A businessman in Chesterton has warned that a shortage of language skills in the UK is making the country less competitive.
Gary Muddyman, CEO of translation agency Conversis, which is based at Bignell Park Barns, addressed the All Party Parliamentary Group on Modern Languages on behalf of the Globalisation and Localisation Association (GALA).
He argued that in order for UK businesses to continue to trade successfully in coming years, the nation’s attitude to languages must change.
He said: “No longer should languages be dismissed as ‘soft skills’. As business becomes increasingly borderless in years to come, with languages other than English likely to become the lingua franca, the language skills and cultural competencies of our business leaders will become critical to our economic health.”
Recent statistics show a 40 per cent drop in universities offering language courses in 2013 and the number of UK students taking language A-levels hitting an all-time low.
It has been estimated the language skills defecit costs the UK £48 billion a year.
Mr Muddyman said while the UK was taking steps in the right direction by making languages a compulsory part of the curriculum for primary school children aged seven years and over, it was ‘too little, too late’.
He said: “My business is based in rural Oxfordshire but only a handful of my staff are British nationals and have come through the British education system. This is for no reason other than we find candidates from Europe generally have stronger skills in the required areas.”
GALA has launched an initiative which aims to highlight the importance of being multi-lingual.