Language barriers

January 14, 2005

Malcolm Cook was on target on the need to speak out against cuts in modern languages ("Features, December 24/31), but there are further points to be made.

First, in our research assessment exercise-driven culture it is astonishing that so much teaching is done by academics who, while fluent in their language, do not focus on teaching modules closely related to their research areas.

Second, most modern language lecturers operate in tiny departments within umbrella schools but have an administrative load not dissimilar to that of larger departments.

Third, there remains in UK universities a tendency to ignore research and teaching dealing with pre-modern aspects of disciplines. Imagine how we would consider the holder of an English degree from a continental university who had little exposure to pre-20th-century English literature and culture. Now imagine how the UK's modern-language graduates would be viewed abroad.

George Ferzoco
Director, Centre for Tuscan Studies
Leicester University

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