Time to talk languages

12th January 2001 at 00:00
SCANNING through your report "Languages escape the strait-jacket" (TES, December 15), I thought I saw a reference to the effect that possession of a degree in modern languages is now the most prized, most sought-after, asset by business-employers.

Surprised, I blinked, looked again, but could find no trace of it, which appeared to confirm what I had suspected all along - pure fantasy.

Research into use of foreign languages in business, conducted as recently as May, 2000, by the Institute of Managers, paints an altogether different picture. Although 1,500 managers were initially contacted, only 264 bothered to respond, a mere 18 per cent, which was to bode ill for the rest of the survey. Despite 70 per cent of UK businesses now having trading linksabroad, almost 90 per cent of management apparently still is of the view that: "English will do."

But there is a clear contradiction here between what these people say they believe, and what they actually do about it. On the one hand, they are perfectly willing to accept all the research findings which demonstrate unequivocally that an obstinately perpetuated culture of monolingualism seriously impacts on trade deals, and, just as seriously, on business relations.

On the other, they are not prepared to invest profits to do what is needed to provide really rigorous, on-going languages training for their staff, which would enable them to do something about it.

How can you have it both ways?

Brian D York 24 Ardwall Road Dumfries

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