Cultures cross on the seventh floor of the Generalitat’s Escola Oficial d’Idiomes (EOI) Drassanes campus. With an enrollment of over 400 students every semester at the Drassanes branch alone (a second campus is located in Vall d’Hebron), the Spanish for foreigners courses the school offers often become more than just a learning experience for most of its students.
“Every day is like a trip,” said Maria José Hernández Blasco, who has had her fair share of global experiences while teaching an international student body during her 24 years as a Spanish professor at the EOI Drassanes campus. “With people from all over the world interacting, the class becomes more than just a classroom. It’s a social experience for some, and it’s interesting to see how the use of the language gets used outside the classroom atmosphere.”
EOI began offering classes in Barcelona in the late Sixties. Its 'Spanish for Foreigners' programme was just one of several courses that were born to help adults in Catalunya learn foreign languages. With languages ranging from Arabic to Dutch on offer, the Spanish for Foreigners programme remains among one of the most popular—neck-and-neck with English. And as Barcelona’s foreign population continues to grow, those looking to enhance their Spanish skills take their chance with lady luck every September and January in hopes of having their numbers drawn in the school’s always competitive and hopeful lottery entrance process.
Once accepted into the programme, students are tested and assigned to levels from beginning to advanced. Activities are not restricted to classroom learning. In addition to the academic side, learning is complemented by the occasional guided field trip through one of the city’s neighbourhoods, and the regularly occurring Gastronomy Day, students to show off culinary delights from their home countries—these sorts of cultural excursions and exchanges engage students with both the language they are learning and with each other.
Students hail from Iran to Ireland and nearly everywhere in between (the highest percentage come from China, with the student body composed of nearly 200 Chinese students in the Autumn 2007 semester), and ranging in age from 16 to 87 (the majority being between 18 and 30), learning Castilian becomes a means for the students to express their individual and unique stories about what brought them to Spain in the first place. “I’ve met people from everywhere. China, Canada, Morocco, India, and only to name a few,” said Carrie Torres, 36, from the US, an alumnus of the second of five levels in the Spanish for Foreigners programme, who is now a professor of conversational English at the Drassanes campus.
“When I was a student here, the professor explained certain Catalan holidays, like Saint Jordi, and the incorporated the lessons around them,” said Torres. “One day a Chinese classmate handed me a package of duck. Although I’ve had duck several times, it was never that good.”
For those returning to the school, or for those new students lucky enough to be admitted through the school’s lottery, entire cultures as well as languages are waiting to be learned in that tall building close to the Port.
For more information about the date and time of the next lottery, and how to register for it: