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Language learning at the University of Barcelona.

A multilingual university

The university community has a large offer of language courses at the UB, now online too

The University of Barcelona has a long experience in language teaching, not only in the field of Philology studies. Through the School of Modern Languages, Hispanic Studies and the Language Services, it offers training courses for forty languages, using more than a hundred proposals, ranging from face-to-face courses –now in a suspended state due to the pandemic–, online, with and without teachers, informal and regulated ones, and with level certification tests in nine languages.

Adriana Peña: “Not only do we have bachelor’s and master’s degree students but we also have professionals who continue to trust EIM’s prestige and quality”.

Commitment to language teaching is part of our University’s nature, which speaks facts on its global and European vocation. The current School of Modern Languages (EIM), for instance, founded in 1953 by lecturer Ramon Carnicer (1912-2007), has its origins in the Language Institute, founded in 1922 to offer training in foreign languages.

Currently, EIM offers courses on five languages (English, French, German, Italian and Chinese) with different levels and modalities (both face-to-face and online lessons) in order to provide an excellent quality. To know how the center works, we spoke to Ariadna Peña, head of the Area for Further Training and EIM: “Regarding language learning, the enrolment in the first semester was of 1,868 students, 400 less than last year. This year, we expect to see a decrease in the number of enrolled students, given the COVID-19 situation”.

“As for accreditations –she continues–, the number of candidates to take official exams has increased. Monthly calls for the Cambridge First or the Advanced examinations are the most wanted ones, as well as our EIM UB certificate, which we continue to offer in the online modality during the most restrictive times of the lockdown”.

The profile of the students is very varied. “Not only do we have bachelor’s and master’s degree students, but we also have professionals who continue to trust EIM’s prestige and quality”.

Peña concludes: “EIM is a model center due to its innovation in language teaching and certification. Although the pandemic limits many things, in EIM we work in order to provide society and the university community with the service they want”.

Another language learning center is Hispanic Studies, an institution created in last century’s fifties by Professor Francisco Marsá (1924-1998), from the Department of Spanish Philology. The center is dedicated to the international students’ training on Hispanic cultures and languages. Teresa Español, lecturer at the Department of Hispanic Studies, Literary Theory and Communication, is the director of the center and talks about how it works: “At the moment, we have 1,600 enrolled people per course. Their profile is very varied: “They are from many different countries, both university students and professionals. Some of them want a study visa, and others live and work in Barcelona”, notes Teresa Español.

Infographics on the use of languages at the UB
Data on the use of languages at the University of Barcelona.

Hispanic Studies is a special centre, standing out among the rest of Spanish schools for foreigners in the city. “We are a university center that offers training not only in the Spanish language, but also in culture, with Barcelona as its background, the basis on which our subjects are articulated”. “And not only this –she continues–, we also offer exams to get the Diploma in Spanish as a Foreign Language (DELE), as well as exams on Spanish culture to get the nationality (CCSE exams)”. In short, a wide range of options that goes beyond a simple Spanish language school.

Last, the Language Services are an essential piece in the University’s multilingual structure. Apart from working on the teaching of the Catalan language, they offer courses of German, English, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Polish and Russian through its self-access learning courses.

Regarding the Catalan courses, there have been more than 200 enroled people this first semester. The self-access learning centers have welcomed about 200 students as well. The effects of the pandemic have been present, however. Conxa Planas, director of the Language Services, notes that “during the last semester of the last academic year, we decided to plan exclusively with video conference. We will do so during the whole academic year given the health situation”.

The users have very varied profiles: “Regarding the first levels in the courses of Catalan, we have mainly incoming mobility students; A2 and B1 levels have people who already live here and who want to learn the language. And as for advanced levels, they are students who did not study in Catalonia and who want to get the C1 level for their work opportunities and public examinations”. Regarding the users of the self-access language centers, “we find many students who want to reach the B2 level of English, outgoing mobility students who need to learn the language of their destination country, and TRS and AdSS members who want to improve their English and third languages”.

We ask Planas about the reality of the Catalan language in our University. She is clear about her opinion: “The use of the Catalan language at the university, schools, high schools, in general, in all levels of teaching, is a reflection of our society. The University has committed to the inclusion of English in the bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Therefore, maintaining Catalan as the used language in the classroom is a matter of political will in the Catalan university system”.

Language Services
Language Services
Language Services
Area for Further Training
Self-access learning center.
Hispanic Studies.