I came across this very good article about the fate of languages in universities from the UCL Vice Provost Michael Worton on the Times Higher Education website.
I am really happy to see that universities (and in particular UCL considering it is the university I studied in) are actually trying to make steps forward in this area. My idea is that even if the access to languages is definitely much easier for students nowadays, through all sort of academic exchanges (Erasmus, Socrates, you name it), there is no reason why proper academic teaching/research should be put away. Nowadays, almost every student has spent at least an academic year abroad, at least in Europe. I studied in four countries and I would do the same exact thing if I had to do it again. Throughout, I’ve always considered the learning of the language a huge part of my discovering and integration to the country I was living in. The process of learning a language is maybe the best gate I could imagine of in trying to understand a culture and its people. For this reason, I never did and will never agree that treating English as a de facto standard, giving it such a predominance in teaching versus any other language, will make ourselves global citizens. International English is a great tool that makes communications among people easier “at first sight” but from my experience, it will never be a substitute to properly learning the language of the person you are communicating with… And this is only possible if universities keep doing their great job in teaching millions of students languages and studying every single details about languages and discovering all these little tricks and weirdnesses, sentiment of déjà-vu or complete “lost in translation” feeling, that make the study of a language such a fantastic journey!