The UK’s GDP fell 0.2% in the first quarter of 2012, ushering in a second recession. Languages can help us talk our way out of it.

Britain’s greatest fears were realised this morning, as the Office for National Statistics (ONS) announced that GDP for the first quarter of 2012 had fallen by 0.2%. As a result, the country is now officially in another recession.

It seems as if analysts and experts have been forecasting a double-dip recession forever, but this morning’s announcement confirms it. There is a choice now facing the country – we can continue to languish in this economic cloud, pointing fingers of blame, or we can start looking for ways to overcome it. The team at Language Insight like to take the second approach, and we have come up with three ways in which languages can lift Britain out of the recession:

1. Make studying foreign languages compulsory at GCSE level. Since compulsory language study at GCSE was dropped in 2004, the number of kids leaving school with a qualification in a modern language has dropped year on year. Whilst kids in other EU countries forge ahead in a challenging jobs market, British kids struggle to stand out. The government should make the study of foreign languages compulsory at GCSE level to begin with, with the aim of extending this legislation to AS level as well. Headteachers should be taught about the importance of teaching languages in countries with growing economies, such as Russia, China, India and Brazil.

2. Make it compulsory for British diplomats to speak the language of the country they are based in. Recently, it was revealed that 90% of British diplomats have no recognised language abilities for the country in which they are based. When it comes to trade negotiations or closing business deals, it’s crucial that diplomats are able to converse fluently with their foreign counterparts. The government is insistent that small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) need to widen their horizons and branch out into international trade, but its own dignitaries aren’t blazing the trails for these businesses to follow. This should be changed immediately.

3. Increase collaboration between Chambers of Commerce and translation companies. The UK’s trade deficit is increasing, with imports totalling £8.8 billion more than exports. The government has set a target of doubling export figures by 2020, but the way things stand at the moment, small businesses do not feel comfortable trading internationally as languages experts are not available to them. Most British Chambers of Commerce offer an international trade department, which includes translation services. But how well are these promoted? We believe the BCC should seek to decentralise translation services and utilise the expertise of translation companies instead.

What do you think the government needs to do to lift the country out of recession?