Aspiring police constables must speak an additional language to join London's Metropolitan Police under a month-long pilot scheme starting today.

Scotland Yard is hoping the new criteria will help police "engage with London's diverse communities as effectively as possible".

To be considered for one of the sought-after positions with the capital's police force, applicants must speak one of 14 additional languages.

New recruits must be able to converse in either Yoruba (Nigeria), Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Punjabi, Italian, German, Turkish, Greek, Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Sinhala (Sri Lanka) or Bengali, in addition to English.

A recruitment update on the Metropolitan Police's careers website states: "Whilst our police officers are able to effectively carry out their duties without the ability to speak a second language, a police constable with this skill is an asset in helping both themselves and their colleagues to more effectively engage with the community and deal with everyday policing situations."

It adds: "Unless you meet our eligibility criteria, you are unable to submit an application to become a police officer at this stage."

Those without a second language can still apply to be a special constable.

Scotland Yard said the pilot would be "evaluated and assessed but there is no information yet as to whether it will be repeated, or whether things will go back to the way they currently operate".

Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said: "I am committed to providing a police service which looks and feels more like London.

"We know that almost 300 languages are spoken in the capital. We need to recruit and deploy officers with second languages in areas where those languages are spoken. I believe it will help boost confidence, help to solve crime more effectively and support victims and witnesses."

The new criteria follow last year's introduction of a London residency clause, which meant new police constables must have lived in London for at least three of the last six years.