A Midland woman is launching a new linguistics business after working for years translating for businesses.

And her work is needed more than ever, as an alarming one in five exporting businesses admit they have lost business abroad because of difficulties with language.

Sue Clarke is the founder of Promo-Lingua, a Warwick-based language consultancy specialising in placing multilingual professionals into the Midlands.

The company also offers a translation service for businesses in the region dealing with posters, leaflets, letters, certificates and business reports.

Ms Clarke, who speaks five languages herself, said language skills were hugely important for modern companies, and that there could be huge economic benefits for companies who were willing to invest in it. "I really believe that there is a lack of language skills in businesses and it is causing a lot of smaller and medium sized businesses in this country to lose contracts," said the 33-year-old.

"I want to promote languages in business and I wanted the challenge of setting up my own business.

"I thought it would be a good idea to use my language skills and help other businesses with the potential to use them in their jobs."

Ms Clarke's interest in languages started when she studied Italian and French at Kineton High School in Kineton before completing a degree in Italian and politics at Anglia University.

She worked as a teacher and in a bank in Italy and learnt Spanish while she was teaching English in Spain.

Since returning to the UK, she has translated Spanish for a steel company whose headquarters are in Spain and she was a product manager to purchase items in Italian for a stockholding business.

She is currently learning Turkish at the University of Warwick and is also a member of the Institute of Linguists.

She received advice and information to put together her business plan from the Coventry-based Women's Business Development Agency.

Figures recently released by the National Centre for Languages showed the scale of the problem Midlands firms have with languages, with one in five firms having lost exports due to language difficulties.

They also ranked Britain 27th out of 28 European countries in foreign language skills.

Warwickshire businesswoman Eira Kodurand, who teaches English and German at companies, said it was absolutely vital for Midlands firms to brush up on their cultural knowledge, as well as their language skills.

She said: "Like language expertise, cultural awareness is an essential component in the business strategy of any company that is serious about exporting.

"It enables people to build a rapid rapport with clients, and avoids the jawdropping social and business faux pas that destroy credibility - and lose deals - in a millisecond.

"In the 21st century it is no longer good enough for Britons to assume that someone out there will speak English."

Ms Kodurand combines her teaching with running courses in Exhall to help local SMEs embrace the German language so that they can communicate effectively with their overseas customers.

She added: "I was always fascinated by language and culture, but this project is very much about the practical sides of things - making sure our business community doesn't miss out because we don't have the skills to do business effectively abroad."