The coming influx of US tourists and business ties probably won’t change Cuba as much as most Americans think it will, but the restoration of official ties between the two countries already seems to be having a big effect on at least one aspect Cuban life: education, and specifically the teaching of English language skills.
English was taken out of the Cuban curriculum in the 1970s, when it was replaced with Russian. Though it returned after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, interest in learning English, as AFP recently noted, has risen sharply in the past few months. And so has the government’s interest in helping Cubans become proficient in it.
Last weekend, José Ramón Machado Ventura, the Cuban revolutionary and high-ranking Communist party leader, reportedly urged university students to master the English language, as part of their efforts to become well-rounded professionals after graduation.
“We have to speak English well. If you can speak two or three languages, so much the better, but English is essential,” he told the National Council of the University Student Federation in an Aug. 29 speech in Havana.
Meanwhile, the Communist party newspaper Granma, in a Sept. 1 report on the start of Cuba’s new school year, noted that “the teaching of Cuban History, Spanish and English will again be priorities, all essential to the comprehensive development of students.”