[lg policy] French in uproar over English in the classroom.

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 23 15:25:45 UTC 2013


Mais non! French in uproar over English in the classroom.

The French Parliament is considering a new bill that would allow university
science classes to be taught in English. Politicians and academics across
the spectrum are upset.

By Bastien Inzaurralde<http://www.csmonitor.com/About/Staff/Bastien-Inzaurralde>
, Correspondent / May 22, 2013

   - <http://www.csmonitor.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/media/content/2013/0522-ofrench/15860187-1-eng-US/0522-ofrench_full_600.jpg>

  French academics protest in Paris Wednesday over a planned government
reform of higher education that includes a proposal to open up French
universities to English language classes in fields like science and
economics. France's National Assembly is taking up an education reform bill
that would allow public universities to hold some courses in English, a
plan that has alarmed language purists and the political far-right alike.

Benjamin Girette/AP
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Paris

When two French ministers last month launched a new program to respond to
the challenges of population aging, they gave it an English name: “Silver
Economy.” But that didn’t strike a chord with their boss.

   -  <http://www.csmonitor.com/Photo-Galleries/In-Pictures/France-matters?nav=673921-csm_article-leftColRelated>

   In Pictures: France
matters<http://www.csmonitor.com/Photo-Galleries/In-Pictures/France-matters?nav=673921-csm_article-leftColRelated>

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The day after, Prime Minister Jean-Marc
Ayrault<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Jean-Marc+Ayrault>issued a
memo reminding all members of the cabinet of President
François Hollande
<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Francois+Hollande>that French has
been the language in use by administration and justice
officials here since 1539.

"I invite you to ensure respect of the rules overseeing the use of our
language in society because, whatever the area it is about – consumption,
education, business, science, culture, broadcasting – our social fabric is
weakened if these rules are not strictly followed,” Mr. Ayrault wrote.

RECOMMENDED: Think you know Europe? Take our geography
quiz.<http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2011/0128/Think-you-know-Europe-Take-our-geography-quiz?nav=673921-csm_article-promoLink>

But now the government is proposing a bill that would allow some classes to
be taught in a foreign language, chiefly English, at public universities –
reigniting the country's frequent, ongoing debate about the proper use of
its constitutionally enshrined native tongue, as critics say the new
measure would undermine the French language's place as a defining element
of France <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/France>'s national identity
and cultural stature.

The French government has hailed the measure as a way to attract more
foreign students and scholars to France and points that hundreds of college
programs are already being taught in English.

Supporters – including two Nobel
Prize<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Nobel+Prize>winners – of the
measure say it would not only make France more attractive
for talented students and scholars who don’t speak French, but also help
French students prepare to work in an English-speaking environment.

“It is a good thing that we convey the message to students around the world
that they can come study in France and that they won’t have to deal with a
language barrier [in class] on top of that,” says Antoine Petit, the
associate general director of Inria, a research institute for computer
science and applied mathematics.

Yet the bill, which went to Parliament today, has met strong opposition
from both politicians across the political spectrum and prominent scholars.

Christian Lequesne, the director of the
Paris<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Paris+%28France%29>-based
Center for International Studies and Research, says the French far-left and
the conservative right see the bill as a vehicle for American and British
influence in France.

“Politicians can’t help seeing a domination of the Anglo-Saxon world
[through this bill],” says Mr. Lequesne, who supports the measure.

Far-right leader Marine Le
Pen<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Marine+Le+Pen>of the National
Front in a May 17 news release demanded that Mr. Hollande
withdraw the bill in the name of “national interest.”

“France will not be stronger by giving up its assets and it national
genius, by pouring itself in the mold of an Anglo-Saxon-style
globalization,” Ms. Le Pen said in the news release. “The French language,
present on the five continents, is obviously among the strengths of our
country.”

The French Academy, an institution established in 1635 to oversee the use
of French, has also recommended that the portion of the bill that would
allow classes to be taught in foreign languages in college be withdrawn.

“The French Academy, faithful to its vocation of guardian of the language
and its evolution, wishes to draw attention on the dangers of a measure
that seems to be of technical nature, when in reality it favors the
marginalization of our language,” read part of a statement issued on March
22.

Opposition to the bill even comes from within the ranks of the Socialist
Party in power.

Pouria Amirshahi, a Socialist lawmaker in the lower chamber of Parliament,
says there is no point for French universities in trying to attract foreign
students from India <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/India> and other
developing countries who can’t speak any French or don’t intend to learn it.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Indians who can speak French or who are
willing to speak French,” Mr. Amirshahi says. “So the one that only speaks
English, he doesn’t come here.... And if he comes, he has to learn” French.

Amirshahi, who speaks English and other languages, says the government
should improve how French schools teach foreign languages rather than
require college students to take classes taught in English.

About 220 million people speak French across the world, with
Europe<http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Europe>and sub-Saharan
Africa <http://www.csmonitor.com/tags/topic/Sub-Saharan+Africa> being the
two areas with the highest concentration of French speakers, according to
the International Organization of La Francophonie.

But Lequesne of the Center for International Studies and Research says that
contrary to politicians opposing the bill, young French scholars usually
feel comfortable speaking and writing in English.

Mr. Petit says he thinks this controversy also is the expression of
France’s passion for arguments.

“We are really good in France at ending up arguing, fighting, debating
about tiny issues,” he says. “And I think we love it.”
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2013/0522/Mais-non!-French-in-uproar-over-English-in-the-classroom?nav=87-frontpage-entryInsideMonito

-- 
=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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