THERE can be no doubt about the benefits of learning a foreign language.

It breaks down barriers and exposes young people to new cultures, ideas and environments.

The same can be said of the modern phenomenon of taking a gap year. It is good, therefore, to see one being harnessed to facilitate the other.

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Under the Global Citizenship programme, young Scots who take a gap year before going to university, college or employment are twinned with schools to demonstrate the importance of a second language to their trips and promote wider cultural awareness. The scheme also involves university language students on overseas placements or working as language assistants with the British Council.

Volunteers visit schools before they go, stay in touch when they are overseas and return to the schools when they finish to update them on their progress.

The involvement of young people can only have a positive impact on pupils, who will be able to relate to their experiences and will hopefully absorb their enthusiasm.

This may well be a case where travel broadens the mind, twice over.