The director Luis García Montero thanks the Hispanists for their dissemination of Spanish language and culture, and of figures such as José Martí and Alejo Carpentier

The King and Queen of Spain hold an academic event at the Cervantes Institute in Frankfurt in support of German Hispanism

PHOTO/Instituto Cervantes/Elisa Rivera - The King of Spain greets some of the young Hispanists taking part. On the left, Doña Letizia and the director of the Cervantes Institute

The King and Queen of Spain visited the Cervantes Institute in Frankfurt (Germany) on Wednesday, which hosted the round table "Homage to German Hispanism", in recognition of the scholars of Spanish culture and language, a language studied by 800,000 people in that country, where there are more than six million native Spanish speakers. Queen Letizia, accompanied by the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, presided over the meeting, which was opened by the director of the institution, Luis García Montero, and moderated by Professor Dieter Ingenschay. Don Felipe joined in at the end of the event (after visiting the headquarters of the European Central Bank) and, together with Doña Letizia, held talks with the Hispanists.

This academic session at the Cervantes headquarters in Frankfurt marks the end of the King and Queen's state trip to Germany, the highlight of which on Tuesday was the inauguration of the 2022 Book Fair, the world's leading publishing event, with Spain as the guest of honour.

Luis García Montero said that this meeting recognises the importance that Spain and the Cervantes Institute attach to Hispanism in the dissemination of Spanish language and culture. German Hispanists, he recalled, have contributed to the international dissemination of figures such as José Martí and Alejo Carpentier, and have championed women's literature in Spanish. "I hope that this meeting chaired by Her Majesty the Queen, with the help of the Ministry of Culture, will serve to highlight the importance we attach to the work of Hispanists in general and, very specifically, to German Hispanism," he concluded.

Dieter Ingenschay (1948), Emeritus Professor of Hispanic Literatures at the Humboldt University of Berlin, predicted that "the future of Hispanistics will be dynamic and promising, not necessarily easy, but rich in new ideas and perspectives". He expressed the gratitude of Hispanists for "the help and solidarity support that Spain gives us", he said, as was seen in the express mention that the King made at the official inauguration of the Fair.

The veteran expert summarised the trajectory of these studies in Germany throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, which were linked to the Romanist disciplines. The focus changed with the founding in 1973 of the German Association of Hispanists (AAH), which today has 450 members.

Since then, the AAH has been investigating the changes brought about by the Transition, which made Spain fashionable not only in the tourism sector. This led to a great flow of exchanges (of the Erasmus type) and the proliferation of doctoral theses on our culture, with special emphasis on Calderón de la Barca and Federico García Lorca.

"Changing approaches"

Ingenschay then moderated the academic session, in which five young Hispanists proposed "widening the margins and changing the focus" of these studies, each from their respective disciplines: translation, didactics, linguistics, research, etc.

Marília Déa Jöhnk claimed the importance of literary translation, fundamental in the discipline of comparative literature, and regretted that translation - a field in which women have excelled - is not as highly valued as writing itself. For her part, Lena Hein, representing the doctoral students, highlighted the research into literature written in exile, such as the cases of Max Aub and María Zambrano.

Danae Gallo González advocated seeking new routes to Hispanism, eliminating "dominant cognitive biases" such as sexism, racism or phobia towards LGTBI movements. Marco García pointed out the convenience of overcoming the traditional perspective of Hispanic linguistics in Germany, which still draws from 19th century sources. And Victoria del Valle proposed "revising the canonical filter" of the didactics of Spanish, the most transversal discipline, the importance of which is demonstrated by the large increase in the number of learners of Spanish in the last twenty years.

After the speeches, the Queen signed the Cervantes book of honour and posed with Hispanists and Spanish teachers in the centre's garden for a family photo. Don Felipe then joined in and had a chat with the staff of the Cervantes Institute.

Spanish in Germany

There are 6.2 million potential users of Spanish in Germany, of whom some 400,000 (6%) are native Spanish speakers. Of these, three quarters (about 300,000) are immigrants, mainly from Spain, Mexico and Colombia (they account for only 2.5% of all immigrants in Germany) and are socially integrated.

The remaining 5.5 million users of Spanish have limited competence or study it, either in formal education or in other ways. These are data from the book "Demolinguistics of Spanish in Germany", which the Instituto Cervantes presented in February 2021, and whose full contents can be consulted in the Cervantes Virtual Centre.

The Cervantes Institute, which was established in Germany in the 1990s, has five centres: Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Bremen. More than 150,000 people have learned or improved their Spanish in its classrooms.

Spanish is the third foreign language in secondary education, with more than half a million pupils each year. Four out of five are in general education, the rest in vocational schools.

More activities in Frankfurt

The activities on German Hispanism will continue on Thursday and Friday at a conference at the Cervantes Institute in Frankfurt, bringing together teachers, writers and translators to discuss the situation and challenges of Hispanism.

The programme organised as part of the Book Fair also includes the debate 'Spanish and the economic power of language in the digital age', which will be held on Thursday by the Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, and Luis García Montero, and will be closed by the First Vice-President of the Spanish Government, Nadia Calviño.

Also taking place at the Cervantes (at 6 p.m.) is the colloquium "¡Hola Unicornio!", with Spanish illustrators Sonia Pulido, María Hesse and Núria Tamarit and Jakob Hoffmann, curator of the exhibition "Ilustrad/AS. A look at female creation in avant-garde illustration", which can be visited at the centre itself until 23 January. 

Submitted by José Antonio Sierra, Hispanismo advisor.