By Daily Mail Reporter
15th June 2010
A former Foreign Office minister has branded French a 'useless' modern language.
Chris Bryant, now a shadow Foreign Office minister, told the Commons other languages - such as Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic - were more important.
'Unless we have sufficient numbers of people who speak modern foreign languages - and not just the useless modern foreign languages like French ...,' the Labour MP said.
Amid Tory protests that this was 'insulting' to the French, Mr Bryant, who was minister for the EU before Labour lost power, said: 'I've said this to the French. I think they realise there are problems.'
He defended his remark, insisting that while French had been the 'most useful language to use because it was the diplomatic language', 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, were Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.
Mr Bryant was advocating the importance of young people taking up languages to win business in the emerging economies.
French was once one of the most popular languages taught in British schools. But in recent years, the education system has shunned it - and Spanish and German - for more 'fashionable' languages.
In 2000, 83.3 per cent of pupils took one of the three at GCSE. But by 2007, the figure had plummeted to 48.3 per cent.
Mr Byrant has a chequered history as one of Westminster's most controversial figures.
A former Church of England clergyman, he earned himself the nickname Captain Underpants after he circulated a photograph of himself along with sexually explicit messages through a gay website.
The image of Mr Bryant, a keen triathlete, showed him apparently taking a picture of himself in a bathroom mirror, wearing only a pair of Y-fronts.
He was eventually forced to apologise for the 2003 episode.
More recently, Mr Bryant became the first gay MP to get 'married' in the House of Commons.
He and partner Jared Cranney held a civil service at Westminster in March this year.