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First anniversary of the Cervantes Observatory

The Observatory of the Spanish Language and Hispanic Cultures in the United States, located at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, celebrated its first anniversary last week. In an interview given to Radio Nacional de Espana (RNE), the Observatory’s Executive Director, Francisco Moreno-Fernández, delved into some of the most important issues reflecting the work of the Observatory during its first year and shared new goals for the year ahead.

The last twelve months were "a period of settlement, of building our organizational structure and research," said Moreno-Fernández. Making the Cervantes Observatory known within Harvard and among the various centers of Hispanic studies and groups was also a priority. Nearly 11% of the students studying at Harvard identify as Latino, and more than a third study Spanish. This illustrates the importance of Hispanic studies and groups across the university and shows the potential for Spanish to be "known and used in everyday settings" in many different contexts across the campus.

The knowledge of Spanish is critical for the Hispanic community. As Moreno-Fernández explained, "languages ​​need to be used by speakers." There are many different dialects and registers of Spanish in the United States, ranging from "a cultured Spanish context, such as the one used in classes, in the press or in literature" or in other "popular applications that conform to the geographical characteristics of each speaker." Moreno-Fernández also explained that the use of Spanish in the United States has encouraged a blend of certain English and Spanish words or phrases, leading to so-called "estadounidismos," some of which are now included in the dictionary of the Real Academia Espanola (RAE).

The main objective of the Cervantes Observatory is, as its name suggests, to "observe" the Hispanic reality in the United States. Today there are many Spanish language programs including dual immersion education in schools, and many are supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports of Spain. Furthermore, in some universities, such as the journalism program at the University of Florida, degrees are now offered entirely in Spanish. The Observatory seeks to understand the many different ways in which Spanish is being used across the U.S.

Although the media is important for spreading the use of the Spanish language, and the radio in particular has shown a great ability to influence and strengthen shared identity within the Hispanic community, it is not the strongest tool for strengthening the use of Spanish in the United States. Instead,  the use of Spanish in schools is much more powerful, as this directly promotes language maintenance and preservation of the Spanish in the ’third generation’, which is, according to Moreno-Fernández, "the key to the future of the Spanish" in this country.

With the expected census ensuring that by 2060 the Hispanic population will increase to 128.8 million, Moreno-Fernández emphasized that "America could become the first country with more Spanish speakers in the world, or maybe the second, behind Mexico.” In this context, the work of the Cervantes Observatory is even more important. The goals for next year include expanding the range of activities on the Internet, and strengthening the most important publications of the Observatory, which are the Informes del Observatorio/Observatorio Reports. With two reports already published and new reports scheduled monthly, the Obervatorio Reports will allow us to further examine the many aspects of the current reality of the Spanish language in the United States.


Listen to the full interview here:


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