As a 17-year-old boy, having just finished secondary school I went on a one-year adventure living and going to school in Argentina as an exchange student. Ever since that time I have enjoyed interacting with Spanish speakers and practising using the Spanish that I learned in that year. As I began my professional life, I had the opportunity to mediate on the odd occasion in Spanish, with Spanish-speaking parties. Once I was appointed as Director of training for CEDR and began to teach on the mediator skills training course I always had a desire to deliver our training in Spanish.

CEDR has built up a worldwide reputation for its high-quality mediation skills training course but it has always been delivered in English. The times when we delivered our course in non-English speaking countries it was either delivered in English or through the use of spontaneous interpretation. In the last year my dream has been realised in Barcelona, Spain. In cooperation with the Catalunya Notaries Association (Col·legi de Notaris de Catalunya), CEDR delivered a two module mediation skills training course for 18 participants directly in Spanish, and it exceeded all my expectations.

Firstly, the quality of participants was very high. They took the course very seriously and prepared well and forming study groups to work on various skills to improve the performance. They all had a hunger to learn and a desire to use the process and skills which we worked on. From a trainer’s perspective this made the course an absolute delight to teach. This high level of engagement resulted in the CEDR accreditation of those who attended the second assessment module!

Secondly, the course integrated well into the longer 100 hour course as required under Spanish law. The CEDR modules enhanced and reinforced the learning from previous modules. While some social and cultural differences did exist between mediation practice in United Kingdom and how it might be practised in Spain, these differences only served to enhance the learning because they were used as key discussion points and facilitated the groups learning how to deal with an issue in a Spanish context.

Thirdly, it was just fun, with CEDR’s in-house Spanish-speaking Venezuelan, German and New Zealand trainers working with Catalonian participants, in an amazing venue in the Collegio de Notarios. The dynamic was infectious and the time on the course just flew by.

Finally, delivering this course in Spanish as my second language gave me a new-found respect for my colleagues both as mediators and trainers who work in English as a second language all the time. While I enjoyed immensely delivering the course, operating in second language the whole time was exhausting, and I take my hat off to my colleagues and friends who do it on a daily basis. I also want to thank the participants for their patience and kindness in putting up with my less than perfect Spanish and brain freezes from time to time.

With my dreams realised and the course in Barcelona having been such a success, I now eagerly awaiting the next course to take place later in 2016.

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By James South

James South is CEDR’s Director of Global Training and Consultancy and has been mediating public and private sector disputes for 17 years. As one of the world’s most experienced dispute resolution trainers and consultants James is responsible for the development of CEDR’s leading courses in Mediation, Negotiation and Conflict Management for legal and business organisations, the public sector, universities and professional bodies.