A former British foreign minister today called French a "useless" language, saying that the Chinese and Arabic are more useful for young people in the 21st century.
Chris Bryant, who served as minister for Europe under former prime minister Gordon Brown, highlighted in the House of Commons the waning value of the French tongue, which has traditionally been the first foreign language taught to British school children.
"Unless we have sufficient numbers of people who speak modern foreign languages – and not just the useless modern foreign languages like French ...," Bryant said.
His comments evoked strong protest from the Labour party members who said that it was "insulting" to the country's neighbours.
However, Bryant defended and said, "I've said this to the French. I think they realise there are problems."
He further said that while French had been the "most useful language because it was the diplomatic language" but things had changed over the last 30 to 40 years and now "it certainly isn't."
He said the most significant languages to speak now, aside from English, are Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic.
Before losing power, the Labour government pledged to make languages compulsory for all seven- to 11-year-olds from 2011.
In January, Ed Balls, then Schools Secretary, said that all secondary school children should have the chance to study Mandarin.
Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives won general elections last month, ending the Labour Party's 13-year-long innings.