DOES it matter if Scots are dropping modern languages – even though the rate seems to be around half the English average? Yes it does, because the trend is part of the isolationism that’s given us Brexit and feeds a more worrying attitude. Namely that languages are not cultural jewels – unique and irreplaceable repositories of insight, memory, geography and outlook – but irritating hard-to-master anomalies soon to be swept away by English, the world language.

Of course, cultural destruction in the name of convenience is a powerful force across the world. But it’s been accelerated in Britain by the psychological drawbridge of Brexit.

The BBC published a report yesterday that found the areas most likely to have abandoned French and German teaching in school were Poole, Knowsley, South Tyneside, Wigan, Warrington, South Gloucestershire, Rochdale, Blackpool and Lincolnshire. Interesting, because all these foreign-language shunning parts of England happened to vote Leave. Lincolnshire (with a huge number of East European seasonal agricultural workers) was almost the most Eurosceptic area in the UK – more than 75% of folk in Boston voted to quit the EU. Now maybe that means nothing – but maybe it reflects a worrying pushback against the sound of other languages being spoken in Britain. If so, that’s massively dangerous.

Britain is quietly walling itself up inside its own (main) language, mindset and culture as the rest of the world is doing the opposite. Even Trump-led America is making Spanish an employment requirement as immigration changes the mix of that huge nation. Britain is fast becoming the complacent monoglot in a multilingual world.

Of course the decline in language learning isn’t uniform.

German and French – spoken by the UK’s closest EU trading partners – have really dropped away at GCSE level in England, but there’s been a noticeable surge in others, such as Spanish and Mandarin.

Between 2001-07 the number of students in England and Wales taking a language other than French, German, Spanish or Welsh almost quadrupled. Welsh itself is up by almost a quarter. Scots Gaelic hasn’t fared so well, but the rate of decline has slowed.

There’s still parent hesitancy about putting kids into Gaelic medium schools even though research shows learning in Gaelic improves cognitive development (Sgoil Ghàidhlig Ghlaschu has the highest attainment in Glasgow with around half of sixth years achieving five or more Highers). But a generation of Gaels was taught to see its precious heritage as a loser language and though having Gaelic is actually an asset in the jobs markets (indeed the shortage of Gaelic teachers is halting expansion) a wholesale shift to multilingualism hasn’t happened.

It’s the same story with Scotland’s ither tongue – Scots. The new BBC Scotland channel could be helping to improve the normalcy of Scots in literature – what about the Gruffallo and all the other children’s books written in Scots read every night a la Jackanory? At the moment, however, Scots is still confined to comedy slots and fitba.

The National:

And that sends its own message about the primacy of English and the pointlessness of every other tongue – even oor ain.

I’d humbly suggest the health of Gaelic and Scots has a big connection with learning foreign languages because respect for indigenous languages and dialects goes hand in hand with an appetite for foreign ones.

The multilingual Norwegians, for example, had four languages at independence in 1905, whittled down to “just” two (which must be offered in every education authority) plus two Sami languages and 18 official dialects. Not surprisingly, given their decision to celebrate not supress native linguistic richness, they’ve become such perfect speakers of English you have to check they’re actually Norwegian.

By contrast, in a 2010 European Commission survey of non-mother-tongue skills, Britain came last out of 28 countries. More fool us, because language skills virtually guarantee jobs. Statistics show UK language students are behind only lawyers, medics and vets in employability.

Computer grads and media studies graduates lag well behind. In short, pupils, parents and schools are dumping German at the same time German business has been expanding everywhere. Roughly one in 100 UK workers is employed by a German firm or export contract.

But British workers are unlikely to get top jobs because they can’t communicate with other head office staff back in Germany. The European Parliament hasn’t been able to fill the UK’s allocation of translator vacancies because not enough British applicants speak the required two foreign languages. That may not matter soon. But not caring about the exciting business of communication and understanding in our various world is a sure sign of cultural and political stagnation.

Language has become a barrier for monoglot Britain in a way it patently isn’t for millions of mainland multiglot Europeans.

Our inability to take up jobs or study abroad has fatally undermined the value of the EU’s founding principle in Britain -- freedom of movement. Many Leave voters don’t care if it disappears because that “freedom” was always seen as a one-way street for foreigners.

Happily, the Scottish Government’s taken a different tack to England with its 1+2 language policy. The aim is that by 2020, every pupil will learn a new language in P1 and a second by P5, with language teaching continuing until the end of S3. Most Scottish pupils in the first year of primary school are already learning a foreign language.

But will they keep going once compulsion ends?

Without the incentive of living and working in the European Union, that might be tough. Already – despite 40 years of membership and fluent English spoken almost everywhere -- most Scots haven’t actually taken advantage of our right to roam.

True – the majority of Scots instinctively back the idea of Europe. We just don’t go there much – except for weekend city breaks, Tartan Army sorties and beach-based holidays.

Ironically, the longer we let this situation continue, the harder it will be to retrieve.

The National:

As fewer children learn economically useful foreign languages, fewer can become future language teachers. As more foreigners become fluent English speakers, fewer opportunities arise to learn their languages by local “immersion”.

A fellow Scot had to work in an Oslo old folks’ home to meet people who couldn’t lapse into perfect English at the first sound of his broken Norwegian.

So, you might conclude, why bother?

Certainly, if we want to be trapped in our own culture and the physical confines of our own country, if we want to have the lowest paid jobs within successful European companies, if we want to be effectively barred from promotion, if we want to leave the administration of Europe to nations with better language skills, if we want to continue supplying a disporportionate number of computer, hairdressing, media studies and digital photography graduates to the world – we should go on just as we are.

Of course, since Scots look set to be dragged out of Europe for a period at least, our ability to interact with Europeans may seem relatively unimportant.

Au contraire. British business and trade negotiators will soon need to be out there, talking, listening, reaching out and connecting as never before – with a substandard set of language skills and a closed mindset. That’s serious.

In the European context, not having German, for example, means not clinching contracts and not fully developing business links with the UK’s third biggest export market and Europe’s economic and cultural powerhouse. And things don’t get any easier beyond the EU – 75 % of the world’s population doesn’t speak English and the proportion of internet communication conducted in English almost halved between 2000 and 2009.

There’s an exciting world of cultural and linguistic difference out there (and within Scotland) and if kids start early enough, they’ll find that learning other perspectives comes as easily as learning other languages.

So let’s get serious. If we don’t want to become little Scotlanders, we need to embrace the beauty of other languages before it’s too late to be the fully European, outward-looking nation we know Scotland’s destined to become.