The language of Cervantes in Madrid
The language of Cervantes in Madrid

BUENOS AIRES Who says what is right and wrong in a language? In the case of Spanish, a new international certification system is raising red flags among some Latin American writers, particularly those in Argentina, who say it leans in favor of Castilian Spanish, which will ultimately favor Spain's cultural and commercial interests.

Buenos Aires-based Clarín reports that the new certification standards, called SIELE, were agreed on between the universities of Buenos Aires (UBA) and Salamanca, the National Autonomous University of Mexico and the Cervantes Institute, which handles Spanish courses worldwide. SIELE exams and certificates are used to establish your level of Spanish, like the First Certificate in English — but some now ask, which Spanish?

Argentina already has a similar certification system, the CELU, which one researcher says is used in 11 countries. Beyond Spain, Argentina was the only other country that has established such certification.

The new SIELE standards now look to be restoring linguistic supremacy to the country that lost its colonial and military sway in this region some 200 years ago. University of Buenos Aires spokesman Gabriel Capitelli insists SIELE has a "pan-hispanic profile" and takes stock of regional variations in language and vocabulary.

Argentine translator Jorge Fondebrider told Clarin that SIELE is giving "the Spaniards and the Cervantes Institute absolute hegemony in deciding what is correct," which would boost its position in the massive Spanish-language education products market worldwide.

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Mariam Nabattu, a religious studies teacher, must work at two schools in central Uganda to make ends meet.

Patricia Lindrio/GPJ Uganda
Edna Namara and Patricia Lindrio

KAMPALA — Allen Asimwe has dedicated more than two decades to teaching geography at a large public high school in southwestern Uganda. Her retirement age, as a public servant entitled to benefits, is just six years away.

She doubts she will wait that long.

“I am determined, I want to quit,” she says, calculating that she could earn more by shifting full time to the salon she opened six years ago to supplement her income. “Given the frustration, I cannot continue in class anymore.”

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