The DELE certificates were designed to create a standardized framework that would allow successful candidates to receive a valid, international diploma.
In our constantly globalizing world, where borders seem to have blurred and where cultural exchange and multi-cultural families are more and more common, a need to focus on effective communication is a growing reality.
The omnipresent internet and all the possibilities it offers have produced a redistribution of communication spaces, both real and virtual. While nobody questions that English is still the most widely used language for cultural exchange and international business, economic and demographic shifts on a global scale have created an undeniable surge in the use of other languages for those purposes.
The presence of Spanish is increasing in international forums, in the world of international economics and on the internet. It already ranks second in the world in number of speakers, behind Mandarin Chinese and, for the first time, ahead of English. Although the idea of Spanish replacing English in the international sphere may seem like an impossible dream for Spanish speakers, the language is experiencing impressive growth that is becoming increasingly evident.
In 1988, as Spain prepared for the 1992 Seville world expo, the Spanish government created the Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (Diplomas in Spanish as a Foreign Language), similar to the official language ability certificates already being offered for other languages such as English (Cambridge) and German (the Goethe Institute). The DELE certificates were designed to create a standardized framework that would allow successful candidates to receive a valid, international diploma certifying their Spanish skills.
The economic success that the field of Spanish as a foreign language education was experiencing lead to the founding of the Cervantes Institute in 1991. Beginning in that year, the institute would be responsible for carrying out DELE exams and granting successful candidates with diplomas under the patronage of the Spanish Department of Culture and in cooperation with the University Salamanca, which would take responsibility for preparing and correcting the exams.
The chaotic array of methods used by organizers of language certificate exams in different countries to describe and classify skill levels made it confusing to understand the level of skill each diploma was certifying. In 1991, the Council of Europe created the document the “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages”, which specified a clear structure of language skill levels that could be used internationally to classify the language abilities of candidates for the certificates of different languages. The Cervantes Institute, which was created at nearly the same time as the “Common Framework”, followed the format outlined in the document by establishing the following six levels:
A1 (breakthrough); A2 (waystage); B1 (threshold-intermediate); B2 (upper intermediate); C1 (advanced); C2 (Mastery)
These levels correspond exactly with those defined by the Common Framework. In Spain, an official ruling passed in 2008 gave legal status to this structure of levels.
In recent years, the DELE exams have undergone some changes as test makers have made a concentrated effort to move away from the exaggerated focus on purely grammatical knowledge it had in the beginning. The changes are designed to more accurately test candidates’ ability to communicate in Spanish. In August of 2013, new formatting of the exams will be complete; B2 level candidates will see an entirely new version of the test, as that level was the last one to be updated. The DELE exam is for anyone interested in officially proving their ability to speak, read, write and understand Spanish; it has permanent validity, is internationally recognized and makes for a valuable addition to a résumé.
In the words of Victor Garcia de la Concha, director of the Cervantes Institute, “Spanish is a language that currently unites 500 million people, it’s a language of culture, a language for dialogue […] It’s the official language of 21 countries, the second most spoken in the world as a native language and it’s also the second most used language for international communication”.
His Majesty the King Don Juan Carlos I had the following to say: “the Spanish language is now the most valuable aspect of cultural heritage shared by hundreds of millions of people that make up a diverse community, a community that is open to all and which unites and identifies our common language […] Now more than ever, Spanish must be a source of friendship and comprehension, an instrument for harmony and tolerance, a platform for creating understanding between people and cultures”.