Ever since the Cuban revolution in 1959, Cuba has always punched above its weight internationally, as broadcaster Isora O’Farrill and teacher Lisette Rubio explain.
They teach English at Varona University in Havana, Cuba’s capital, Lisette as Head of the Language Centre and Isora as a writer and educational broadcaster on the channel, ‘University for All’.
They were in London at the University of Westminster to attend seminars in language testing and assessment, part of an MA scholarship programme run by the university to train Cuban teachers.
Learning languages has always been an important part of Cuba’s internationalism and especially the teaching and learning of English. A welcoming nation, Cuba has encouraged visitors from all over the world to visit and study and also spread the word by sending teachers and medical personnel to developing countries to support local education and welfare.
But which English? As a Latin American island, a mere 329 miles off the coast of Key West in Florida, do they prefer British or US English? “Ah,” says, Isora firmly, “we teach Cuban English,” a mixture of both.
And what about Cuba’s own development and its relationship with its powerful neighbour, the United States? Things go up and down, say Lisette and Isora. Right now, tensions are quite strong, but they look forward to improvements, more freedom to welcome visitors from America and more opportunity to spread their principles of international development and cooperation.
“When we teach language, we are teaching culture, welcoming people into Cuban culture and visiting and learning about other cultures. That’s why English is important in Cuba,” says Lisette.