Spanish teacher and translator Salvador Ortiz-Carboneres is to retire from the University of Warwick at the end of the 2008 summer term. And to recognise his outstanding achievements and contribution to the University, he has been awarded a Warwick Award for Teaching Excellence in a new, special category of “Lifetime Achievement”, the first of its kind to be awarded by the University.
Ortiz-Carboneres is a pioneering teacher of the Spanish language, a translator of seminally important Hispanic works of literature and poetry, and is a committed humanitarian. During his 34 years at the University, he has never taken a sabbatical, or cancelled a single lesson.
“The University has always honoured me,” says Ortiz-Carboneres. “I was always proud to work here because the University is so well known. After 34 years, this award is amazing. It means everything to me. It is the best leaving present I can get.”
Professor Karen O’Brien, Chair of the University Board of Undergraduate Studies, was on the WATE committee. She says: “We felt it appropriate to introduce an award for people who are approaching retirement, who have made an outstanding lifelong contribution to teaching at the University.
“Salvador Ortiz-Carboneres has made an enormous contribution to the educational life of the University over many years. His method of teaching is pioneering, innovative, and highly reflective. He has had an enormous impact, not only in Warwick, but in the wider world with his teaching, his textbooks and his work with the media.
“He is an ambassador for the best and most innovative teaching approach that Warwick has to offer,” she adds.
Ortiz-Carboneres describes his teaching method as a ‘technique for dispersing the blankness in the student’s minds'. As he explains: “The blankness really means reflection, to think. Sometimes the students are confused at that age. There are many lagoons in their minds, spaces I try to fill with clarity.”
“It works for me as well as the students,” he adds. “If I’m not clear in my mind what I’m teaching, I will create confusion. Learning is based on trust, and the students must trust that I can teach them well.”
Ortiz-Carboneres was clearly a favourite amongst the students. Manus Conahan of the Centre for Student Development and Enterprise was involved in organising the award. He says: “Salvador Ortiz-Carboneres’ nomination stood out due to the sheer numbers of students who nominated him. We’ve never seen anything like it before. They really appreciate his commitment and enthusiasm. He has a real ability to touch people.”
Ortiz-Carboneres has also brought his unique style of teaching around the world, including India and the Philippines. Services for which he expected no payment.
“One of the things about my teaching is that I wanted to make it available to many people,” he says. “Teaching in India and the Philippines was especially good. They invited me to teach, but their budget was very small, they could only offer expenses and accommodation. But when I got there, the people invited me into their homes for meals and I really got to know the culture, so I benefited from my charity.”
During his working life at the University, Ortiz-Carboneres also produced language courses for the BBC – España Viva and Paso Doble (as academic advisor) – and has worked with The Times Educational Supplement and Royal Shakespeare Company.
“There are two things in England that I have always admired, the BBC and The Times Newspaper,” says Ortiz-Carboneres. “I was interviewed by the BBC on Women’s Hour to talk about the new Collins Dictionary. It was lovely, really fantastic. After that, I was asked to record a pilot programme of intensive teaching, ‘España Viva’. It was very popular. Even Princess Diana had heard of it.”
“Thanks to the BBC, I was then asked to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company, to check their translation of their production of 'Don Juan', and gave a lecture, ‘Don Juan and His Historical Background’, in February 1990. I advised them on certain points in the play, it was a real honour. I refused payment, but I gained many friends. And free tickets for RSC performances. But I often gave them to my students when I couldn’t attend.”
Ortiz-Carboneres is considered one of the most important translators of Hispanic texts, having translated works by Nicholas Guillén and Juan Ramón Jiménez.
“What started me translating was the fact that I wanted to read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s ‘The Idiot’,” he says. “But this was only available in Russian. I went on a Russian course, and after a while I asked how long it would be before I could read the book. I was told it would be at least four years! But thanks to other people who translated the book into English, I could enjoy it.”
It is perhaps through his choice of translations that Ortiz-Carboneres can express his humanitarian beliefs. “I translate the things I believe in,” he says. “And I want to make it available to everyone. If the writer inspires me in their ideas, then I will translate them.”
“My translation is always trying to work against intolerance. The tide of intolerance is very strong, but my belief is stronger. Monstrosities such as slavery, for example, I feel we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”