Unjustifiable demands

March 19, 1999

Let me add my voice to Roger Ballard's (THES, Letters, March 12). The spending authority under which my department is placed has asked us to "justify the existence" of the teaching of Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Leaving aside the vast size of the Pacific Rim economies and their impact on the economies and politics of Europe, the fact that the Chinese culture is the oldest continuous one on the planet, and that there are more books in Chinese than any other tongue, the Chinese language is spoken by almost a quarter of the world's population. Shouldn't that be "justification" enough?

More than ten years ago, the Parker report made the point that "a capacity in Oriental languages is a mark of maturity of a university", yet how many institutions give serious support to the teaching of these languages? And why on earth should we continually have to justify our existence?

In the end, is there any real difference between Eurocentrism and racism?

Brian Holton

Degree programme director Chinese-English, English-Chinese translation and interpreting University of Newcastle

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