I WELCOME the representations being made by the German, Austrian, and Swiss Consulates ("SNP languages policy 'risks killing off German teaching'", The Herald, March 2) and, a little earlier by the Russian Ambassador, regarding the decline in uptake of German and Russian in Scottish schools.

In this connection I wish also to mention your article late last year on the neglect of French as well as German. The common factor is the decline in the teaching of English grammar over more than four decades. Without that grounding school students are less likely to have developed a basic ability to learn languages.

The teaching of English grammar was actively discouraged in Scottish state primary schools as early as the 1970s by visiting inspectors, a policy whose effects therefore extend to adults as old as 50, including members of the teaching profession. While the SNP cannot therefore be held solely responsible for this state of affairs, I must reluctantly quote one very able member, who served both as a local councillor and as an MSP. Roughly 10 years ago I had devised a scheme for in-service training of primary teachers as a means of enabling them to prepare children for language learning and asked for his help in promoting it. He refused, saying that there was nothing that could be done, as careers had been built on the present system. When, later, I wrote to Michael Russell's ministry I received a cheery reply from a civil servant that they had lots of ideas and didn't need any more.

Unless this fundamental deficiency is addressed, I see no prospect of improvement. In the case of German, the problem is acute. A grounding in the analysis of more complex English sentences is of huge help, in my view of fundamental importance, for an understanding of spoken, as well as written, German.

J Gordon Howie,

11, Shuttle Street, Kilbarchan.