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Caffe con latte, per favore

Adult education courses for people to brush up their conversational language skills should be taken more seriously in the education world, according to an academic from Glasgow University.

Alison Phipps, director of graduate development for arts, humanities and education, has published a book challenging fellow academics who claim language courses that teach basic phrases for tourism purposes are a threat to more traditional types, such as Highers and A-levels.

In Learning the Arts of Linguistic Survival, Dr Phipps says: "Learners not only gain a deeper understanding of the host, or foreign culture, but their understanding of their home environment also undergoes a change. It is time for learning to order a cup of coffee in a foreign language to be taken more seriously."

The number of people taking language courses for tourism purposes has risen, while the number of pupils taking traditional qualifications in modern languages has declined. However, Dr Phipps thinks adult education courses should not be viewed in a negative light. "Languages are fully embodied, not detached skills which are 'acquirable' in easily measurable ways," she says. "Learning the conversational language skills required to order a cup of coffee is not only useful when travelling abroad but tourist languages are a major medium of intercultural relations."

Learning the Arts of Linguistic Survival, by Alison Phipps. pound;49.95 hardback, pound;19.95 paperback, Channel View Publications

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