The Linguist

The Linguist 58,4 - Aug/Sept 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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Rebranding MFL: Paul Bishop's article 'Rebranding MFL' (TL58,2) is well written and provides a lucid analysis of the current state of language learning and of the market-driven constraints on higher education (HE) in a UK that is firmly in the grip of Brexit uncertainty. The situation regarding languages in HE (and presumably also in schools) has obviously undergone radical changes since the 1970s and 1980s. Mr Bishop rightly emphasises that "it is time to consider a different approach to MFL, one that recognises the economic realities of the HE sector and the economic needs of graduates when they enter the workforce. In short, I propose that MFL articulates clearly the three 'c's: commerce, culture and content." This approach, however, had already been embarked upon by the 1970s in the language departments of universities such as Bradford, Salford and Aston and in pioneering HE institutions, among them Liverpool Polytechnic (now John Moores University). The emphasis in both the undergraduate and postgraduate courses in these universities and colleges was firmly on the practical utilisation of languages: translation of technical, commercial and journalistic texts, consecutive and simultaneous interpreting, and the study of economics, politics and sociology as subsidiary subjects. At Bradford there was also the European Studies undergraduate course, which was practically 26 The Linguist Vol/58 No/4 2019 OPINION & COMMENT Email with your views English in Iran one year on Reza Shirmarz's article 'English denied' (TL57,4) was interesting; I learned from the rich and subtle points it highlighted. In the year since the article was published, things have changed and I have thought a lot about the government's 'ban' on English teaching as an extracurricular programme at primary level (the language is still a main subject at high-school). As the world expedites the pace towards globalisation, making crosscultural communication vital, many governments have introduced initiatives to support language learning at primary level. For Iranians, though, language learning is an elitist commodity, serviced by the private sector through expensive primary schools and language institutes. The decision to ban primary schools from teaching English during or after school hours was based on the judgement that pupils need to improve their mother-tongue skills first and concentrate on Persian literature and culture. Adherents of the rule argue that early language learning is mainly encouraged by those who benefit hugely from this pricey industry. Critics of the ban believe that starting a language at secondary school is too late, and that second language acquisition at an early age does not harm mother-tongue skills. As recently as 2015, President Hassan Rouhani himself said: "If youngsters cannot learn English at schools, they will learn it at private institutes. They know that second language is essential for today's life. They know it. We cannot force them to stay monolingual. We cannot tell them if you go abroad and you cannot communicate, it is their problem that they do not know Farsi. We should bear in mind that some languages are the language of science without which we cannot find a way to the world of science." There were reports that English could be replaced by Russian in an attempt to end the English-language monopoly in Iranian national education, with some newspapers claiming that preliminary talks with the Russian Science and Education Ministry were underway. The Trump administration's Muslim ban, which bars Iranians from travelling to the US, might also negatively affect Iranians' desire to learn English. Iranian scholars are finding it more and more difficult to participate in international scientific and cultural events. The private sector continues to provide English language programmes. The question is, with Iran's English teaching ban, and a hostile international climate, will Iranian families remain enthusiastic enough to invest time and money in learning English? Raheleh Ghiasvand Ghazvini FCIL IMAGES © SHUTTERSTOCK

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