Languages divide

January 1, 2015

I applaud the argument that a deeper understanding of foreign languages is essential in international negotiations, be they commercial, political or cultural (“The words are not enough”, News, 11 December).

Too much emphasis on the utilitarian values of language learning, treating languages simply as another employment skill, has been a key contributor to the decline of single-honours degrees in languages in UK universities.

Paradoxically, however, few career advisers encourage pupils to consider a degree in languages to enhance their job prospects. As a result, applications for language degree courses from state schools pupils in particular are decreasing, creating a serious social gap that can only damage the future of the nation in terms of global competitiveness and social cohesion.

Li Wei
Chair, University Council of General and Applied Linguistics

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