Wednesday's Higher Education section in the Australian reported on the recent summit calling for a national policy on languages other than English, held in Canberra last week. Some of the stats reveal just what a tragically insular mob we are. There's some good news but mostly it's bad news. Most alarming of all is the fact that the number of languages taught in universities has fallen from 66 to 29 over the last ten years. A couple of languages seem to be on the ascendancy - Chinese of course and, somewhat surprisingly in light of Australia's ethnic make-up, Spanish. Arabic learning is also on the rise which has to be a good thing. A few stats; enrolments in Chinese (Mandarin I guess) up 90%, Spanish up 80%, Arabic up 30%, Russian down 75%.
How interesting to compare the situation at University College London (UCL) where they're making it compulsory for every student to have a second language on entry to the appalling state of affairs in Australia where, from my experience, a basic understanding of English probably isn't even required. At least there's not much evidence of it in some of the CVs I have to plough through from time to time.