"David Cameron, who has notoriously poor schoolboy French, is urging today's youngsters to abandon the language of Molière and Voltaire to concentrate on the tongue of the future – Mandarin.
In a parting shot, as he left China after a three-day visit, the prime minister said that pupils should look beyond the traditional French and German lessons and instead focus on China.
To reinforce his message the prime minister quoted Nelson Mandela, who said learning someone else's language is the best way to their heart. Cameron said: "I want Britain linked up to the world's fast-growing economies. And that includes our young people learning the languages to seal tomorrow's business deals.
"By the time the children born today leave school, China is set to be the world's largest economy. So it's time to look beyond the traditional focus on French and German and get many more children learning Mandarin.
"As Mandela once said: 'If you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head, if you talk to him in his own language that goes to his heart.'""