TALKBACK

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The Independent Online
From Dr John Russell

Madam: Lesley Gerard's article ("Job fears prompt fall in language student numbers", 20 March) correctly identifies one of the key reasons for the decline in popularity of modern language courses and reflects the views of many teachers, parents and prospective students. However, in my experience these fears would appear to be groundless. Of the 516 students who have graduated from this department in the past six years, 452 (87.6 per cent) either found employment or enrolled on a course of further study within six months of graduating.

Careers advisers, employers and graduates all place a high premium on skills typically offered by the language graduate, such as good oral and written presentation, the ability to articulate and to work under pressure and an enhanced cross-cultural awareness. Moreover, the rise of English as the international language for commercial, cultural and diplomatic exchange increases the demand for skilled linguists with English as the mother tongue.

The problem lies in the low esteem in which linguistic ability is held in this country. One is forever being reminded of how lucky one is to be "good at languages". I am reminded of the irritated response of the South African golfer Gary Player, who on being told that there was an element of luck about his putting, agreed: "Yes, the more I practise, the luckier I get!"

JOHN RUSSELL

Admissions Tutor

Department of Modern Languages

University of Bradford

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