IT is good to see some leading business organisations backing the call to support language teaching in Scotland ("Business bosses want more done to promote languages", The Herald, March 4).

Reports suggest fewer pupils are studying languages but other than claiming that it's because they think "everyone speaks English", nobody delves deeper into the question.

Discussing this subject a few years ago with some acquaintances, someone, whose wife was a school teacher, stated that in Scotland languages were taught so that pupils could pass language exams, not in order to facilitate communication.

Most learn to speak their native tongue without the complication of grammar and only learn this when they are already competent in conversation.

If language teaching in schools were done the same way, instead of being a preparation for exams, I'm sure there would be more enthusiasm for learning languages. Better to be a less than perfect speaker than totally ignorant.

The present set-up reminds me of primary school days, when we were belted for "not speaking proper". Only when such attitudes are gone will the situation improve.

Drew Reid,

31 Bruce Crescent Carronshore, Falkirk.

I CONCUR wholeheartedly with J Gordon Howie's view (Letters, March 3) that a grounding in English grammar is essential to learning of languages. In the early 1990s when my daughter and her fellow classmates were preparing to sit Higher French, it appears that while grammatical knowledge was not essential for Standard grade, the opposite was the case for the Higher papers.

This was probably due in part to the newly introduced Standard grade which did not move seamlessly over to its Higher equivalent. Consequently over the Easter holiday period a crash course in both English and French grammar was hurriedly put together. The result was positive, allowing my daughter entry to university.

Robert Shaw,

5 Marchmont Road, Ayr.