The Third Leader: Ten reasons to learn another language

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Bonjour! Que tal? Gesundheit! Bobby Charlton, David Beckham! There's nothing quite like communicating in a foreign language, is there? What else could possibly compete with its splendid combination of good manners, cultural outreach, showing off, and opportunities for expansive hand gestures, facial expressions and shoulder movement?

And yet, as yet more figures show, the sad decline in language learning in this country continues. In vain do the cultured and the polyglot, the educationalists and the, what's the word, ah, yes, entrepreneurs, point out the above advantages and more: the message is not getting through, even though it's in English.

For there is a widely held belief here that The Age of Babel is over, that English, aided by the US and boosted by its primacy in cyberspace, has won; that all those conjugations can be consigned to the Wastepaper Bin of Learning, along with log tables, learning by heart, and that essay he or she has clearly forgotten about.

An attractive theory, but wrong. Time to note The Third Leader Department's Ten Other Reasons For Learning Languages: 1. You don't have to shout. 2. You can eavesdrop on Jacques Chirac. 3. You can learn to cook. 4. You can understand flatpack instructions. 5. You can manage a Premiership side. 6. You can go to the opera and listen with your eyes closed. 7. Have you considered how convenient it would be sometimes to pretend you're not British? 8. You could surprise Scandinavians. 9. You could introduce the Eurovision Song Contest. 10. You could talk to more than the 6 per cent of the world's people who speak English.

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