• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

'Speaking English would make French less glum'

Ben McPartland · 25 Mar 2013, 15:10

Published: 25 Mar 2013 15:10 GMT+01:00

A BVA-Gallup International survey in 2011 found that despite their relatively high standard of living, the French were the most pessimistic people in the world. So, in a country where they have a 35-hour working week, lengthy summer holidays, wholesome cuisine, great wine and a fantastic countryside, why are the French people so down on themselves?

Next month, Professor Claudia Senik from the Paris School of Economics will present a study to the Royal Economic Society in London on the reasons why, based on her study of the European Social Survey.

For this week's opinion piece, Senik tells The Local why France's own culture and education system are partly to blame for the French being less cheery than their worse-off European neighbours, and how speaking better English would help them get back their joie de vivre.

School is to blame

Professor Claudia Senik: “I think the role of the primary school system in France is partly to blame. If unhappiness is partly due to someone's mentality, then people are forming that negative mentality at an early age in primary schools.

"One theory is that the grading system in French schools is responsible. In France, students are generally graded on a scale of 0 to 10 or 0 to 20 and it’s very difficult to get high grades. This means the majority of pupils are used to getting bad grades. When they think about their self-worth or their value, they think about these grades, which are usually low or intermediate.

"This view becomes ingrained since childhood, so they become dissatisfied with themselves.

“It is well documented that, in the United States for instance, children have a much more positive view of themselves, where school is more geared towards building self-confidence. This is not the case in France. In Nordic countries, too, pupils are not graded as much and the grades are much easier to achieve.

"To improve the happiness of French people the schooling system needs changing. It is too strict, and in primary school the children will do French, History and Maths but then only one hour of drawing and two of hours of gym a week. That’s ridiculous. It needs to be more multi-dimensional.

"I was amazed at the importance of sport in the American school system, but in France you really have to be a pure intellectual if you want to be happy at school.

“There are of course positive aspects to the French education system. They are very good academically, but not necessarily for making the kids happy."

Lost grandeur of the French empire

"In life you always compare your position in reference to some benchmark, and in France this is the grandeur of the old Francophone empire and the influence that France used to have in the world.

"Painters and writers used to come to France to make a career but that’s not the case anymore. People may not always be conscious of this, but they are feeling it. It’s a feeling of decline in terms of international influence. Many countries in Europe are experiencing this decline but the French feel it more than others.

"What makes it worse is that the French also don’t really appreciate the new world, either. There’s something deep in French ideology that makes them dislike market-based globalization (supply and demand, competition, and so on.)"

Story continues below…

The French need to learn English to be happier

"To be happier the French could do with learning more foreign languages. Of course, Anglophone countries are worse, but that doesn’t matter because everyone speaks English. Being happy is not about speaking the foreign language itself, but about being able to fit more easily into this globalized world, which you can do if you speak English.

"Travel will also help the French, because if you always stay in one country then that becomes your benchmark. Many French people would benefit from seeing what the situation is like in other countries."

Professor Claudia Senik

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Euro 2016
France survive Irish scare to make quarter-final
Antoine Griezmann scored two second-half goals. Photo: AFP

Antoine Griezmann broke Irish hearts with two second-half goals as France came from behind to claim a 2-1 win over ten-man Republic of Ireland and move into the Euro 2016 quarter-finals on Sunday.

'Transatlantic trade deal not good for EU': French PM
"I can tell you frankly, there cannot be a transatlantic treaty agreement. This agreement is not on track," Valls said. Photo: AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Sunday blasted a planned EU-US trade treaty, saying the ambitious deal was against "EU interests."

Euro 2016
Five things you didn't know about France and Ireland
Photos: AFP

France and Ireland have more than a few interesting connections. Here are our favourite five.

Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
Photo: AFP

The Brexit vote has prompted a mixed bag of reactions from the French public.

Opinion - Brexit seen from abroad
'Today it's hard not to feel ashamed to be British'
Photo: AFP

Apologies France, we may have just messed up your country too.

Brexit
French in UK: 'Brexit vote is clearly against foreigners'
The French Bookshop in London's Kensington. Photo: AFP

Spare a thought for the French people living in the UK right now. They didn't even get to vote.

Hollande: Brexit vote 'a grave test for Europe'
Photo: AFP

President Francois Hollande said on Friday that he already regrets the UK's "painful choice".

Brexit - Property
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
A house of sale in La-Faute-sur-Mer (Vendée). Photo: Frank Perry/AFP

The dream move to France may have to be put on hold or simply dropped.

Brexit
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Brits won't be forced home, of course, but are forced to live in limbo for a while. Photo: AFP

So what happens now for Brits in France? Nothing too dramatic, but a lot of uncertainty amid legal limbo.

Brexpats on Brexit
Brexit: Life for Brits in France will get more complicated
Will France still be paradise for British expats after a Brexit? Photo: Simon/FlickR

After Britain voted to leave the EU, here's a look at what an EU legal expert had to say about the possible knock on effects for expats in France.

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
International
French police appear unprepared for hooligan threat at Euro 2016
Sport
An A to Z guide of what to expect in France for Euro 2016
Sport
France bans matches from being shown on cafe terraces
National
Readers' views: 'If Brexit happens I'm becoming French just to stay in EU'
Technology
Should this be the new Metro map for Paris?
2,726
jobs available