Letter: What the curriculum fails to teach

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your second leading article ('Grammar under the hammer', 4 February) states 'correct English . . . is . . . a tool of liberation for the least-advantaged children'. It would be a tool for their employment, too. One of the disadvantages the English suffer, particularly in competition with other Europeans, is our notorious inability to speak foreign languages. This is rooted in ignorance of the construction of our own.

I have recently attended Spanish courses at a London adult education college. The tuition was excellent; the dozen or so British students came from the widest possible spectrum of educational, social, cultural and racial backgrounds, and their ages ranged from 20 to 80.

But roughly half of each session was wasted while our young Spanish teacher and the older members of the class struggled to teach the younger ones the basic elements of English grammar. The meaning of words such as 'participle', 'preposition' or 'pronoun' were as unknown to the under-30s as any in the Spanish vocabulary.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW9

4 February