In the past decade or so, colleges and universities around the world have become increasingly active in marketing their programs, courses and qualifications to international students around the world. As the demand for education and training continues to grow, so does the competition among education providers offering degrees and certificates in everything from liberal arts to business. Language programs are no exception, and Spanish-language programs in particular have witnessed exponential growth in recent years. There are several reasons for this:
- Spanish is now the second most widely spoken language in the world (after English). About 330 million people in the world speak Spanish as their first language, and Spanish is the official language in 21 countries.
- Approximately another 100 million people speak Spanish as a second language.
- Spanish is an official language of the United Nations, the European Union and other international organizations.
- The demand for Spanish courses has doubled worldwide in the last 10 years.
- Spanish is expected to be the first language of 50 percent of the population of the United States within 50 years.
- Spanish is the most popular foreign language to study in the United States and Europe.
Latin American countries are currently undergoing rapid economic expansion and are becoming more important as trading partners. A number of Latin American governments are on the verge of signing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which has already been ratified by the United States, Canada and Mexico.
In May, I was invited to participate in a working tour around Spain for foreign education journalists. The objective of the trip, hosted by Español Recurso Económico, was to promote the country’s Spanish-language programs. Over the course of 10 days and in between checking out the breathtaking sights and enjoying some very tasty food, we toured five of Spain’s top universities.
1. University of Alcalá
From 1499 to 1836, the University of Alcalá  was known as Complutense, one of the most important intellectual and cultural centers in Europe. During Spain’s golden age in the 16th century it was considered one of the three great universities, along with Salamanca and Valladolid. But toward the end of the 18th century, the university began to founder, and in 1836 it was relocated to Madrid.
In 1977, the university was renamed University of Alcalá. It is now considered one of the most prestigious universities in Madrid.
The University of Alcalá offers several types of Spanish-language courses: yearlong programs, intensive, specialized and personalized. It also serves as a testing center for the DELE  (Diplomas of Spanish as a Foreign Language) exam leading to Spain’s only official title in Spanish-language fluency. Housing for foreign students is provided at university residence halls, with host families and in shared flats.
The university offers programs sponsored by several U.S. institutions, including Michigan State University  and the University of California, Berkeley .
A sampling of courses available from the Spanish and cultural program for foreign students include: grammar and composition, Spanish for business, geography and history of Spain, Spanish civilization, modern and contemporary Spanish art, contemporary woman writers of the Spanish-speaking world, the Spanish economy and the European Union, Spanish cinema, Cervantes, contemporary Spanish theater, Spain and the Hispanic world and art and the Prado Museum.
Fall Core Program in Hispanic Studies: Advanced Spanish-language study and coursework in Spanish history, art, literature, film, politics, economics and law
Eligibility: Open to juniors, seniors and graduate students
Language Prerequisite: Two years of university-level Spanish with a 3.0 GPA at the time of application and maintained through the end of the last term prior to departure
Academic Calendar: Classes begin Sept. 24. Spring exams end June 30, and students should plan to depart by July 1.
Spring Program: Students should arrive by Jan. 5. There is an orientation Jan. 8-11, and classes begin Jan. 15. The last day of exams is April 26, and students should plan to depart April 27.
ESADE  (Escuela Superior de Administración y Dirección de Empresas) was founded in Barcelona in 1958 as a private charitable school with an international focus. The main campus consists of three buildings in Barcelona. Today, the school has a branch campus in Madrid and offers courses in Europe and Latin America. It has also forged agreements with more than 40 universities worldwide. ESADE offers a wide range of programs in the field of business management and law. In addition, the school provides training in tourism and language.
ESADE created the Language School in 1965 with the aim of strengthening its international outlook while complementing the courses offered at the business school. Since then, the Language School has focused on providing quality programs in international communication skills.
Semi-Intensive Courses: These courses are designed to meet the needs of professionals and executives living and working in Spain. There are two types of semi-intensives: one focused on general Spanish and the other on business Spanish. The starting dates for the 2002-03 academic year are:
- General Spanish
- Basic & Intermediate: 1st term — Oct. 9-Dec. 20; 2nd term — Jan. 9-March 20; 3rd term — April 8-June 19
- Advanced: 1st term — Oct. 10-Dec. 17; 2nd term — Jan. 9-March 20; 3rd term — April 8-June 19
- Business Spanish
- Intermediate: 1st term — Oct. 9-Dec. 20; 2nd term — Jan. 15-March 21; 3rd term — April 8-June 19
- Advanced: 1st term: Oct. 10-Dec. 17; 2nd term: Jan. 9-March 20; 3rd term: April 8-June 19
Intensive Courses: These courses range from basic to advanced and are offered in any given month. Intensive courses are divided into three modules: 1) language-skills development (oral communication, listening comprehension and reading comprehension), 2) language awareness (grammar, sentence construction and vocabulary) and 3) Hispanic culture (lectures and workshops on Spanish culture).
The 2002-03 courses will be held: Oct. 1-Oct. 26, Oct. 29-Nov. 23, Nov. 26-Dec. 21, Jan. 7-Feb. 1, Feb. 5-March 1, March 4-March 28, April 2-April 26, May 6-May 31, June 3-June 28, July 1-July 26, July 29-Aug. 8 and Aug. 26-Sept. 9.
