Thursday, 10 May 2012

Chinese at Leeds

It's strange to think that like many things in life, the Sisters of Mercy would never have happened were it nor for a series of coincidences which brought people (in this case Marx and Eldritch) into each other's company. Andrew Taylor was clearly a highly academic linguist as a young man, having acquired sufficient proficiency in both French and German (two languages being a minimum there in the late 1970s) to satisfy the dons at Oxford. Having failed to make the most of that educational opportunity, where weekly essays and tutorials during the infamously short terms push even the most asiduous undergraduate to breaking point, his previous qualifications were impressive enough to grant entry onto Leeds University's Chinese B.A. degree programme, an intensive four year ab initio course and one of the few universities in the UK offering such a course (there having been a UK government plan to promote Far Eastern languages as long  as fifty years ago, long before phrases such as "tiger economies" were coined).
Most language degrees require(d) students to spend the third year of their course in a country where the language was spoken, but Leeds students of Chinese, most of whom were total beginners, spent their second year abroad, after only a year's exposure to the language (the average European language undergraduate would in contrast have spent a decade learning French or Spanish, for example, before living abroad for a year). The fact that unappetising stories about the year in China - students were allegedly housed in a bleak academic residence outside Beijing and chaperoned on all excursions by "guides" - were circulating in the student community at the time made the year in China seem even more unappealing to some, and Eldritch was not the only student to bail out rather than face the apparent ordeal of the year in China at a time when most students were still struggling to master basic characters and intonations, despite Leeds' ground-breaking language labs.
Dropping out for a second time, Taylor's academic career had clearly come to a grinding halt, and it would be interesting to speculate as to which path his life may have taken him had his initial partnership with Marx not blossomed within a few years into the innovative and dramatic rock beat which we all know and love.

No comments:

Post a Comment