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Dinner for eight mother tongues

The Financial Times              October 18, 2013

From Ms Catherine Stewart

Sir, Michael Skapinker ("Mystery of acquiring another language", October 17) quotes an expert on bilingualism: "When you meet people who tell you they speak four or five languages fluently ... don't take this claim very seriously." The expert has clearly never visited Brussels. Four couples meet regularly for dinner - we number eight different mother tongues and the conversation switches effortlessly, and often wittily, between five of these. As a Brit I am humbled to be able to participate in only two. Our offspring, introverts and extroverts, have been required to imbibe this skill over the breakfast table and with commitment in the classroom - it's hard work for all, there is no mystery. Their monoglot competitors in the job market may, nevertheless, rue their schoolroom complacency.

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