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Demand for Spanish speakers growing

First Posted 17:17:00 11/19/2008

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MANILA, Philippines?There is a growing demand for bilingual Spanish and English speakers from call center and business process outsourcing (BPO) sectors in the country, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines said Wednesday.

At the trade fair of the Joint Foreign Chambers, Emmanuel Gamboa, executive director of the Spanish chamber here, said companies like Intra Soluciones and accenture "have too many Spanish clients they do not know what to do with."

The Instituto De Cervantes, the Spanish cultural center in Manila, is constantly being requested to provide translators not just for call center jobs, but for translation of transcript of records, and medical and legal documents, said institute director Jose Rodriguez.

"Almost every day...we receive a request in writing for professionals (in the medical, engineering, and information technology sectors) who are bilingual (in Spanish and English)," he said.

Rodriguez said the demand is persistent enough to prompt the institute to create a special syllabus for the call centers and BPOs.

He said the demand has been growing, proof from the institute's end is that around 7,000 students are enrolled in its Spanish language classes for school year, 2007-2008.

Aside from Spain, Rodriguez pointed out that the US is also a market for Spanish-speaking call center agents.

Right now, he said, there are 45 million to 50 million Spanish speakers in the US, more than the 40 million population of Spain. He said it is foreseen that the US would be bilingual by 2015.

"The reality is there is a big market for Spanish speakers," he said.

Rodriguez said Portuguese-speaking Brazil has also shifted to Spanish, requiring 200,000 Spanish teachers.

"Brazil is another dimension altogether," he said.

"So learn Spanish or be left out," he added.

Jose Primo Santos, commercial and economic analyst at the Spanish embassy, said call centers and BPOs are likely to experience a boost with the global financial crisis as companies try to reduce overall cost without sacrificing efficiency.

Santos and Gamboa said that aside from call center agents, "talented" Filipino accountants, engineers, and other professionals will have a better chance at finding jobs in BPOs and consulting companies serving Spanish-speaking clients.

Recently, Gamboa said the Spanish Banco Santander acquired three banks from the US and the United Kingdom. This, he said, would require people who are fluent in both English and Spanish.

"The infrastructure (of the acquired banks) are in English and would need translation into the Spanish platform...Between the Philippines and India, which have created the infrastructure for call centers and BPOs, who do you think would (Banco Santander) prefer?" Gamboa said.

Gamboa pointed out the close cultural and historical links between the Philippines and Spain, and the many Spanish words in the Filipino language, "especially in Zamboanga where Chabacano is spoken."

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