BRITONS must cast off their reluctance to learn other tongues, the newscaster, Sir Trevor McDonald has said.
Sir Trevor has been appointed UK president for the European Year of Languages and will be urging the Government to take the year - launched this week - seriously. He also chaired the influential Nuffield inquiry into the state of modern languages.
Concerns in the rest of Europe about the state of language learning in Britain have prompted meetings between the French, German and Spanish ambassadors about how to keep their languages alive here.
The Nuffield inquiry, which reported in the summer, recommended a raft of measures to address the decline in the number of students taking language A-levels and degree courses.
It called for the appointment of a languages supremo,language teaching in primaries and sixth-forms and radical measures to address teacher shortages.
The inquiry sparked huge interest abroad. French education minister Jacques Lang discussed the report with Sir Trevor and has appointed a language champion.
Alwena Lamping, inquiry associate secretary, said: "Our European partners are bemused about why we are so reticent about doing something. All we are waiting for now is a steer from the Government."
Trustees of the Nuffield Foundation - the educational charity that backed the inquiry - have agreed to make further "significant investment" in support of languages and will announce details in the next few weeks.
Education Secretary David Blunkett is expected to respond to the Nuffield report this month.