Letter: It isn't Latin the British lack

Sir: "Latin is a dead language, and we have enough trouble persuading children to speak English" (leading article, 8 October). Quite right, but should not British people be looking beyond the White Cliffs of Dover and realise that "out there" the vast majority of people do not have English as their mother tongue?

For hundreds of millions of people, English is, admittedly, a lingua franca to facilitate international communication. But other languages exist, and I have a shrewd suspicion that the vast majority of British business people, journalists and even diplomats are quite incapable of having a sophisticated conversation in any foreign language, living or dead. Would it not be courteous for Britons occasionally to learn a foreign language or two properly?

Why not teach seven-year-olds the rudiments of a living language, such as German or French, if we are so mad keen on giving them insights into declensions, conjugations and other grammatical unpleasantnesses? We do, after all, belong to the European Union, not the Roman Empire.

ERIC DICKENS

Blaricum, Netherlands

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