Cuts to foreign language teaching will disadvantage young Scots and could severely damage the nation's economy, an international relations body warned yesterday.
The Scottish government has announced intentions to grow exports by 50 per cent by 2017 but the British Council believes a "wholesale decline" in language teaching could undermine their efforts.
According to the British Council only two-thirds of school pupils take basic language lessons, while language courses in universities are under "severe financial pressure" and college courses are on the "verge of collapse."
British Council Scotland director Lloyd Anderson said: "In an increasingly globalised and interconnected world, our young people and future workforce will be at a disadvantage if they lack language skills and cultural awareness."
Scotland's problems are mirrored across Britain, as students spurn language courses.
The University Council of Modern Languages (UCML) said successful applications to language degrees had dropped by 7 per cent across Britan, this year alone.
But a UCML language expert based at Southampton University has defended Scotland's record.
Dr Jim Coleman told the Morning Star that the Scottish government is ahead of England and Wales in ensuring their students "are not disadvantaged in a globalised world."
He said: "'English is enough' is a lazy myth, which applies only when it is to others' advantage to speak English, such as when we are buying from them or spending tourist money in their country.
"To build relationships with overseas business partners you need to learn some of their language.
"Government cuts tend to reinforce the lazy view. Instead, government should challenge complacency, as the Scottish government is now committed to doing."
A report by the Scottish government's languages working group, released in May, recommended language tuition should begin as soon as children arrive at primary school.