Universities ‘forced to stop teaching languages’

In a time of international trade and travel, you’d think that language learning was on the increase.  It is proving to be the opposite at universities, with fewer and fewer students choosing to do pure language degrees.  Experts blame the 2004 withdrawal of mandatory languages at secondary schools, and the promised increase of language learning in primary schools has been slow to take effect.

From the full article at guardian.co.uk:

Applications to language degrees are drying up and those that are left are increasingly dominated by private school pupils, Steve Smith, who is also vice-chancellor of Exeter University, said.

Universities are dropping pure language degrees to do “language and culture” alternatives, with less time dedicated to developing fluency and mastering speaking skills. The government has commissioned a major review into languages in universities, which is due to report this month.

Smith told the Guardian: “I think there are two prongs to the problem. One is the sheer decline. The second is that language teaching is becoming increasingly an activity of the independent sector. Getting those balances right is quite difficult.

“I think the trend will be much more towards teaching modern languages in the context of the societies in which the languages are actually spoken. In other words, you might do Italian, but you might do it as part of a degree about its literature and culture. In the single honours languages, the declines at the moment are really quite significant.

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