Another great Spanish Business Quarter event

On the evening of the 3rd of July, and just after the Tour de France parade passing through Millenium Square heandig the Leeds Arena grand gala opeing, Spanish Business Quarter  decided to celebrate their second event in Leeds in La  Tasca. This was a great occasion to share all the excitement around the Tour de France with all members of the SBQ community.
We had great conversations about our SBQ project and how it is growing interest in different communities. Our program for year 2014-15 will be ready end of Summer and there will be many new activities and participants enjoying from the experience. Participants were very happy to share their experiences in trading in Spain and North of England, challenges, opportunities and tips.
We had the opportunity to enjoy an amazing black paella (congratulations chef!)  and  a great performance of modern flamenco by the star of the event, our favorite dancer from the Northern Ballet, Matilde with Ana (in the picture with Blanca and Alejandro).

Old teachers, young learners…

I was a university lecturer for over twenty years and until recently I taught Spanish and, in particular, translating and interpreting. I had a clear goal to help my students become as proficient as possible both in the general use of language as well as in the specific skills of translating and interpreting.
As most teachers or lecturers know, it is vital to ensure material used for teaching is relevant to students. Effective teaching should start with a student’s prior knowledge and give them additional ways to extend, use, develop and apply that knowledge. But each new fact, concept or process introduced in a course should initially relate to the student’s previous experience so they can take it on board, conceptualise it and assume it.
In attempting to do this, lecturers sometimes get it wrong. We can make incorrect assumptions concerning our students’ prior experience, particularly when making cultural references to explain a point. I remember using a text for translation about alternative lifestyles which mentioned “hippies” and a reference to the Beatles and their song “Strawberry Fields”. Although I knew it well (and bought the record the day it was released!) my 18 year old students were not aware of this song, so failed to make any connections between the reference to the Beatles and Strawberry Fields and the main context of the text.

This, among other things, has got me thinking about the profound issue of the key role of communication and understanding between teacher and student. In fact, the question I consider most often these days is; why is it that older people teach younger people?
The answer might appear obvious. Older people have more knowledge, more experience, more skills, greater self-control (in general) than young people, and these are the things that younger people are supposed to learn.
But, as the issues of communication and understanding between teacher and pupil are so crucial, there are some key drawbacks to having older people teaching younger people, especially in a world which changes so rapidly.
In my case, my education began in the 1950s and I was at university in the 1970s.  Students I taught in 2013, who will graduate in 2017, will be fully immersed in their careers and society in general in the 2020s and beyond, 70 years after I began my initial education.
How can it be right or effective that someone educated in the past should prepare students for the future, for a world which will be so different, in ways in which we cannot even imagine? Why should someone like me use my experience to try to prepare students for a world which I cannot conceive, cannot imagine, do not understand and probably will not inhabit?
It’s unlikely that the young will ever be expected to teach the old. Perhaps the issue is rather, what should the old teach the young? How should the young be educated? Facts and information are available instantly through the internet and, anyway, they change constantly and rapidly. The knowledge a student gains on the first year of a science or technology degree can be outdated by the time they graduate. There seems little value in asking students to learn information or facts by rote if things change so rapidly. What, then, should education consist of?
Perhaps it is time to refocus on those timeless and universal truths that ancient civilisations were so keen to identify? Perhaps we should all learn about what it means to be human, how to understand and come to terms with ourselves and with others, how to locate, verify and apply information, how to understand the relationship between cause and effect? Perhaps there should only be one course at all universities, worldwide? BA/BSc (Hons) Learning to Learn?
Competent linguists may believe they have actually learned a foreign language, understood the rules of grammar and syntax, mastered semantics… But, as experienced translators know, if that were all there was to language, then machine translation would have been perfected many years ago… 
What good translators know is that when translating they employ a high degree of linguistic knowledge. But, even more importantly, they draw on a deep understanding of both historical and contemporary society, of technical, economic, social and cultural developments and of the human condition. Whatever your teachers taught you, as they were probably older than you, it is your job, your responsibility to select, adapt and develop, to relate and ultimately apply your learning to today, and to continue doing so for tomorrow – and the day, month, year after.
Graham Webb