Mandarin and Arabic are among the top five languages Britons will need to master if the country is to enjoy a prosperous post-Brexit future, according to a new report.

The two languages, along with Spanish, French and German, will be necessary if the UK is to become "a major international trading partner beyond Europe", the British Council report says.

It warns the country currently faces a "language deficit" and that more must be done to improve the population's foreign language skills, with only a third of Britons able to hold a conversation in another tongue.

Dwindling numbers are taking up studying a modern foreign language in further education, it adds.

"Brexit has given urgency to the UK's quest to be a major international trading partner beyond Europe, while at the same time highlighting the importance of our continuing interconnectedness with our European neighbours," Tuesday's (14 November) British Council report, Languages for the Future, says.

"Among the skills and capabilities the UK will need, an understanding of other cultures and languages will continue to be important for successful international relationships at all levels.

"Both within and beyond Europe, we will need to reach out beyond English, not only to maintain and improve our economic position but to build trust, deepen international influence and cultural relationships, and to keep our country safe."

China, the second largest economy in the world, is currently the UK's sixth largest non-English-speaking export market.

According to the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the proportion of businesses citing Mandarin Chinese as important for their industries has risen from 25% to 36% over the past five years.

Tourism from China's rising middle class also has significant economic potential, with the British Council saying that better understanding of the "desires and motivations" of Chinese travellers through learning their language and culture will help capitalise this market.

Arabic has also become increasingly important for British businesses, with Arabian Gulf countries among the UK's top ten non-English speaking export markets.

Top 10 languages the UK should learn (source: British Council)

1. Spanish
2. Mandarin
3. French
4. Arabic
5. German
6. Italian
7. Dutch
8. Portuguese
9. Japanese
10. Russian

"Significant opportunities exist for British companies, particularly in supporting the vast infrastructure work planned in the region," the British Council says, adding that the language is also key for diplomacy in the region.

Official figures show a drop off in French and German A-level entries this year, while the numbers taking Spanish rose slightly.

There were increases in the numbers who took up other foreign languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Italian.

The British Council says languages should be given the same priority as subjects like science and maths in schools to help future-proof British business.

It called for a "bold new policy" to improve language learning, which should include solving current teacher supply issues.

Vicky Gough, of the British Council, told Press Association: "Languages are invaluable for a generation growing up in an increasingly connected world. If the UK is to be truly global post-Brexit, languages must become a national priority.

"There are few more important languages for the UK's future prosperity than Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Arabic and German.

"At a time when global connections matter more than ever, it is worrying that the UK is facing a languages deficit. We cannot afford the apathy around the need for languages to continue and must champion these skills. If we don't act to tackle this shortfall, we're set to lose out both economically and culturally."

Pippa Morgan, CBI head of education and skills policy, added: "Language skills are often a valuable asset to businesses that export around the world and for those young people equipped with modern languages, it can open up real opportunities.

"We need to find ways to encourage more students to take-up modern languages by showing just how useful it can be to their careers."