Staff at more than 60 per cent of British exporters do not have foreign language skills, even though many employers believe this puts them at a disadvantage.
Research by Lloyds TSB Commercial shows that only 36 per cent of exporters use other languages in their business.
However, 37 per cent of the remainder believe their business would benefit if they were not restricted to speaking English.
Among firms that do use foreign languages, French is the favourite, followed by German and Spanish. The most widespread use of Russian is by Scots firms, and Polish and Japanese are proving useful to Thames Valley companies.
Michael Riding, managing director of Lloyds TSB Commercial, said, "UK export culture among medium-sized companies is becoming more and more important by the day.
"It’s not surprising that language skills are considered important. They are just one of the factors we encourage businesses to look at if they are hoping to expand overseas for the first time or are looking to develop new markets, in Europe or worldwide."