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Post Language and Study-Abroad Programs in Barcelona
Created by John Eipper on 10/20/19 1:27 PM

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Language and Study-Abroad Programs in Barcelona (Enrique Torner, USA, 10/20/19 1:27 pm)

Responding to my claim that I still have to meet a student of mine who was in Catalonia and was greeted and welcomed in Castilian, Jordi Molins (October 19th) replied that my statement is false.

However, the only support Jordi was able to offer was that the University of Barcelona offers all kinds of courses in English, Castilian, and Catalan. That does not have anything to do with being welcomed to a place! When you first arrive at a city, if you are a foreign student, you are usually welcomed by a family, a friend, or an employee working at an airport, a hotel, a restaurant, or anything of this sort. The family, out of a desire to please you, will welcome you in English; later, they will speak to you in Castilian, because they are being paid to help students learn Castilian. The same with friends, who many times are friends of friends they have met in another city in Spain. Employees at any establishment start conversations in Catalan more than 90% of the time; once they realize the other person doesn't speak Catalan, they will switch to another language, Castilian or English, depending on where the other person is from.

Students attending courses at Catalan universities in Castilian will be welcomed by the professor in Castilian, and classes will be in this language. However, students only spend a few hours of the day taking classes. Instead, they spend most of their time with peers they have befriended, and these friendly conversations usually take place in cafeterias, bars, or homes. One on one, Catalan speakers will speak Castilian to foreign students of the language, but Catalan to Catalan-speaking friends, and Castilian to Castilian-speaking friends. That's the way it was already when I lived in Barcelona over 30 years ago; this is the situation my students have been describing to me during the 27 years I have been teaching Spanish in the US. I have a hard time understanding people at noisy places like restaurants, and I have been living in the US for over 30 years. Just imagine students who have only been studying Spanish for 2-4 years!

Now, don't misunderstand me: I love Barcelona and Catalonia, and am proud of my Catalan culture. And the students who go to Barcelona love the city much better than Madrid. They love its history, art, cuisine, and even the people they befriend: they just feel frustrated that they can't cope at friendly, noisy places, and they spend lots of time there!

JE comments:  Enrique, can you comment on the experience of Minnesota State students in Spain vis-à-vis Latin America?  My conclusion after 20+ years:  Spaniards rarely befriend American students.  Rather, US students tend to hang out with other Americans.  Students who spend a semester in Latin America (our most popular destination countries of late:  Peru, Chile, and Colombia, in that order) make many local friends.


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