Relevance has always been an issue in the language learning debate and many students either don't see the relevance, don't want to put in the effort or simply prefer other subjects. Given the choice, many year 8 and 9 students I have encountered would drop languages in favour of more PE, ICT, Technology, Drama, etc. and I probably would have done, too.
This is not because they don't like languages, but because they would prefer to do something else. Analogy: I love drinking coffee but give me the choice between cup of coffee and a cold beer on a hot summer's day and the beer would win every time.
So, what is the solution?
Make language learning "fun"?
Make it more relevant?
Force students to study MFL?
I don't know.
But I do know that teaching Mandarin in our schools is definitely NOT the solution.