There was much embarrassment recently for Michael Gove when the cabinet's golden boy announced that he would not, after all, be replacing GCSEs with a new English Baccalaureate Certificate (EBC).
Part of the reasoning for Gove's EBC had been to increase the take-up of modern European (as well as other) languages – where research shows that there are clear advantages in terms of cognitive skills and understanding.
There are those who think that learning EU languages is just not needed anymore. Former British liberal democrat MP Mark Oaten caused a stir when he told Sky News that: "The international language of business is English. Learning German is pointless. I'd much rather my child was learning something of real value and use than learning German. It's not going to get them a job."
We know, of course, that English is everybody's favourite second language. Lucky, you might say, for us Brits who have Shakespeare hardwired into our brains and the King James' Bible in our DNA.
Those poor Europeans have to make all the effort to learn English as a foreign language, while we get all the benefits of working in our mother tongue. But nothing so easy is ever so simple and we must all wake up from this fantasy at once or risk loosing our ability to understand and influence the world.
Because the old adage puts it clearly: You can buy in any language, but you can only sell in the customer's. The pound has suffered devaluation after devaluation, and – surprise, surprise – economists wonder why our exports have not improved.
Try plotting our declining EU exports against the decline in modern language learning in the UK. The closure of university departments teaching European languages might show a telling correlation.
Last month, a state of the nation report by the British Academy found strong evidence that the UK is suffering from a growing deficit in foreign language skills at a time when globally, the demand for language skills is expanding and language skills are needed at all levels in the workforce.
And it is not just commercial advantage and the balance of payments that is at stake. How about cultural understanding? Join any group of Europeans in conversation and, if you cannot cut it in their language, they will switch to English. Once you are not there, they switch back.
Essentially the monoglot Englishman cannot crack their code, while ours is an open book to them. How can anyone understand the politics or get under the skin of another society without fluency in the local language?
Do we need to look much further for the reasons why we are caught on the wrong foot time and time again in our diplomatic dealings with our neighbours in Brussels?
Can one really understand the socio-political phenomenon of Beppe Grillo and Silvio Berlusconi without speaking some Italian? Multiply that by 27 for the mistakes we can make just inside the EU, let alone the wider Council of Europe, through our neglect of foreign languages.
And that is just Europe. Think global – Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu – and learn local. We have got a lot of it to do.