The Linguist

The Linguist 58,2-June/July 2019

The Linguist is a languages magazine for professional linguists, translators, interpreters, language professionals, language teachers, trainers, students and academics with articles on translation, interpreting, business, government, technology

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20 The Linguist Vol/58 No/2 2019 FEATURES In this piece, Alex Preston argues that "higher education is stuffed with overpaid administrators squeezing every ounce of efficiency out of lecturers and focusing on the 'profitable' areas of science, technology, engineering and maths," and poses the dramatic question: "Are the humanities at risk of being wiped out?" Languages, in particular, are under fire. At the time of writing, modern languages and philosophy at the University of Hull are facing possible closure. More generally, languages have been getting a bad press. In The Sunday Telegraph, Daniel Hannan argued that by rejecting modern languages "young people are making a perfectly rational choice". 3 And Simon Jenkins, writing in The Guardian, agreed: "[Pupils] take subjects they find relevant to their future lives. European languages are not that." 4 Yet his point was rather more nuanced: "Germany is Europe's most important country of our day. Teach its history, revel in its culture, analyse the strength of its economy. Visit its cities and countryside – and see how much better they are planned and protected than ours. In comparison, learning Germany's language is not that important." In other words, there's more to German than learning der, die, das. My point is that modern languages, as a brand, is in trouble. No business could expect to survive headlines like that. While universities are, indeed, run as businesses, the academics within them are still sometimes reluctant to accept this and to work within this new framework. The 'market value' of languages The 'market value' of languages is something which should concern us greatly as professional linguists. Figures released in 2017 by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that "language graduates are now the least employable in Britain," 5 with the employment rate falling from 87% in 2013 to 84%. The average annual salary for language graduates had fallen by more than £5,000 in four years, from £30,420 in 2013 to £25,012. The question of how much linguists earn matters not just to the graduates themselves but also for recruitment to the subject. The picture can sometimes seem confusing, it's true. Data published in 2018 by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showed language graduates from England in the top 10 for average earnings five years after graduation: £32,303 for men and £28,733 for women. 6 That gender gap deserves discussion too, of course. Interestingly, the gap is much smaller for graduates from top- earning subjects: £44,923 for male and £42,315 for female medicine graduates. The picture is similar in Scotland according to Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data. 7 For language graduates at the University of Glasgow, which ranks well in comparison with other Scottish institutions, the median salary is £15,300 one year after Paul Bishop argues that commercialising and re-visioning university languages is both essential and unavoidable O ne of BBC Radio 4's most successful programmes is The Long View, a history series in which stories from the past are told in a way that sheds light on current events. Using this principle, let's consider a figure who, in 1869, was offered the best job in (ancient) languages going at the time; whose teaching duties included lectures at university and grammar school; who got excellent student feedback; and who, in a notable act of public engagement, presented a series of lectures at a local museum on the future of educational institutions. For this figure, the crucial question was this: how does Bildung (the neo-humanist ideal of self-development) relate to scholarship (Wissenschaft) and research (Forschung)? Or, to put it another way, what was the point of learning (ancient) languages? The figure in question is, of course, Friedrich Nietzsche. The historical context in which Nietzsche was operating was one of immense change in higher education (HE) in Germany. Between 1841 and 1881, enrolment in philology (ancient languages), philosophy and history declined from 86% of all university courses to 63%. In the same period, enrolment in mathematics and the natural sciences (what we now call STEM subjects) increased from 14% to 37%. The picture was similar within Nietzsche's homeland of Prussia. 1 Fast forward a century and a half, and one comes across headlines such as 'The War Against Humanities at Britain's Universities'. 2 Rebranding MFL

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