The numbers taking French as a GCSE have halved over the last eight years, with German showing a simnilar decline. The last government removed the compulsion for 14-16 year olds to take a language several years ago and we are now seeing the long term effects. Many schools discourage kids from studying languages as they are considered "difficult" subjects in which pupils are less likely to attain 'A' grades.
We have never been great linguists in this country, and many take the attitude that we don't need to learn a language because everyone abroad speaks English. That's an incredibly 'Little Englanderish" attitude and one which hampers people who do business abroad. The ability to converse with people in their own language can open many doors.
Perhaps, however, we are also guilty of being too conservative in our teaching of languages. Maybe instead of sticking to trusty old French and German we should be encouraging schools to offer more courses in Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin and Russian.
I studied German at university because I had intended to become a German teacher. With such a declining demand for German teachers, I'm beginning to think it's lucky my career took a rather different turn!