President learned language during course at Spain campus


PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has spent three weeks learning Spanish with regular students at a university in northern Spain, it was confirmed yesterday.

The President mingled with youngsters from Poland, Japan and Austria during the course at the Menéndez Pelayo International University at its campus in the city of Santander.

He and his wife, Sabrina Coyne, both enrolled on a course on Spanish language and culture, the institution said.

Mr Higgins wanted to improve his language skills ahead of a trip to South America in October.

His course finished on Friday, and the university yesterday released a statement describing his stay in Santander and a photograph of the president with other students on campus.

Lourdes Diaz, deputy director of languages, said: “During the first two weeks he had five hours of classes per day, practising with seven other students.

“In the last week he followed a plan designed specifically for him, as a politician with a need to understand legal and financial terms.

“He is now capable of speaking fluently and spontaneously, and he can read and understand complex literary texts.”

The couple paid for their course themselves and took the opportunity to visit the medieval towns of Potes and San Vicente de la Barquera.The president also met Syrian students.

While in Spain the President became an internet sensation when a two-year-old video of him talking about the Tea Party went global. More than a million people watched a clip on YouTube of the president debating with a conservative US talk show host.