Fewer than half of pupils took a modern European language at GCSE this year, it has been disclosed.
Numbers taking Spanish, French and German have plummeted to 48.3% – down from 83.3% in 2000.
According to the Liberal Democrats – who tabled questions in Parliament to obtain the figures – it is the first time fewer than half of students have studied a European language to GCSE level.
Education spokesman David Laws accused the Government of overseeing the destruction of language teaching in schools.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that one of the biggest mistakes had been changing the curriculum in 2003 so it was not compulsory to take a language at 16.
“What many schools are worried about is this dramatic change, really over a few years, is causing something of a precipitant decline in the scale of modern language teaching and staffing in many of our schools, which could prove in some parts of our country to be very difficult to reverse.”