The independent think tank, Reform Scotland, has published a report calling for a fresh approach to be taken towards the education of languages in Scottish schools.
The report indicates a practical model of learning should be introduced to help adapt to changing demand.
The number of Scottish Qualification Authority (SQA) entries in “traditionally taught” languages has decreased over the last 20 years, with entries for higher grade French down by 18.2% and entries for German at the same level reduced by 58.4%.
In contrast, entries for higher Spanish exams increased by 219.8% increased over the same period, while Chinese entries have increased by 17.8% in the past two years.
Reform Scotland argue this highlights a changing global economy, with Asia seen as a growing economic market.
The report also calls for an end to distinctions between “community” and “modern” languages so that learning reflects the increasing number of communities in Scotland speaking languages such as Polish, Arabic and Urdu.
Reform Scotland Director Chris Deerin said: “If we want to see genuine growth in language skills in Scotland, rather than just paying lip service to the idea, we need to rethink our approach.
“There is a danger the languages currently on offer within the education system are not keeping up with Scottish or global society.
“We need to think much more freely - as many other countries do - about how best to equip ourselves to thrive in the modern global economy. Brexit, the shift of power from West to East, and Scotland’s pressing need to secure greater economic growth, all demand fresh ideas.”
Dr Thomas Bak, University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: “Language skills are an indispensable part of a diverse, open minded and globally successful society and economy.
“It is timely, because recent research suggests that learning, knowledge and use of languages can have beneficial effects throughout the whole lifespan, including improved attentional skills at any age, slower cognitive ageing, a later onset of dementia and a better cognitive recovery from stroke.
He added: “Overcoming the counter-productive distinction between ‘modern’ and ‘community’ languages could not only provide a boost for language learning and teaching, but also contribute to a stronger social cohesion.”