Asset programme shows schools are making big strides in the teaching of foreign tongues
Thousands of primary pupils have been tested on languages ranging from French to Mandarin this year through the flexible Asset Languages programme.
The scheme provides separate tests for reading, writing, speaking and listening, for learners of any age, in different languages.
This year, more than 7,350 entries were from primaries - about 5 per cent of the total - up from 5,258 last year.
Statistics from the Asset scheme, developed by Cambridge Assessment through the OCR and Cambridge ESOL exam boards, show that the listening and reading assessments were the most popular.
The scheme assesses pupils against the Government's "Languages Ladder", which sets out 14 grades of proficiency in six stages. It provides external tests at the end of each stage, ranging from breakthrough - equivalent to national curriculum level 3 - to mastery, equivalent to a masters degree. The other grades are assessed internally.
The most popular language was French, with 4,376 entries for external Asset assessment at breakthrough stage and 793 for the preliminary stage, equivalent to a national curriculum level 6.
The next most popular language was Spanish with 1,670 entries; German had 152. Other languages assessed were Arabic, Bengali, Portuguese, Russian, Mandarin, Cantonese, Polish, Swedish, Panjabi, Gujarati, Hindi, Greek and Tamil.
The Languages Ladder was first announced in 2002 by the then education minister, Baroness Ashton, as a way of crediting language skills learnt in and out of school. It has been seen as vital in letting secondaries know what language skills pupils have learnt in primary.
Bailey Green Primary in North Tyneside won the Government's languages ladder award last year after 10 Year 6 pupils received Asset qualifications at preliminary level.
Catherine Falkenstein, the school's headteacher, said: "What it does is celebrate children's success. They have worked hard from Year 2 to Year 6 on their French, which has enabled them to achieve good results, and it's nice to get a certificate which goes on to high school to credit them for their efforts."
Last month, statistics published by the Department for Children, Schools and Families showed that languages are now taught at 84 per cent of primaries. Languages will become a compulsory part of the primary curriculum in 2011.