It has been over a year since foreign secretary William Hague warned that the UK’s lack of language skills would ultimately damage not just its competitive corporate position, but also its diplomatic one. Now, with UK A-Level results unveiled last week, it would seem the number of students choosing to study languages is even lower than it was a year ago.

The Guardian reports that the number of students studying French in 2013 is ten per cent lower than it was in 2012, and the number of people choosing German is at an all-time low. In the last ten years, the number of people selecting both French and German has dropped by around 50 per cent.

Daniel Boffey, political editor at The Guardian, claims one reason for this decline is the decision by the last Labour government to make languages non-compulsory at GCSE level. Last year, the British Chambers of Commerce called for language studies to once again be compulsorily up to the age of 16. It is hoped that by having more Britons able to speak a second or third language, UK businesses will be better equipped to meet export targets and compete on a global platform.

John Wastnage, head of employment and skills at the British Chambers of Commerce, tells the Guardian that another issue may be Britons taking for granted the fact English is regarded as an international business language. However, the benefit of being able to speak a client or consumer’s own mother tongue means more doors might be opened to you, he adds.

However, it’s not only commerce that is suffering from the language skill drought in the UK. According to Mr Boffey, the country’s diplomatic agencies are also losing out. These are organisations that are reliant on people who speak more than one language to act on Britain’s behalf in international matters of policy and politics.

While the number of people choosing to study a language at school is decreasing, the number opting to do it in higher education seems to be in even greater decline. The figures the weekend following the A-Level results coming out (August 17th) revealed a 13 per cent drop in students applying for a language course. Almost ten times more people have chosen to do a business course than a linguistics one. Meanwhile, the number of language degrees and other linguistics qualifications on offer has also fallen, with the number of language departments expected to close in the next ten years forecast at 40 per cent.

Look closer, though, and there does appear to be hope on the horizon. In a blog for the Telegraph, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan advises commentators to dig deeper into the results. While the number of people teaching French and German is in decline, he notes that the other languages are “holding up”.

Mr Hannan claims this reflects the way the world has changed since the previous generation was at school. Back then German and French were the logical choices, but now that travel is cheaper and more convenient there is the chance to visit every corner of the world, whether for business or pleasure. Because of this increased opportunity, the variety of languages a person might choose to study has also grown. As a result, school pupils are acting as “rational consumers” when it comes to selecting what language they will study; whether they stick to French, or try Spanish or Mandarin. “Young people can see the way the world is going. They know that Turkish and Cantonese are expanding their GDP, so to speak, faster than French or German,” he concludes.