Spanish Classroom

Spain’s English language skills have long lagged behind much of the rest of Europe, but things may be about to change.

It’s a matter of taste of course, but Spanish TV has long been an embarrassing blot on an otherwise pristine landscape of national cultural output.

The land of Picasso, Flamenco, Julio Iglesias and some of the finest theatre productions in the world seems to produce shockingly bad TV on a shockingly regular basis…

And this is not merely the perspective of some disgruntled foreigner deprived of their daily Downton fix. Spaniards themselves appear to prefer the TV output of the USA and the UK more than their own, so much so that much of what you see on TV in the country is dubbed content produced in Hollywood or London.

Spain’s curious affinity for dubbing TV rather than providing the original tone with Spanish subtitles began during the reign of General Franco, whose dictatorship sought to limit the volume of outside cultural influences as much as possible.

Hence, the English language was deemed off-limits, even if the TV and movies produced in the Anglosphere was not. This curiosity goes some way towards explaining why Spain lags behind much of its European neighbours for English language proficiency.

But things could be about to change if a proposal by the conservative Popular Party (PP) is passed in the next parliament. The PP wants to improve Spain’s English skills, and believes that exposing the populace to the English language on TV will help.

The Dutch, Scandinavians and – to some extent – Germans all seem to have benefited from such an approach, and while the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy struggles with English, his hopes are that the next generation of Spanish politicians fare rather better when speaking to the press and dignitaries during overseas visits.

Another upside, should the ruling be passed, will mean that American movies and British TV programmes aired in their original audio will, of course, make perfect sense to the thousands of British expats currently living in Spain…