The University of Birmingham has launched a bid to plug the trade gap by offering modern language lessons for business people.
The Language Works conference, held in Birmingham last year, warned that a lack of foreign language skills is costing Midlands businesses £10 billion per year in lost exports.
Only a third of Britain's international executives can work effectively in more than one language - 23 per cent less than the international average.
Any UK plc which invests in language skills can expect to increase its earning potential by an estimated 12 per cent. The university's courses are designed specifically with business people in mind, and will include the kind of language needed when conducting negotiations and business deals abroad.
The courses, which include French, German, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish, start on October 3 at the University's European Research Institute.
Most of the classes will run in the evening, but there will also be a breakfast class in intermediate French.