THE LEADER of the conservative Partido Popular, Alberto Nuñez Feijoo, called on Monday for English language lessons to be prioritised in Spain’s schools.
He said it was a more important matter compared to discussions over which of Spain’s regional languages can be classified as co-official.
Acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, of the PSOE socialists is seeking to shore up support from regional parties ahead of November’s Congress investiture vote.
Congress has approved ‘official’ status for languages like Basque and Catalan to be used in parliament, and the possible use of Catalan in the European Parliament will be discussed by the 27 member states of the EU this week.
Feijoo’s comments came after an April survey revealed that over two-thirds of young people in the Valencian Community cannot speak or understand any English, with just 10% of them saying they speak it well in one of Spain’s biggest areas for UK tourists.
Several schools and teachers blamed a lack of teachers trained to teach the language as well as too much emphasis on grammar and vocabulary as opposed to oral learning.
73.2% of those questioned aged 20 years and under said they did not understand English, the second-worst regional figure in Spain, surpassed by Galicia(Feijoo’s region where he was president) with 73.7%.
Feijoo’s lack of English knowledge was brought up in this year’s election campaign by the PSOE, since Pedro Sanchez is a fluent English speaker.
Sanchez, however, has been the exception to the rule as he’s been only the Spanish prime minister since the restoration of democracy to speak English fluently when in office.
An attack ad was issued insinuating that Spain would be at a disadvantage on the world stage if Feijoo became Prime Minister and contrasted him to Sanchez using the language with international leaders.
In a June television interview, Feijoo said that he was bilingual in Spanish and Galician but admitted ‘he had a problem with English and it was his obligation to study it’.
He added that he was getting individual English tutoring which had been disrupted by the election being called.
“The important thing about international summits, which are usually done with a translator, is that what I want to say is understood very well,” Feijoo said.
“I’m not going to have any problem expressing myself in the second language of the world,” he claimed, despite the fact that it isn’t with Spanish speakers beaten by English, Mandarin Chinese and Hindi.
King Felipe and Queen Letizia are both fluent in English along with their two daughters.