I like language. I like the rules, the subtleties, the nuances. I like learning new languages, even though I’m a poor learner and speaker (think Franglais with a broad Yorkshire accent).

Without a love of language, I wouldn’t have been able to make most of the changes to the coding that runs this site. Okay, they’re only small changes to the templates, but a programming language is just like a spoken one, you still have syntax and grammar to understand and cope with.

You can guess what I think of the notion that GCSE pupils might no longer have to take an oral exam because they’re too stressful. What’s the point of learning a new language if you’re not going to put it to some use by speaking it? Surely it’s better to make your mistakes in a classroom setting than in real life?

And as for ‘stress’… Stress is sitting on a platform in Germany, trying to make your way home, wondering where your train is and trying to make sense of the station announcer. Not that I did; it was the guy who said “Ach! Ein stunde!” that kicked my brain into action. ‘Stunde’… hour of time (as opposed to ‘Uhr’, which is ‘o’clock’)… my train’s going to be an hour late. Crikey – what about the boat from Hoek van Holland?? ‘Scheisse’, as the locals would have said.

I often wish I’d continued with languages when I was at school; something had to give and I wanted to do science, which was silly, as I’m no scientist. Instead, I got to live vicariously through Chris & Birgit’s exploits in France (and England, in Birgit’s case, she’s German you know). Cunning linguists, the pair of them. And none the worse for it, I might say