A lack of foreign language skills is costing the economy £48bn a year as the number of French A-level entries falls to a record low, according to the Association of Translation Companies.
The number of students taking French A-levels this academic year has plummeted 7.4% to 11,000 while German and Spanish have also fallen.
Geoffrey Bowden, general secretary of the ATC, warned that the lack of recognition of the need for foreign language learning is limiting the UK economy’s potential with foreign interests.
“People think that knowing a second language is just handy for a summer holiday but the impact of language education spans much further than convenience – it is not only handy for holidays and beneficial for employment prospects but is also central to the success of the UK economy,” he said.
“In today’s global economy the demand for language services continues to grow, with businesses and organisations growing more dependent on establishing relationships with foreign markets.
As a nation it is therefore important that we are not a step behind, and the only way to ensure this is to educate the next generation of employees on the importance of language skills in building the economy. Foreign language skills are essential in increasing exports potential and those graduates who are in possession of these skills will find themselves in far higher demand from employers who realise this potential.”
Bowden called on the government to focus on students’ attitudes towards languages to change perceptions, or risk them continuing to lag behind their European and global peers in employability.
He said translation companies are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit UK-born linguists, meaning thousands are missing out from careers in a global language industry worth more than 35 billion dollars.
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