Respect minority languages

May 14, 1999

It was with great sadness and dismay that I read Christie Davies's Soapbox article ("Why I believe the Welsh Assembly should not compel students to be taught in Welsh", THES, April 30).

One of the main points of contention in the Welsh Assembly debate is whether or not Welsh educational institutes should offer the choice of being educated in English or Welsh. Davies seems to think that all students should be made to learn in English.

Davies tells us that when the Welsh "switched to English they entered the mainstream of European science and culture". This is untrue. At the turn of the century, most mathematics textbooks were written in German or French. Up to the late 1940s, books such as Edouard Goursat's Cours d'Analyse Mathematique were considered the main undergraduate textbooks.

Davies cites Sweden and the Netherlands as places where English is preferred in teaching certain courses. But he ignores Eastern Europe, where most articles and textbooks are written in Russian, and Germany and France, where texts and journals are written in their respective languages. English is not the mainstream of European science, it is one of many parts of it.

It seems to be Davies's opinion that all university education should be given in English and that all other languages should be left for the uneducated masses. It seems poignant that such an article should appear when war rages in Kosovo and bombs explode in London due to this same type of intolerance.

Students from any country and language should have the choice of being educated in any language they want.

Matthew Jones Mathematics department University College London

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