Britons place too much reliance on the increasing use of English abroad, says the National Institute of Continuing Adult Education.
Its report, Divided by Language, shows the problem is particularly acute among white adults, only 11 per cent of whom speak more than two other languages, compared with 45 per cent of ethnic minorities.
It was carried out to contribute to the now-published Nuffield Language Inquiry, which concluded that UK business is inceasingly dependent on the "linguistic competence and goodwill" of people abroad.
The report coincides with the European Year of Languages, which runs throughout 2001. It notes wide variation between the socio-economic groups. Among the ABs, 65 per cent of people speak more than one language, compared with just 28 per cent of DEs.
The research also found that 42 per cent of people in England speak more than one language, compared with 52 per cent in Wales and 31 per cent in Scotland. The high Welsh figure is attributed to the priority given to the Welsh language in schools.
Details on www.tesfefocus.co.uk