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SERVING UP SPAIN

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

In present times when learning international languages has become the fad, Spanish is slowly appealing to Mumbaikars, attracting the young and old alike. Priyanka Bhatt speaks to Anu Dalmia, owner of 'The Spanish School' or 'La Escuela Espanola' at Fort. Dalmia speaks about how the school came into inception and the love kids are showing for the Spanish language and culture

Tell us a little bit about yourself and 'The Spanish School'?
I am a Management student with a creative and cultural inclination. I worked across different industries and lived across different parts of India. The Spanish School is my entrepreneurial venture to bring the joys and advantages of language learning to Mumbai and eventually to all of India. It is a little Spanish "oasis" in the middle of South Mumbai's bustling commercial and old English quarters. It's an institute which specialises in teaching Spanish and has a vision to be India's best language school.    

How was 'The Spanish School' conceptualised?
I studied Spanish for a year during my post-baby sabbatical (2010-2011). In 2012, I was looking for a new business idea, but did not want to end my Spanish language journey. Hence, my husband helped me conceptualise and create a language school which has only focussed on Spanish in the last four years.    

How would you describe the response from the students, so far?
Excellent! In the past four years we have received more than 5,000 direct enquiries and have accomplished more than 1,100 enrolments. All this with no market research or marketing and advertising activities whatsoever, but purely by word-of-mouth. This year (our fifth) has seen an unimaginable number of enquiries - keen students who want to learn this beautiful language.    

Spanish is not as preferred as French or German in schools. How do you plan to promote this as a language and culture?
Spanish is the world's second most spoken language (after Mandarin) with 5,00 million speakers and counting. In India, we see schools continuing with French and German (one, due to the absence of a centralised Spanish organisation promoting their language and two, due to the challenge of finding and retaining native teachers). I think Spanish does not need any promotion. Most people in the educational world already know its importance. Spanish culture, also, is widely known and celebrated amongst Indians, especially the ones who have travelled to Spain. We do want to approach schools and collaborate with them to set up their Spanish Departments (we are already working with some schools). We have a great advantage that we provide schools with a team of qualified, trained and native teachers. Besides that, we hold many cultural events at our institute. Our annual educational trips to Spain are a big hit with schools and parents.    

What are the vivid qualities of this language?
Spanish is a beautiful language. It sounds sweet to the ear and is celebrated as the language of love. It's completely phonetic - you read what you write and vice-versa. It has many similarities to English and even some to Hindi!!!! Yes! Spanish has some Arabic influences and hence it becomes a beautiful mix of Latin and Arabic.    

Tell us about your experiences as a teacher...
It's very rewarding and enriching. It has helped me go deeper into my own knowledge of the language. Indian students are very bright and they really respect their teacher. Using new methods to teach, keeping the student engaged and having fun in the classroom as you teach, are some challenges which I enjoy a lot!    

 Are there any similarities between the cultures of India and Spain?
There are many, many similarities. We could write a book on it. For starters, our family structures and beliefs are similar - they also live with parents, uncles, aunts, cousins etc. Spaniards also love food like Indians. They are warm and welcoming to their guests like the Indians.

What are the benefits that children get after learning Spanish?
Firstly, kids open their minds to a whole new world. They get an early start to the language when their brains are very receptive. This leads to early learning and cortex development. They have a greater chance to perfect native pronunciations. Our students have been able to secure admissions in international schools abroad which demand that they know Spanish. Besides, they become culturally more accepting, understanding, smarter and global citizens. They could take up Spanish to get into the best universities, make friends all over the world and even add Spanish to their resume in the work world.

What is the general perception of Indian students towards Spain?
They only know Barcelona! And want to travel to Spain to shop, eat and party. But they are very excited and love the Spanish teachers (who are extremely polite, professional and kind human beings) and their Spanish institute.

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