Eric Pickles warns immigrants they must encourage their children to learn English if they want them to succeed in Britain.
The Communities Secretary attacked Labour for spending £140m on translation instead of helping people learn the language.
He said this has led to the “incomprehensible situation” where no-one speaks English as their main language in 5% of UK homes.
“People should be able to talk to, and understand one and another in a nuanced way. I’m not expecting everyone to adopt the lyrical dexterity of a Boris Johnson,” he said.
“But this is about getting the best from all our citizens. Britain is a country built on aspiration. Working hard to get your first job, your first car, your first house.
“But the reality is you need English to succeed. You can’t function as a good doctor, a good teacher or a good engineer if you can’t talk the language.”
He added: “If your kids don’t have English, you’re condemning them to a limited life.”
The minister compared immigrants in Britain who still cannot speak English with parents in Beijing and Mumbai who are “striving” for their children to learn it.
Mr Pickles claimed that Labour’s approach while in power has entrenched division and slammed “shut the doors of opportunity”.
“It was good to hear recently an apology for these poor policy choices. It’s just a pity they came 15 years too late. If we want people to get along it makes sense they speak English,” he said.
The Cabinet minister also weighed into the row over religious symbols, following a European court ruling that found a British woman who wore a gold cross was discriminated against.
Mr Pickles claimed that religious freedom has been undermined by the “intolerance of aggressive secularism” and stress the importance of faith to British society.
“Faith provides a clear moral compass and a call to action that benefits society as a whole,” he said.
“At a time when Christians are under attack for their beliefs in different parts of the world, I am proud of the freedom of belief that exists in Britain.
“But in recent years long-standing British liberties of freedom of religion have been undermined by the intolerance of aggressive secularism.
“Taking people to task for wearing a cross or a rosary, beginning costly legal actions against council prayers – as if they had nothing better to do.
“We’re committed to the right of Christians and people of all beliefs to follow their faith openly, wear religious symbols and pray in public.”