British ex-minister says French 'useless' language

16th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A former British foreign minister on Wednesday defended calling French a "useless" language, saying that Chinese and Arabic are more important in the modern globalised world.

Chris Bryant, minister for Europe under the Labour Party's former prime minister Gordon Brown, made the comments in parliament on Tuesday, drawing protests from the governing Conservatives that it was "insulting" to Britain's neighbours, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

"Unless we have sufficient numbers of people who speak modern foreign languages -- and not just the useless modern foreign languages like French," Britain could suffer internationally, he said, according to the broadsheet.

Defending the comments Wednesday, he told AFP: "The point I was making was that French is no longer the language of diplomacy or of business and that we in Britain are bad at learning modern foreign languages.

"Which is why I was pushing the government to do further work on encouraging people to learn Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic which are now spoken by many people in the fast-growing economies."

French -- traditionally known as the language of diplomacy -- has long been the first foreign language taught in British schools, followed by German and Spanish, although teaching of Chinese has developed rapidly in recent years.

Bryant added that he speaks French and Spanish, and had voiced his views on the subject previously, including on French television.

Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives won general elections last month, ending the Labour Party's 13 years in power.

© 2010 AFP

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