In an effort to make Spanish the second language used for international communication, the Instituto Cervantes had designed a new Spanish language competency exam that is similar to how the exams for TOEFL and IELTS are given. The exams will be computer-based and results will be released faster.
It was launched in Mexico a week ago together with Universidad de Salamanca (USAL), the oldest Spanish-speaking university and Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the largest Spanish-speaking university in the world. King Felipe VI of Spain attended the launch.
The new exam design is called SIELE or Servicio Internacional de Evaluación de la Lengua Española. Exam-takers will be graded on oral fluency, writing, reading and listening on a scale of 1,000. Other variants of Spanish used in Latin America and across Europe will be incorporated in it.
SIELE will be implemented at the start of the new academic year in 2016 around the globe and will target the markets in China, the U.S. and Brazil during its first three years. Based on the latest annual report released by Instituto Cervantes in “El Español: una lengua viva,” the three countries mentioned have over 15 million learners of the Spanish language.
For a very long time, Spanish competency exams has been led by the DELE or Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera, which is a diploma accreditation given by Instituto Cervantes and Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport.
The institute said that SIELE would be a complement to DELE. The latter only gives fail or pass scores on its hand-written exams testing a learner’s specific Spanish level. Students have to wait for three months to get the results although the certificates for DELE have indefinite validity.
With SIELE, Spanish language learners can take the given computer-based exam any time of the year after making appointments at any of the official centers located around the world. USAL, UNAM and Instituto Cervantes will certify the results that could be released in three weeks’ time. The certificate for SIELE carries a two-year validity.
Nearly 62,000 students took the DELE exam during the academic year in 2013-2014. The aim of Instituto Cervantes is to have 300,000 exam takers for SIELE annually reach the 750,000 goal they have set for 2021.
According to Director Víctor García de la Concha from Instituto Cervantes, the SIELE is not a fluency test but more of a means of promoting the Spanish language to more people, adding that they are expecting all the region’s ministries of education and 900 universities in Latin America to participate in the program. With the current number of native speakers reaching 470 million according to the data gathered by Instituto Cervantes, they are projecting the figure to reach 559 million worldwide after adding learners and second-language speakers.