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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 31, Number 23. September 17, 1968

— abroader view

— abroader view

"Students should bear in mind that for serious siudy in any academic discipline a reading knowledge of at least one foreign language is a sine qua non: and that in most graduate programmes, proficiency in foreign languages is not only useful but mandalory. Student are strongly advised, therefore, to continue the study of foreign languages at the university."(1)

My interest in this question should be defined: 1 am taking Italian Reading Knowledge this year in order to satisfy the Arts Degree requirement. I took no language at school beyond Form II.

As to the proposal to abolish the language requirement: this question has come up often while I've been at university. But the debate. such as it was, passed me by until I read Logan's Salient editorial on 16 July. That 1 thought the editorial, regardless of the viewpoint expressed, was vacuous, illconsidered, and thoroughly bad journalism, is immaterial here; save insofar as it was primarily this consideration which led me to reply to Logan's effort in my Salient letter, which appeared a fortnight later.

The purpose of this submission is to try to explain what is involved in a proposal to abolish the language requirements. In the first place, I wish to iterate a point suggested in part in my Salient letter. The fact that the requirement is difficult to satisfy is only a valid argument against its retention if it can be demonstrated:

(i) That an impossibly high standard is set in reading knowledge courses; and/or

(ii) That some students have an 'aptitude' for languages and therefore have an advantage over students without this special facility.

(i) Is the standard impossibly high?

The following are the pass rates for reading knowledge students in the 1967 examinations:

French: 77%passed.

Italian: 89% passed.

Russian:90% passed.

German: 60% passed.

Latin: 77% passed.

Maori: 80% passed.

Greek: No candidates.

While the Committee may feel that the obvious discrepancies between pass rates may need reviewing—a difference of 29% between German and Italian seems odd for example —the over-all standards are clearly not very high: at least in terms of the number of students who pass finals.

(ii) Is there such a thing as an 'aptitude' for languages? I'm not sure one way or another about this—maybe nobody knows. But I think it's very likely that what many of us call 'aptitudes' might better be termed 'predilections', or simply, 'likings'. How many of us have been put off Latin, say, because of the grammar? Or, in the case of any language, because of unimaginative leaching? Inadequate teaching methods might well be the source of the development of the 'aptitudes' and 'ineptitudes' that we hear so much about. I know that a dreary science teacher did much to drive me from pursuing science studies lo an advanced level A great deal of the difficulty students face in tackling the language requirement would probably be solved by improved teaching in schools.