Speaking our language

September 23, 2010

I write in response to David Head's letter (9 September) regarding cuts in the modern languages department at Swansea University. As the education officer at Swansea Students' Union, I will be on the front line arguing against these cuts, but turning on the Welsh language, as Head does, is unhelpful and misses the point.

I don't want to see Welsh as the only language taught at Swansea. However, if we are to learn one thing from the study of European modern languages, it is that bilingualism in Wales is something to be strived for.

Much of Europe lives happily in a bilingual environment. Bilingualism has cognitive benefits. Seeing life through two languages also has cultural benefits that are particularly helpful at this university: many international students study here, and being bilingual can help us empathise with the challenges they face at university in Wales.

Welsh is a living language, and everyone in Wales has a right to speak it and hear it in their everyday lives. I can assure Head that the teaching of our language is far from tokenism.

However, as we seek to build a truly bilingual nation in Wales, we must treat other languages as we want to see ours treated, equally and with respect.

Cutting the languages department is contrary to our values of bilingualism and cultural understanding at Swansea. Those of us who want to see languages continue to have a place at Swansea must make a positive case for them instead of attacking some languages at the expense of others, as Head lowers himself to.

This is a time for those in the academy to stand in unity against cuts and certainly not to squabble over where the axe should fall.

Luke James, Education officer/Swyddog Addysg, Swansea University Students Union/Undeb Myfyrwyr Prifysgol Abertawe.

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