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Tongue tied (not)

Question: Do civil engineering graduates need a second language? (NCE 25 June)

Answer 1 (long answer):

Peter Guthrie stated that 'awareness of a second language' helped to 'show professional roundedness'. During recent discussions with young professional contemporaries in healthcare, finance and law, I have taken great pleasure in pointing out their lack of 'roundedness'. In response they have taken great pleasure in pointing out how useful a conversational knowledge of German would be when carrying out a short contract in Russia or Leeds (or numerous similar examples).

As a result of this short research programme, I would recommend the following:

ET&M and its chairman Peter Guthrie secure an 'awareness' of the real world as a priority.

A second language is only necessary when a working environment or individual ambition dictates.

Answer 2 (short answer):

No. You can order a beer from the bar on your next foreign holiday in any language and always be successful.

Giles M Carter, (M),

2 Hillgreen Court, Tong, Bradford BD4 0SD.

Live and learn

They all speak English . . . don't they? was one of the many reasons put forward by myself and fellow maths, physics and chemistry A-level classmates over 30 years ago for choosing not to perform well in foreign language studies. We budding scientists and engineers tortured successive teachers of French, German, Greek and Latin before leaving it to those funny arts students to master foreign tongues. At a time when the world was very large, very pink and travel was very expensive, we all thought 'why bother - I'll never have to speak it'. A few more years pass. You find even more reasons to put off learning a foreign language and then when you have to learn one it is much more difficult to pick up these skills.

I was astonished to read in NCE last week that despite competition and co-operation in a global construction market and freedom of employment for workers anywhere within the EU, today's engineering students and graduates have not moved all that far from our way of thinking when there were 240 pence in a pound, 12 inches to the foot and the British had absolutely nothing to do with Europe or Johnny Foreigner. How times change, but attitudes do not.

Imagine for a moment. You are at a crucial meeting with fellow engineers from other countries, who will all speak English to some extent. They will be only too delighted to conduct the formal meeting in English while you are handicapped by only understanding English. How will you relate with them personally and get your professional ideas across? A career is about opportunities. Make the most of every opportunity including early foreign language training, SARTOR requirement or not.

Raymond Peat (M), Village Farmhouse, Alford, Aberdeenshire AB33 8QB.

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