Languages are unsung

July 11, 1997

John Reilly, (THES, July 4), draws our attention to the decline in United Kingdom Erasmus student mobility in the past two years.

May I suggest that UK students' low rate of participation may be attributed in part to employers, including the higher education sector, paying little more than lip service to the value of language skills and overseas experience. I have recently applied for a number of posts in international student recruitment, for which ability in European and non-European languages, and overseas experience, would seem to be essential prerequisites. Yet specifications invariably list language skills as "desirable", rather than "essential".

Interviewers are keen to probe candidates' information technology, organisational, interpersonal and other skills. Language skills are never the focus of attention. Until employers pay more than lip service to language skills and overseas experience, students are well-advised to concentrate on successfully completing their academic or vocational studies in Britain.

Christopher Madeley

Graduate student School of Oriental and African Studies

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