Cuba goes all in on English, amid closer US ties
HAVANA - Agence France-Presse
This September 1, 2014 file photo shows a class at Baragua school in Havana, on the first day of school in Cuba. AFP PhotoNow that Cuba has restored diplomatic ties with the United States, teaching English in schools will be a priority, the communist party newspaper Granma reported on Aug. 31.
In the 1970s, the study of English in Cuban schools was supplanted by Russian, after the Soviet Union emerged as the communist island's main benefactor following Fidel Castro's ascent to power in 1959.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, English returned to the Cuba's academic curriculum. And since Havana and Washington restored ties in July, interest in English has skyrocketed.
"The language is essential because every day we are going to have more contact" with the United States and other countries, the communist party's number two official, Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, told university students over the weekend.
In 2008, two years after yielding power to his brother Raul, Fidel Castro acknowledged the importance of speaking English.
"The Russians studied English. Everyone studied English, except for us. We studied Russian," Castro said.