forty percent of Spaniards in their twenties are out of work. Inigo Gomez has an education degree but could not find a teaching job. “So I think it’s a good idea to go to the United Kingdom and try to find a job as a Spanish teacher.” And while he does that, many Spaniards for the first time will be spreading their new education in English at home.For VOA Special English, I’m Carolyn Presutti. You can learn English and get the latest news every day at

(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 21Jul2011)


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