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News: Lack of foreign language skills costing UK economy £48bn

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19th Aug 2014
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The failure to recognise the importance of foreign language learning is costing the UK economy £48bn a year, according to the Association of Translation Companies (ATC).

As students prepare to receive their GCSE results this Thursday, the professional body has warned that plummeting levels of modern language entries at A-level show there is a lack of awareness in the UK of the value of foreign language skills, estimating that this could cost the economy the equivalent of 3.5% of GDP - or £48bn.

According to the ATC,  French, German and Spanish A-level entries have all fallen this academic year, with French entries dropping a record 7.4% - only 11,000 students are now studying it.

This paints a “worrying picture of the future of UK language education”, it warned.

Geoffrey Bowden, ATC general secretary, said that foreign language education is vital in boosting employability opportunities and central to the success of the UK economy.

“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,” he said.

“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.”

With current concerns over graduates settling for low-skilled, low-paid jobs, the ATC has called on the government to change young people’s attitudes towards languages.

“If the government doesn’t start doing more to encourage young people, we will continue to see a drop in A-level entries for modern languages and students will continue to lag behind their European and global peers in employability,” added Bowden.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages last month launched a manifesto to improve the UK’s foreign language skills and help ensure future economic growth.

It has called on all parties to make a commitment in their 2015 general election manifesto to “upgrade” foreign language skills.

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