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By José Antonio Sierra

Spanish Assistant, Trinity College, University of Dublin
On the first of November a 1969 a meeting of teachers of Spanish took place at Trinity College Dublin to found the Spanish Teachers Association, thus fulfilling one of the recommendations of the previous conference.
    Proof of the growing importance of Spanish in the Republic is that it is second only to French on secondary education and moreover that an increasing number of students are continuing Spanish at University. For this reason it han been vitally important for Spanish teachers to get together to discuss their problems, to form an association and recommend the creation of the Spanish Cultural Institute in Dublin.
    The following report of the first meeting of Spanish teachers in April of this year gives a very good idea of some of the problems facing the teaching of Spanish, of ways these can be met and of the lines for future development.
    The conference was attended by about 70 post-primary teachers and 13 university teachers.
Those attending were divided into four groups, which met simultaneously on three occasions during the conference to discuss three main topics:
I:  "Teaching methods, aids and texbooks for language teaching".
II: "Intermidiate and Leaving Certificate syllabuses, set books and examinations."
III: "Help from external sources for Spanish teachers and pupils".
   The results of the various groups discussions under each head were collated, and reports on each of the three sessions were presented at a general meeting at the end of the conference.
I: "Teaching methods, aids and textbooks".
   The report on this session was presented by Mr.T.T. Folley of University College Cork. Mr. Folley emphasised the general lack of suitable text-books for older beginners, e.g., those beginning Spanish in the fifth or sixth year of secondary school, and also referred to the problem created by the slow delivery of books by booksellers.
   The discussion had also revealed, Mr. Folley said, a strong feeling in favour of a course which was flexible rather than rigidly prescribed. In this connection, it was mentioned that existing courses often seemed geared to preparing pupils for examinations rather than to teaching them the language.
II. "Intermediate and Leaving Certificate syllabuses, set books and examinations".
   Mr. E.J. Rodgers, of Trinity College, Dublin, reported on this session, and said that under this head, the question of the "open" course had been taken up again and developed further. While most people favoured flexibility, it was felt, particularly among younger teachers, that a certain modicum of guidance in choosing texts should also be provided.
    Mr. Rodgers added that there had been general agreement that although the study of literature was desirable in itself, it should be introduced at a relatively late stage, when the student's appreciation had matured.                                                 On the question of an oral examination, Mr. Rodgers reported that this had been generally wellcomed, though the practical difficulties in providing such a test had been recognised. As a way of solving these difficulties, it had been suggested that the examining should be done by teachers, but that they should examine pupils other than their own.
     Two main criticisms of the present arrangements had emerged from the discussions. It was generally felt, firstly, that the material prescribed for the intermediate certificate course was most unsuitable, and it was hoped that the same mistakes would not be made when the texts for the new Leaving Certificate were chosen. Secondly, there was widespred discontent at the lack of communication between teachers and the Department. of Education, particularly with regard to the examination policy of the Department. There should be an even greater effort to have the views of teachers brought to the attention of the Department.
III. "Help from external sources for Spanish teachers and pupils".
     Mr Sean Page, of University College, Dublin, gave the report on this session. The discussion under this head had revealed that help from external sources was extremely scant. There was no general support, Mr. Page said, for the idea of facilitating interchange of pupils by, e.g., arranging for Irish pupils to go as ayudantes in English to Spanish schools, while Spanish students came as language assistants to this country. The almost complete lack of scholarships for pupils and teachers was deplorable, especially when it was pointed out that dozens of scholarships of one kind or another were available in French and German.
      Mr. Page also stated that general support had been express for the foundation of a Spanish Cultural Institute in Ireland, as was put forward by Sr. José Antonio Sierra, of TCD, Dublin, in March, 1979,  at the Conference of Teachers of Spanish held in Trinity College and University College. The main responsibility of this Institute would be to act as a centre for the dissemination of Hispanic culture, and while its work would  not, of course, be confined to teachers, teachers could benefit, in a general way, from the presence of such an Institute. 
      It was also strongly felt that R.T.E. could fulfil a very useful function by transmitting language programmes during school hours. It was suggested that the B.B.C.'s Vamos a ver series, which was felt to be suitable for schools, should be bought by R.T.E.
                                                                         *      *      *                                                                                    Future action
      After the reports, a general discussion took place on possible future action on the points raised in the course of the conference. One point which had been mentioned frequently in the discussions was the desirability of forming an association of post-primary teachers of Spanish, and a proposal to this effect was now put before the general meeting.
      An interim committee, to consist of 4 post-primary teachers and two university representatives was then to set up. This committee was given the task of setting up an association of post-primary teachers of Spanish, and was, in addition, asked:
      (i) to make representations to R.T.E., urging them to transmit Vamos a Ver, and olso Oigan señores which was judged to be suitable for more advanced students.
      (ii) to convey to the Department of Education the dissatisfaction expressed at the conference with the material selected for the Intermediate Certificate, and to request that speciment papers in Spanish be provided.
      (iii) to seek, through the Irish Department of Education, the Spanish Ministry of Education and the Spanish Embassy in Dublin the establishment of a Spanish Cultural Institute.
                                                                    *      *      *
      The conference was the first attempt to bring together those teaching Spanish in Irish schools, and the response which it evoked was a very eloquent tribute to the expansion of Spanish and to the enthusiasm and dedication of the teachers. The future association will, it is hoped, be able to continue the fruitful work begun at this conference.
Published by The Spanish Society
City of Liverpool College of Commerce,
7 Tithebarn Street,
Liverpool. 2.
Dicember, 1969  No. 54{jcomments on}

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