Firms seek Mandarin/Arabic speakers
Employers are increasingly looking for workers who can speak languages such as Mandarin and Arabic, according to business leaders.
While European languages are still in demand, there are also signs of a move towards languages that will help British firms break into new markets, a new poll suggests.
It found nearly two thirds of firms (65%) questioned for the annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey said they had a need for foreign language skills. Around two fifths (41%) said knowledge of a foreign language could be beneficial to their business, while just over a quarter (28%) said it was helpful in building relationships with contacts abroad.
The most popular language picked by businesses responding to the survey was French (chosen by 50%), followed by German (49%) and Spanish (44%). Just under a third (31%) rated Mandarin as useful, up from 25% in 2012 while 23% said they thought Arabic was useful up from 19% in 2012.
CBI deputy director general Katja Hall said: "With the EU still our largest export market, it's no surprise to see German, French and Spanish language skills so highly prized by companies. But with China and Latin America seeing solid growth, ambitious firms want the language skills that can smooth the path into new markets.
"It has been a worry to see foreign language study in our schools under pressure with one in five schools having a persistently low take-up of languages. The jury remains out as to whether recent government initiatives can help spur a resurgence in language learning.
"Young people considering their future subject choices should be made more aware of the benefits to their careers that can come from studying a foreign language."
A Department for Education spokesman said: "This government is overseeing a languages revival after a decade of damaging decline. From this September, languages will be compulsory from the age of seven, rather than 11 at the moment.
"And our EBacc has seen the numbers learning languages at GCSE rising again after many years of consistent decline. Take up of languages at GCSE increased by nearly 16% last year - up to the highest level in five years.
"The EBacc has proved a huge success in encouraging young people to study the core academic subjects, including languages, that universities and employers value. Our reforms are a vital part of our long-term plan to deliver the best schools and skills for our young people so that they can secure a good job, an apprenticeship or a place at university."