Being able to speak another language is regarded as one of the most worthwhile skills a person can have in today’s increasingly connected world. However, a new report has revealed England’s proficiency in languages is below the international average.

The European Survey on Language Competences (ESLC) rounds up the proficiency of pupils in two key languages across 14 European countries. Research on England was carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research on behalf of the Department for Education, and centred on pupils’ abilities in French and German; the two most commonly taught languages in UK schools.

It was discovered that England’s performance, where learning a foreign language is not currently compulsory for pupils studying for their GCSEs, fell someway short of the other participating countries. In most other European nations, children of this age have to continue learning a language.

Among students of French, England was found to have many more pupils studying at the lower levels than other countries, and fewer studying at the highest levels. This pattern was also present among students of German, although it was less pronounced.

While gender did not appear to have an effect on language proficiency among pupils in England, students’ socio-economic status did. The report found those from a higher social, economic and cultural background also performed better in both French and German.

In the same week as the ESLC was released, the British Academy published its review, Languages: the State of the Nation. In it, the academy claimed below par foreign language skills in the UK are contributing to the country’s market failure. It also revealed that 27 per cent of clerical and administrative vacancies in 2011 remained empty because of this shortage.

Vice-president for Research and Higher Education Policy at the British Academy Professor Nigel Vincent said: “[The report] asks the government, business and education sectors all to work more closely together to ensure that the right messages are getting through to our students, so that the UK is better equipped to expand its global connections and respond to new economic realities.”

Responding to the ESLC’s findings, a spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We are addressing the chronic lack of attention paid to foreign languages in schools.”

Compulsory language lessons in UK schools were abandoned for pupils aged 14 and over in 2004. However, in June 2012, education secretary Michael Gove announced that from 2014 language subjects will be compulsorily learning for children age seven and above.