Learning languages in primary schools will be "a very important part" of the forthcoming curriculum review, the House of Lords has been told.
But Baroness Garden of Frognal, the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson in the Lords, could not confirm that compulsory language teaching from the age of seven, as pledged by the previous government, would be introduced.
Baroness Garden, standing in for schools minister Lord Hill, said: "Any increase in teaching foreign languages in schools will bring additional demands in terms of languages teachers and their training needs.
"We also need to consider whether foreign language teaching should continue in all primary schools."
Baroness Coussins, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on modern languages, said nothing less than a "national languages recovery programme" was needed. She pointed to the fact that French has disappeared from the top ten GCSE subjects this summer and added that an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development survey found that key stage 3 pupils in England spend just 7 per cent of time on languages - less than any other EU country apart from Ireland.
She said that 75 per cent of authorities want languages to be compulsory in primary schools and called on the minister to agree, but added that it needed to be allied to a strategy to promote languages all the way through education.
She said: "I do not believe that it would be right to force every child to take a language GCSE, but I do believe very strongly that it should be compulsory for every child to study at least one modern foreign language until they are 16, at a level appropriate to them. Certainly I believe that if compulsory language teaching up to the age of 16 is not reinstated, many other primary schools will surely not think it worth investing in language teaching for their seven-year-olds, only to send them to secondary school aged 11 where their achievement may not be valued or built on."
Baroness Garden said that plans for an English Baccalaureate include a modern or ancient language.
7% - Percentage of time KS3 pupils spend on languages.