The number of entries for modern foreign languages fell this year, continuing a trend which looks set to worsen in 2004.
There was a 2.2 per cent drop in the number of French GCSEs taken, a 0.4 per cent fall in entries for German, and 0.7 decline in the take-up of other modern languages.
The only language with an increasing take-up was Spanish, where the entries rose by 5.7 per cent. However, the overall take-up of languages was down 0.8 per cent, despite a 1.3 percentage point rise in the number of GCSE entries in all subjects.
The proportions of pupils awarded A* to C grades also went down in all three subjects.
The figures come after A and AS-levels last week revealed languages were also losing favour among older pupils.
Last year, The TES reported how around a third of schools planned to make language learning voluntary for pupils from the age of 14, from last September. Terry Lamb, past president of the Association for Language Learning, said that languages were perceived by heads, teachers and pupils to be more difficult than other subjects.
The other major subject to lose students was geography, where entries fell 3.1 per cent to 232,830.