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The Cervantes Institute

The Cervantes Institute

Instituto Cervantes. As a response to the growing importance of the Spanish Language, the Cervantes Institute was founded in 1991.

Spanish is now the language with the second largest number of speakers in the world; in the last few years, it has climbed past English and it is only surpassed by Chinese. The importance of Spanish is also made apparent by its widespread usage on the internet. It is the second most used language online after English, making it an increasingly essential language for international communication in both business and cultural contexts.

Spain’s position as a “bridge” between Europe and Latin America has also helped Spanish become a fundamental language for establishing contacts in Latin American countries with growing economies.

The Spanish language’s growing importance

On March 21, 1991, as a response to the Spanish language’s growing importance, the Cervantes Institute (Instituto Cervantes in Spanish) was founded, much like a flower blooming in spring. The new institute, working as a part of Spain’s Department of Foreign Affairs, had two main goals; to teach and promote Spanish around the world and to spread awareness of the cultures of both Spain and Hispano-America.

The Cervantes Institute has two headquarters. One is in Madrid in a modernista-style building, popularly known as “Edificio de las Cariátides”, located on calle de Alcalá. The other one is in the city of Alcalá de Henares, in the Colegio del Rey, which functions as a training center for teachers.

From its founding up to today, the Cervantes Institute has grown and evolved rapidly to become one of the fundamental pillars of what is known as Marca España. The institute is now present on all continents except Antarctica, and in more than 80 cities and 44 countries.

Its mission to promote the teaching, study, and use of Spanish in the world, adopting measures and taking actions designed to expand and improve on these activities, implies a series of responsibilities. These include organizing classes for learning Spanish and Spain’s co-official regional languages, organizing Spanish exams such as the DELE exam which certifies linguistic abilities, issuing the certificates for successful candidates of those exams, training teachers, offering support to the work of hispanists around the world, and working together with Hispano-American institutes to help offer free access to Spanish language libraries (Cervantes Institute libraries in its different centers posses a total of some 1.2 million books).

In the institute’s yearly publication Memoria del Instituto Cervantes, the director (former director of the Royal Spanish Academy) Victor Garcia de la Concha, explains that after 22 years of history […] it became necessary to learn from experience, to examine the profound changes that shake our world and to establish new paths for better fulfilling our goal: to promote the language and culture.

The diversity of the Spanish speaking world has always been the main source of inspiration […] the work of the institute can only be fully carried out with the joint collaboration of Latin American countries. It is a matter of principle and efficiency.

The Cervantes Institute maintains a website that is a “favorite” in the world of Spanish: the Aula Virtual de Español (virtual Spanish classroom). Since 2008, it has also run a television channel. The institute’s own site is also highly recommended for anyone interested in the Spanish language.

The Cervantes Institute is also creating a series of publications designed to serve as reference material for hispanists and teachers of Spanish as a foreign language around the world. A few of the latest published works include Gramática práctica del español (2007), Ortografía práctica del español (2008), Guía práctica del español correcto, Claves para escribir y hablar bien en español (2012), and Las dudas más frecuentes del español (2013).

The Cervantes Institute is helping Spanish gain international relevance by using all the tools within its reach, giving the language of Cervantes (the author of the historic novel “Don Quijote”) the worldwide status that it deserves.