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“To encourage all students to take up a language - TO ENHANCE their career prospects and personal development.” That is how subject leader Robert Hooworth-Smith describes the aim of language teaching at the university.


As resources at ULH expand, so does the number of students who are recognising the importance of having a second language under their belt before they enter the extremely competitive world of work.


Forming part of the Department of Business Studies and Modern Languages, there are currently over 500 students who are taking Spanish, French, German or English as a Foreign Language as a compulsory part of their degree programme.


“It is vital that students realise that the job market has changed a great deal in favour of  graduates with good foreign language skills,” says Robert, who is a Spanish lecturer. “The old adage, ‘Everyone speaks English, so why bother? no longer applies.


“Graduates are now being faced with the situation of being equally qualified for a job but losing out to another applicant - maybe someone from France or Sweden - simply because that person speaks a second language.”


All students on the Modern Languages major, European Business, European Marketing and European and International Tourism spend at least a semester abroad on work placements and study exchanges or as English assistants.


Robert says the experience of living in another culture and facing everyday problems in that context has a tremendous effect on the students’ disposition when they return.


“We see a real change in most of the students after their placements - the experience has long-lasting benefits, and not just for their CVs,” he added.


The increased mobility of students who are looking for jobs outside the UK has made the ability to demonstrate ambition and a willingness to work in new surroundings very important to potential employers, particularly in large businesses.


Many already have A-levels or equivalent qualifications in languages, but Robert says the perception that the chance to learn a language from scratch is left behind at school or college is a myth.


ULH is opening up opportunities for all students to gain an extra and vital skill regardless of their course.


Students on many programmes can now take an additional unit in the languages available at beginner, intermediate or advanced level depending on their previous knowledge. Eighty students, equally divided between Hull and Lincoln, have taken this option.


Under the scheme, students at different stages of their degrees mix together. Access will be expanded by September 2000 to make it possible for all students to gain a language unit.


“It’s never too late to learn a language,” said Robert.


At the Hull campus language learning is based in Cumberbirch Hall and revolves around the use of language laboratories AND an open access learning resource centre located in Newington.


Resources include CD-ROM,  live satellite television, video monitors and a wide variety of magazines, books and video and audio tapes for students’ use.


A language laboratory is situated in the Media Production and Learning Resource Centre at the Lincoln campus where students have access to the same range of books and equipment as their Hull counterparts.


“Language learning is an ongoing process and we put a great deal of emphasis on students working in their own time,” said Robert.


There is a large contingency of international students on degree programmes at both campuses and the language department makes the fullest use of their presence, pairing them up with home students as part of the conversation exchange set up in 1995.


This is a way for students to learn from each other in both formal and informal setting to improve their own language skills.


“In the future all ULH students will be able to make the most of their own job prospects both in the UK and abroad through our language provision,” said Robert. “They will be one step ahead of many graduates and it’s then that the real benefits of learning a language will shine through.”