Plenty of reasons to bear with Russian

27th October 1995 at 00:00
Tom Dickins (TES, October 13) rightly concludes that there are strong reasons for according Russian a higher status in schools.

Ours is one of those where Russian thrives. If both demand and support for the subject here remain high, it is at least partly because we challenge the persistent myths which sometimes undermine its status. These include a view of Russian as a "minority" language when it could soon be lingua franca of the largest new trading block on earth; the mistaken belief that children find it difficult; and a fear that materials and teachers may be hard to find, when both are readily available.

A survey earlier this year by the Association for Language Learning established that schools value Russian for its accessibility to a wide ability range, for its growing importance as a European language, for the insights it offers into a culture very different from our own, and for the mental discipline it provides.

While Russia currently rates Britain as its third largest trading partner, it is being reported that more than half of all meetings between English and Russian businessmen end in chaos because neither side can understand what the other is saying. Sadly, there is little prospect that this lamentable situation will change. The repercussions of recent legislation on the second foreign language and on teacher training partnerships continue to favour traditionally-taught languages to the detriment of others, which may yet prove more strategically important.

DAVID ASH Head of Russian Bolton School Bolton.

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