Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Donna Forde, speaking at the closing ceremony of the course Spanish as a Foreign Language for Public Officers, held at the Courtyard Marriot, recently. Looking on is course instructor, Villajas Jairo. (S.Pilé/BGIS)

Public officers have been encouraged to enhance their skills by learning another language.

Deputy Permanent Secretary (DPS) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Donna Forde, made this call during the closing ceremony of the course Spanish as a Foreign Language for Public Officers, held at the Courtyard Marriot, recently.

Approximately 50 government workers participated in the six-week programme, which was offered by the Learning and Development Directorate, formerly the Training Administration Division, under the Ministry of the Public Service. 

The course was held in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and the Government of Colombia.

DPS Forde reminded those gathered that one of the goals of Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley was to ensure Barbadians become bilingual.

“Certainly, for public officers, a second language is very important, not only for the people who work in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Increasingly, the work of public servants is becoming more global and as you have to interface with your counterparts from other agencies, it is good not to be insular and depend solely on the English language.  And, I know a lot of you like to travel, so you don’t have to restrict your travel and interests to only English speaking countries. You can now feel embolden to visit Colombia and other places,” Ms. Forde said, pointing out that learning another language “opens doors and the mind” to more opportunities and experiences.  

Ms. Forde urged the public officers to continue studying Spanish, and further encouraged them to learn additional languages.

“Barbados is doing business with China, so why not go and learn Mandarin. The Brazilian Embassy and the Embassy of Japan are here, so learn Portuguese or Japanese.  Many of us studied Spanish at school. There is something called a false beginner, you just have to tap it and it will come out.  Never stop learning, so listen to podcasts; watch movies; participate in cultural opportunities; visit the exhibitions at the Argentina Embassy and speak with Spanish visitors,” she advised.

Kim Lynch of the Land Registry Department and course participants chatting with instructor, Villajas Jairo. (S.Pilé/BGIS)

On behalf of the Learning and Development Directorate, Senior Training Officer, Sheldine Sehntwali, thanked the Government of Colombia and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for acknowledging the importance of a foreign language, especially now that this country is seeking to do more business with Latin America.

“We want to thank you the participants for your dedication and enthusiasm. The Directorate remains committed to equipping public officers with the skills needed to do your job, and to do it well,” she said.

Course instructor, Villajas Jairo, who is from Colombia, lauded the participants for being “open, warm, kind and respectful”. Describing the six weeks as a wonderful experience, he said: “Barbados and Colombia are so close. Learning Spanish gives you the chance to meet new people and friends. Thanks for sharing your culture with me; I will never forget my job here.”

In addition to learning Spanish, public servants were exposed to the Colombian culture and its coffee industry. They tasted treats from the South American country, such as natilla, a firm milk custard; patacones, twice fried green plantain; and bunuelos, a fried pastry made with cassava flour.

The students took the instructor to the Animal Flower Cave, Cherry Tree Hill, and the Foursquare Rum Distillery, and also treated him to Bajan snacks, such as tamarind balls and sugar cake.

Many of the public servants said they signed up for the course to sharpen their Spanish-speaking skills since they were required from time to time to communicate with professionals from Spanish-speaking countries. Others hoped to eventually take advantage of scholarship opportunities in Latin America.

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