Language teachers are launching a campaign to save their subject after this week's A-level results showed the number of sixth-formers studying French and German has halved since 1992.
The decline in languages cast a shadow over another record set of results.
Overall, in all subjects, boys improved more than girls: the proportion of males gaining grade As rose one point to 21 per cent, compared to 22.4 for girls, an increase of 0.8 points.
The percentage of A grades overall rose from 21.6 to 22.4, while the pass rate rose to 96 per cent, the 22nd consecutive annual increase since fixed proportions for each grade were abandoned in the 1980s. David Miliband, schools minister, dismissed critics who say standards are dropping, saying the rise was the result of an "education revolution".
Digby Jones, director general of the Confederation of British Industry, said the annual standards furore was "wildly overdone", and a distraction from employers' concerns about numeracy and literacy standards.
But one pupil was unimpressed. After listening to Mr Miliband praise results at a London event for gifted youngsters, Josh Palmer, 12, said:
"Maybe exam papers are getting easier."
CILT, the National Centre for Languages, aims to launch a campaign to persuade youngsters to take them. However, the Government is making languages optional at key stage 4 this September.
This year there was an 8 per cent fall in numbers taking German, and 2 per cent drop in French. The figures are likely to be worse next year, with AS entries in decline and next week's GCSE numbers predicted to fall.
a-level results, 4