STAGES OF THE SPANISH LANGUAGE EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT IN RUSSIA
The Spanish language is becoming more and more popular in Russia, with new universities and schools including it into their curricula. This paper attempts to make a historical, institutional and methodological overview of the Spanish language teaching in Russia, and to identify the main challenges it is to face. The fascination of Russian people with Spanish is accounted for, among other factors, by the success of Latin-American musicians, and the influx of Russian tourists to Spain. With over 400 million native speakers, both in Spain and Latin America, it presents itself as an excellent job opportunity for teachers, translators and interpreters, and anyone interested in promoting political and commercial relations between Russia and Spanish speaking countries.
Once the first publications regarding Spanish appeared, there were favorable conditions to promote its learning. The first Spanish Department in Russia was opened in 1935 in the Faculty of Philology at Leningrad University, nowadays Saint Petersburg State University. Therefore this can be considered the birthplace of Russian hispanism. This first generation of Russian translators from Spanish, a total of 204, developed their work alongside the Republican Army during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). A critical role in the expansion of the Spanish language in Russia was played by the so called “Niños de la Guerra”, the children that fled Spain during the Civil War and were taken in by the Soviet Union.
The second important boost came with the intensification of Soviet – Latin American relations, particularly with Cuba, beginning in the 1960s . This led to the creation of the First Conference of Hispanists in the Soviet Union in 1970, that gathered 150 Russian specialists.
In 1994, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the First Conference of Russian Hispanists was held at the Linguistic University of Moscow, and the Association of Russian Hispanists was created, with the aim of putting scientists, pedagogues and artists -whose work was connected with Spanish- in touch with each other. These conferences are still held nowadays.
In the recent years, the rise of commercial relations, and above all, tourism play a similar role to that of the Civil War and the Cuban Revolution in the past. The socioeconomic transformations we see in the world nowadays can be seen in the popularity of the Spanish and Chinese languages in Russia, together with the decline of French and German.
Therefore, by researching historical sources and websites of educational institutions, the authors aim to analyze the rate at which Spanish is spreading among educational institutions, and, in the case of universities, the range of faculties and colleges it is being taught in. A secondary object is to identify what kind of textbooks and methodology is being used and which are the main professional areas and career opportunities for those studying Spanish. Although it is mainly taught in public universities, it is gradually becoming more popular in private language schools, and primary and secondary schools.