An audit of the hundreds of minority languages spoken in Britain is to be done to find out how useful they are to businesses and the economy.
Currently 10.5 per cent of English primary school children and 8.8 per cent of secondary pupils speak another language at home.
The survey is to be carried out by CILT, the National Centre for Languages, alongside the Scottish Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research.
Isabella Moore, CILT's director, a fluent Polish and French speaker, said:
"There is a hidden language resource at the heart of our multicultural society. Cultivating it could bring huge benefits for the economy."
Joanne McPake, deputy director of Scottish CILT, who is co-ordinating the research, said: "We need to identify the most effective ways to invest in community languages."
The findings will contribute to a Europe-wide survey funded by the Council of Europe, to be completed by 2007. The deadline for responses is March 21, 2005.
The survey can be accessed on-line at www.cilt.org.ukcommlangssurvey.htm