The Trinity 2014 number of Oxford Today (Tom Doak, Letters, p. 9, and below, November 1913) reflects ongoing concerns about the teaching of modern languages at Oxford.

I can’t speak for the present, or for the 1970s, but in the 1950s the regulations held out the Oxford modern languages course to be an introduction to the language, literature and culture of the subject society.

As I recall, no societal or artistic context to the literature was taught, there was no literary analysis and the language teaching was vestigial (‘If you want to learn the language, go to Berlitz’). It was in fact a scramble through a thousand years of literature (in 72 weeks!)

No wonder the lectures were unsatisfactory. The tutorials had moved on before the lecturers had got into their stride.

Oxford in those days offered a good fellowship and a useful degree, but it was not a serious course of academic study.

It seems that the course was fundamentally for boys with bilingual backgrounds (‘You know all this, of course’) wishing to add an Oxford degree to their foreign school studies.

How far do these attitudes persist?