Practical Spanish for Business: This course, offered twice a year, takes only four weeks to complete. There is a minimum entry level of Spanish required for either intermediate- or advanced-level enrollment.
The curriculum focuses on communication skills in a company environment, the Spanish culture of doing business, writing communication, marketing and advertising in Spain, international management, the tourism sector in Spain, conferences and company visits and follow-ups.
Courses are held Jan. 1-Feb. 2 and July 1-July 7.
3. University of Castilla-La Mancha
Various educational institutions have existed in the autonomous community of Castilla-LaMancha since 1172, but in 1985, these institutions were merged into a single regional school, the University of Castilla-La Mancha .
The institution has campuses in Albacete, Ciudad Real, Cuenca and Toledo, and also offers courses in Almaden and Talavera de la Reina. Since its formal establishment, the university has greatly increased access to higher education – in fact, one in four of the 32,500 students enrolled there are on scholarship.
The flagship campus is in the medieval city of Toledo, which was built by the Visigoths and later served as a major cultural center cohabited for 500 years by Christians, Jews and Muslims. Toledo’s Translation School was established in the 13th century.
These programs, coordinated by Northern Illinois University , are open to advanced, undergraduate- and graduate-level students. Students should have an interest in Spanish language and culture, along with a desire to increase their knowledge of these areas via an on-site experience.
Eligibility Requirements: Three years of college-level Spanish is mandatory. Undergraduates must have satisfactorily completed a minimum of six semesters of college-level courses in Spanish prior to applying. Spanish majors/minors must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75 and 3.00, respectively, in Spanish courses.
For undergraduate credit, the courses offered are: contemporary Spanish literature, masterpieces of Spanish literature, Spanish civilizations and masterpieces of Spanish-American literature.
For graduate credit, the courses offered are: contemporary Spanish literature, masterpieces of Spanish literature, Spanish civilizations. masterpieces of Spanish-American literature, research seminar in literature: Spanish and research seminar in civilization and culture: Spanish.
Undergraduate students may also enroll in two Spanish correspondence courses: practice in contemporary business, administrative and personal correspondence in Spanish, and advanced composition in Spanish.
4. University of Salamanca
The University of Salamanca  was founded in 1218 and is the oldest university in Spain. It still enjoys great prestige today. Approximately 39,000 students are enrolled at the university, which has a teaching staff of 2,200. The university has agreements with several foreign universities, foundations and businesses.
In 1987 a new university city, Campus Miguel de Unamuno, was constructed to help accommodate the expanding student body. The main campus in Salamanca has 30 buildings for faculties, schools and research. Many of these buildings, such as the Colegio Fonesca with its intricately carved façade, are of great historic value. There are also campuses in Avila, Bejar and Zamora, all of which boast historic architecture.
Courses are organized in five levels: beginner, intermediate, advanced, upper level 2 and upper level 1.
Courses are held three times a year: January to June; September to October; July and August.
Beginner: Classes include broadening vocabulary, language laboratory and communication activities.
Intermediate through Upper Level 1: Classes include global communicative practice, Spanish culture, Spanish literature, history of contemporary Spain, practice of written skills, history of Spanish art, Spanish for business and practice of oral skills.
Types of Instruction:
- Individualized Spanish Language Instruction: This program is designed for people sent by universities, businesses or other public or private institutions who require rapid immersion in Spanish. Cursos Internationales also offers the option of sending its professors to your institution.
- Diploma of Hispanic Studies: This is a full academic year (October-May), upper-level course directed toward students with a good command of the Spanish language who wish to acquire a thorough knowledge of Spanish grammar, history, geography, art, economy, etc.
- Special Integrated Program: This program is designed for students who possess a good command of the Spanish language and who wish to take two to five courses with Spanish students. The program is offered from October to February and from February to June.
- Hispanic Philology Course: Offered in summer (for one, two, three or four weeks), this is an upper-level course dealing with aspects of Spanish linguistics and criticism directed toward graduate students and professors of Spanish.
- Course for Teachers of Spanish as a Foreign Language: These are short seminars and workshops (one week in December and one week in April, and two, four or six weeks in summer) oriented toward an overview of methodological problems in language teaching.
- Master of Spanish as a Second Language: This is a two-year course designed to prepare current and future teachers of Spanish foreign language.
5. University of Valladolid
The University of Valladolid  traces its origins to the 13th century. By the 16th century, it was considered one of the country’s three top universities. Many of the school’s faculties and facilities are located in historic buildings. Among its four campuses, Valladolid currently enrolls 34,000 students and has a teaching staff of 2,300.
Basic Language Skills: This four-week program focuses on developing basic skills in oral and written expression. Classes are held three hours a day, five days a week. Beginner, intermediate and advanced classes begin Oct. 7.
Summer Courses: These four-week classes are held in June, July, August and September. Beginner, intermediate, advanced and superior students study four hours a day, five days a week. The next session begins Sept. 2.
Courses for Professionals in Spanish as a Foreign Language: There are three curriculums available:
- Master: Two years’ duration (60 credits). Courses include applied linguistics, Spanish, methodology, culture, research work and practice. Classes for 2002-03 will be held Nov. 12-Feb. 15 and Feb. 25-Aug. 31.
- Specialist: Four months’ duration (40 credits). Courses and dates same as for master’s program.
- Methodology: Three-week class on the latest methodological techniques and strategies. Class held Aug. 5-Aug. 23.