The Tories have pledged to ensure children of immigrants are taught to speak good English in schools.
Mr Howard has also pledged to root out political correctness in schools
Conservative leader Michael Howard said it was important that people who made their home in Britain "learn the language of our nation".
He also promised to put traditional teaching methods, such as phonics, back at the heart of teaching in schools.
Labour have pledged more pupil-centred learning. The Lib Dems would boost primary school teachers by 21,000.
Mr Howard said repeated studies had shown that the system of phonics, where children are taught words through the sounds that form them, was the best method for teaching language.
"This is important for all children - but it is particularly important for those whose first language is not English.
"A common language is the most obvious binding element in any society. Without it, it is much harder for people to be active members of the community," he said.
Many people might choose to continue using their mother tongue at home, he said, but they had to learn English properly too.
Eton 'my choice'
Setting out the Conservatives' education policies in London, Mr Howard said voters faced a clear choice.
They could choose between good discipline and high standards under the Tories, and failing standards and poor discipline under a Labour or Liberal Democrat government, he said.
His "driving ambition" was to give people "real opportunity - the opportunity to make a success of their life", he added.
His party would give head teachers more powers to exclude disruptive pupils, he said, and invest heavily in schools to help "troubled youngsters" gain skills for work.
While describing his own state education in Wales as "the best start any child could have in life", Mr Howard defended his decision to send his own son to Eton.
"If there had been a state school in London that I would have had confidence in, that it would have given me the kind of education that I had in Llanelli Grammar School, I might have made a different choice.
"But we believe in choice and I exercised that choice on behalf of my children."
The Conservatives also plan to scrap all university tuition fees, instead charging a commercial rate of interest on student loans.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said the Tory pledge to abolish tuition fees "may be good opportunism, but it is bad policy".
Labour's manifesto pledges include providing education or training for every 16- to 18-year-old, rebuilding or refurbishing every secondary school and individualising learning for pupils.
The Lib Dems have also promised to scrap tuition fees but would fund the policy by raising the top level of income tax to 50%.
They plan to recruit 21,000 extra primary school teachers to reduce class sizes and cut bureaucracy, giving teachers more time with each child.