French row over English lessons

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Sep 3 14:55:20 UTC 2008

French row over English lessons
By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

The main teaching union in France has criticised the education
minister's plans to offer free English classes in the school holidays
next year. Xavier Darcos announced the plans on Monday, insisting that
speaking fluent English was the key to success.  The Snes-FSU union
leader Roland Hubert said Mr Darcos should be concentrating on what
happens during school time.  The policy marks a real break from the
traditional Gallic strategy of promoting the French language. Two
years ago, the then President, Jacques Chirac, famously stormed out of
an EU summit when a fellow Frenchman began making his speech in
English. In 1994, the French parliament passed a law obliging
music-orientated French radio stations to increase their
French-language programming to at least 40% of their output.


Xavier Darcos said it was a "handicap" to speak poor English. He said
that while "well-off families pay for study sessions abroad, I'm
offering them to everyone right here".  President Nicolas Sarkozy is
likely to back the plan.  He has already infuriated traditionalists by
suggesting that the French should no longer insist on speaking their
own language at international negotiations. The French leader does
admit however that his own English needs a little work. He once made a
speech to businessmen in English, telling them they would all be
welcome to invest in "Frence".

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