Practical acquisition 2

May 20, 2010

Perhaps somebody should tell Andrew Adams that the best way to learn a language is to be forced to use it ("Lost without translation", 29 April). Perhaps somebody should also tell him that in the "global job market" he is so eager to invoke, millions of foreign workers - some with little formal education - find themselves having to learn the language of their new country of work. Most do so with remarkable success: why should academics, of all people, be spared the intellectual effort?

When I was a schoolteacher, I saw dozens of Swiss teenagers spend a high-school year in Japan. Embarking with no Japanese, almost all came back speaking the language fluently. But then I suppose they spent their time learning it instead of whingeing.

Peter Butler, University of Applied Sciences, Northwestern Switzerland.

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