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Tongues-tied

The low-esteem that our European partners hold for Britons' linguistic abilities is probably matched only by their dislike of our cuisine. So it is appropriate that the latest attempt to improve children's skills looks like a recipe for disaster (page 11).

In an age where English is the increasingly dominant international language, learning foreign tongues will seem less important to young people. A mere "entitlement" for primary pupils to learn foreign languages will cause more problems than it solves when children arrive at secondary school to find all start again at the beginning.

If ministers still believe we need to improve our language skills they need to apply the political will which made the literacy strategy successful.

Instead, the latest announcement looks like an attempt to fend off criticism about the (correct) decision to allow pupils to drop languages at 14. Like a disappointing meal, the presentation may be good but the policy itself lacks substance and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

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