A 'national recovery plan' is needed to improve people's knowledge of foreign languages, according to a cross-party group of MPs.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on modern languages makes the claim in its manifesto for languages, in which it states that the economy is losing nearly £50 billion per year due to poor language skills.
According to the group, without sustained commitment to raising standards in this area, the UK's international reputation will decline and British firms will find it difficult to trade in other parts of the world.
Young people will suffer as they lose out in the international jobs market, the UK's defence and security interests could be compromised and the nation will miss out on the cultural capital acquired through the study of foreign languages.
In order to reverse the decline in languages, the group is calling on all parties to give their backing to a national recovery programme in their 2015 general election manifestos.
The group says that pupils in the state sector should be given the same opportunities to learn languages as the seven per cent in the independent sector.
It says every child should have a high-quality language qualification by the end of secondary school and support should be given to those in teaching jobs to enable them to raise standards of provision.
Research reveals that just nine per cent of English 15 year-olds are competent in their first foreign language beyond a basic level, compared with an average of 42 per cent across 14 countries.
The manifesto reveals a decline in the uptake of language courses, with a ten per cent drop in the number of people taking French and German A-levels during one year. Meanwhile, 44 universities have scrapped language degrees since 2000.
Baroness Coussins, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages, said: "The next government will need to take clear, urgent and coherent action to upgrade the UK's foreign language skills.
"Otherwise our young people will continue to fall behind their European and global peers in education and employability; our export growth will be stunted; our international reputation will suffer and our security, defence and diplomacy needs will be compromised."
Posted by Tim Colman