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Education Minister, Andrew Holness is underscoring the significant benefits which Jamaica can gain by virtue of more persons being bi-lingual.
Speaking at the presentation of the annual Ruta Quetzal Scholarship at the Embassy of Spain in Kingston on June 11, Mr. Holness said that if more Jamaicans were able to master a second language, particularly Spanish, this would lead to more global opportunities opening up for the country.
“The acquisition of a second language is something that the Ministry of Education views with strategic interest. The world is not just English-speaking, and there is a broader world out there, which provides a broader market for the Jamaican brand to be displayed in. To participate in many of those markets, (however), you need to be able to articulate, you need to be able to speak the language in order to communicate,” the Minister explained.
He pointed out that Jamaica existed in a region surrounded, to a great extent, by Spanish-speaking countries, and noted that the country did significant trade with a number of these territories, which could be maximized. “I think we could do more trade with them if we had a greater level of Spanish-speaking in the country,” he pointed out.
The Minister underscored the advantage which individuals working in the tourism sector would also have by knowing a second language, especially Spanish.
“It is critically important, because we have a great deal of Spanish investment coming into Jamaica, and we are bringing many Spanish tourists into Jamaica. It would be very useful to have locals being able to communicate with those visitors, because it would make their experience of the country that much more meaningful, and it would really make them want to return a second time,” Mr. Holness said.
Sixteen year-old Ardenne High School student, Akeem Smith, was awarded this year’s Ruta Quetzal Scholarship. He was adjudged winner of a special essay competition organized by the Embassy, and was presented with his award and travel package, which will take him to Panama and Spain, by Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, Jesus Silva, during a brief ceremony at the Spanish Embassy’s New Kingston offices.
The scholarship, which lasts four weeks, brings together over 300 teenagers from 40 Spanish and non-Spanish speaking countries, for participation in educational activities in Spain and one other country.
This year, the participants will spend the first three weeks in Panama, and the final in Spain, where they will be hosted by the latter country’s reigning monarch, King Juan Carlos. Akeem is scheduled to leave Jamaica for Panama on July 19, from where he will travel to Spain, returning on July 27.
The Ruta Quetzal is named for Christopher Columbus’ voyages (Ruta) and the magnificent Mexican Bird (Quetzal), worshipped by the Aztecs and Maya Indians as a god.