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Why study?

The social situation in Spain is changing with the arrival of immigrant population who needs to learn Spanish urgently. However, in the territory of action of the University of Lleida, the newly arrived immigrants need to speak Catalan in order to be able to attend school, find a job and/or integrate in our community. In Lleida, for instance, according to the 2008 census, there is 18.2% of declared immigrant population (www.idescat.net); in regions or certain villages from the province, the percentage is even higher. In other parts of the Spanish territory the situation is quite similar. This community, which is by no means homogeneous, has special learning needs and requires for a specific treatment, different to the one that second language teaching has traditionally held.

On the other hand, the freedom of movement that the European Union offers to students and professionals creates a new scenery, which involves the need of learning languages in the territory in which they are spoken. Likewise, the present demand of teaching Spanish as a foreign language has increased lately, especially in countries like Brasil, due to the signature of the Mercosur treaty; the US or Japan, both interested in trading with Central and South America, i.e. Spanish speaking countries. The increasing formation of new head offices of the Instituto Cervantes is a clear example of it. Due to these facts, the correct development of the teaching tasks becomes essential, so as to offer tools to the teaching staff of Spanish and Catalan who have foreign students in the classroom or who teach abroad.

The “Newcomers Programme” has already been going on for several years in primary and secondary schools with untrained teaching staff. They have had to deal with teaching Spanish or Catalan to non-native speakers of these languages. These teachers must nevertheless help their students to achieve a certain level of linguistic and cultural competence, both actively and passively, in order to integrate in our educative system with possibilities of success. Therefore, it is essential to have a master aimed at training teachers who are in charge of this task.

We bear in mind the primary and secondary teachers from Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Valencian Community who receive in their classes of Spanish Language students who have just arrived at our country and who do not understand or speak neither Spanish nor Catalan. This means that the Catalan and Spanish teachers must cope with, on the one hand, the situation of students with different levels of linguistic competence and theoretical knowledge of Spanish and Catalan, and on the other hand, they must cope with an activity for which they have not been trained.  It is not the same to teach grammar to someone who already knows the language, although in a passive sense, as teaching to people who do not understand the concept of gender or the difference between “pretérito imperfecto” and “pretérito indefinido”. These concepts may not exist in their mother tongues and they may not even be capable of understanding what the teacher is saying, because they cannot speak the language that the teacher is using in the class.

Unfortunately, the curriculum regarding the current diplomas of Spanish Philology and Catalan Philology and the new degrees, which are going to replace the teaching of language and literature, do not have subjects related with pedagogy nor with second language teaching to immigrants. Due to these facts, the graduate students are going to need extra training on theory, methodology and proceedings, which can be acquired by studying a specific postgraduate degree: a master’s degree devoted to this particular topic.

The differences which can be observed among the official master’s degrees already existent and this proposal from the University of Lleida are as follows:

1)       The University of Lleida proposes a Master’s Degree with the specificity of teaching to immigrant people.

2)       The University of Lleida proposes a Master’s Degree with a part-time schedule, this allows the students to follow the master’s degree better, despite travelling difficulties.

3)       The University of Lleida proposes a Master’s Degree with the aim of making the students capable of doing any job related to teaching Spanish or Catalan as foreign languages. This fact guarantees a working training which is needed in a lot of fields of the job market.

4)       The University of Lleida proposes a Master’s Degree which, unlike other master’s degrees, is aimed at focusing on the teaching/learning of the official languages of Catalonia.

5)       The University of Lleida proposes a Master’s Degree which focuses on the specificity of teaching Catalan, not necessary to adults.

The following traits must be added to these specific ones of the master’s degree proposed by the University of Lleida:

1)       Other universities in the Catalan-speaking territory offer different courses related to teaching language to future foreign language teachers, including Catalan as a foreign language. However, their contents do not always take into account the Catalan reality and the need for stimulating the usage of the language of the territory.

2)       The University of Lleida includes a subject related to gender as the current regulations demand: in the article 25 of the Organic Law 3/2007, 22 March, for the Effective Equality of Women and Men, and the article 4 of the Organic Law 1/2004, 28 December, for Measures of Integral Protection against Gender Violence; as well as it is indicated in section 5.1. Structure of the teachings, form the Guide for the support to the elaboration of the Memoir for the request of verification of official certificates (degree and master) from the ANECA. The already mentioned subject is especially necessary in a context as the teaching of language and culture to immigrants.

Furthermore, this master completes the formative offer already existing to answer to the social demand in the context of the new situations of interculturality. In addition, it provides the necessary bases for investigation in teaching and language acquisition, with particular attention to situations of plurilingualism related to migration.

The Master in Teaching Spanish/Catalan to Immigrant people is aimed at qualifying students for:

·          Teaching Spanish and Catalan to immigrant people, in particular, and foreigners in general.

·          The headship or management of a foreign language school.

·          Providing pedagogic advice to publishing houses specialised in Spanish or Catalan for foreigners.

·          Becoming language consultants for state institutions and private companies.

·          Designing and editing didactic materials.

·          Applying IT when teaching Spanish and Catalan to foreigners.

·          Examining DELE (Certificate of Spanish as a Foreign Language) official certificates.

The orientation of this master is professional, academic or of investigation.