British firms seeking more Mandarin speakers: survey
British firms are increasingly seeking workers who can speak Mandarin, Britain's biggest employers' organisation says - by Shaun Curry
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) found that while European languages were still in demand there are signs of businesses increasingly seeking language skills that could help break them into new markets.
The annual CBI/Pearson Education and Skills Survey of around 300 British firms found that nearly two-thirds of businesses questioned said they had a need for foreign language skills.
The most popular language picked was French (50 percent), followed closely by German (49 percent) and then Spanish (44 percent).
However, just under a third (31 percent) rated Mandarin as useful, up from 25 percent in 2012.
Meanwhile 23 percent said they thought Arabic was useful, up from 19 percent two years ago.
"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," said CBI deputy director general Katja Hall.
"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," she added.
"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."
The Department for Education said the government was overseeing a "languages revival after a decade of damaging decline".
From September, languages will be compulsory from the age of seven rather than 11.
The ministry said the take-up of languages at GCSE level -- the exams sat at 16 years old -- increased by nearly 16 percent last year to the highest level in five years.
Recent changes have encouraged young people "to study the core academic subjects, including languages, that universities and employers value," a spokesman said.
"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."