Britain is facing huge problems after Breixt because not enough children are learning other languages, the British Council has warned.
The council claims the lack of language skills is holding back international trade performance by nearly £50 billion each year and worries there could be a gulf once the UK leaves the EU.
Schools advisor Vicky Gough said: ‘At a time when the UK is preparing to leave the European Union, I think it’s worrying that we’re facing a language deficit.
‘And I think without tackling that, we stand to lose out both economically, but also culturally. So I think it’s really important that we have a push for the value of languages.’
A report by the British Council claims Spanish, Mandarin, French, Arabic and German are the top five languages the UK will need post-Brexit.
But it cites recent research that claims only 2% of 18-34-year-olds in the UK can hold a basic conversation in either Mandarin or Arabic. French is the highest with 14%.
One pupil studying Mandarin at London’s Alexandra Park School said: ‘We can’t just presume that countries are going to learn our language, because if we don’t do the work why should they?’
‘We’ll gain their respect if we show that we’re trying, I mean, it’s better than nothing,” says another
Alexandra Park is one of 37 schools taking part in the UK government’s £10 million project to improve the country’s language deficiency.
The aim is to have at least 5,000 young people on track to becoming fluent in Mandarin by 2020.
Jay Naidoo, head of languages at Alexandra Park School, said: ‘This country has long had the idea, or the misconception, that English is the language spoken around the world.
‘And that has perhaps close the mindset of people from wanting to learn another language.’