Educational institutions are failing children and limiting Scotland's economy with an inadequate provision of foreign language teaching, according to international experts.
Foreign language assistants in schools have dropped by over three-quarters in seven years, college provision is "woeful" and universities are closing language schools at a time when Scotland is trying to grow its exports and expand into diverse international markets, MSPs have been told.
Holyrood's European and External Relations Committee heard from four experts from the British Council, the Confucius Institute and the European Commission about the decline of language teaching in Scotland.
British Council director Lloyd Anderson said: "Seven years ago we were up at around 300 foreign language assistants, and there's been a very marked drop."
He added: "It's a budgetary problem in Scotland. The money was ringfenced by central government when we had these high numbers of 300 foreign language assistants. But of course the money was devolved to education authorities, and I think with all the other pressures on their budgets we have seen their numbers drop."
Mr Anderson also explained that the lack of language schools is restricting Scotland's exports, citing a recent study called Language Rich Europe.
"The report said Scottish employers tend to circumvent rather than address the language skills by saying English is enough, and are exporting only to Anglophone countries or those where they can easily find English speakers," he said.
Frances Christensen, general manager of the Confucius Institute, a language outreach programme funded by the Chinese government, said Scottish educational institutions are "failing our young people" while China is investing heavily in Scotland.
She said: "My understanding in China, and I believe also in Europe, is that language learning is much more immersive than the way we teach it here. We really are almost tokenistic in our delivery of language provision."
In a statement released after the committee, convener Christina McKelvie, an SNP MSP, said: "There is a commitment from the Scottish Government to language development in Scotland's schools. Our job as a committee is to look at the policy of teaching mother tongue plus two more languages in primary schools as it is clearly important we get it right."