I disagree with the organisations that say we need to extend the teaching of foreign languages in schools to improve its international competitiveness ("Business bosses want more done to promote languages", The Herald, March 4)).

Japan and Germany have been successful in exporting to countries whose languages very few of their nationals speak. Only a tiny percentage of Germans or Japanese speak a foreign language other than English.

Their businessmen and women communicate with their foreign customers in English or use native speakers. Some 99 per cent of the employees of foreign firms in Britain

do not speak the language of their firm's home country.

Here there are already thousands of children for whom English is a second language. Surely the easiest approach is to to use them in communicating with those abroad who share their tongue.

The groups wanting more language teaching in schools do not say what percentage of pupils they think would benefit from such (as a former teacher who studied three foreign languages I suspect it would be under 10 per cent). Nor do they indicate what subjects such learning should replace or why.

More than 80 per cent of adults here have studied a foreign language in school but very few can communicate in it.

To become competent requires constant practice and a level of effort very few people are willing to commit to.

Of the many British people living on the continent only a small minority are fluent in the local language.

The best time to learn any language is before the age of four. There is then strong motivation and the brain is still "plastic". Trying to teach a subject to pupils who have no interest or aptitude in or for it is a waste of scarce resources.

I am all in favour of pupils learning about the rest of the world but that is best done by study of geography which can be taught in ways taking account of the abilities and interests of pupils. It brings together natural and social sciences.There are many competent teachers available, which is not the case with the great majority of foreign languages.

Learning to think both critically and creatively and developing "emotional intelligence" will be of far more value to most pupils and to society than any expansion of foreign language teaching.

Kevin Lawrie,

98 West Graham Street,