• France edition
 
Opinion - Language
'Plan for degree courses in English is deluded'

'Plan for degree courses in English is deluded'

Published: 17 Apr 2013 16:30 GMT+02:00
Updated: 22 May 2013 08:55 GMT+02:00

France’s Minister for Higher Education, Geneviève Fioraso, provoked anger among a group of writers, as well as the famous protectors of the French language the Academie Française earlier this year when she announced plans to permit university courses to be taught entirely in English.

Fioraso wants to change the famous Toubon law - which states that French must be the language of all teaching - a move that would enable universities to attract more students from across the globe.

The government wants to bring the level of foreign students from 12 percent to 15 percent at French institutions, whose reputation, according to a recent report, has suffered on a global scale. They believe courses in English hold the key.

Many academics, including Jean-Loup Salzmann, president of the Conference of University Presidents are in favour. "English has become the international Language no matter what the pessimists think," he said.

Although some private universities and the elite Grandes Ecoles already offer courses in English, officially they are breaking the law by doing so. Author Frederic Werst who, along with other writers, is leading the campaign against the minister's plan, tells The Local why the practice should remain illegal.

French universities would only be second choice

Frédéric Werst: "The government says it wants to increase the attractiveness of French Universities. For this reason, the Minister of Higher Education and Research, Geneviève Fioraso, has developed a bill including certain provisions to achieve this aim. At first sight, one can only rejoice.

"However, the problem is that this bill envisages the creation of university courses that would provide instruction in a "foreign language", which of course, would be English. This would then see French removed from some courses.  As an advocate of linguistic diversity, it seems to me a bad idea. Just as the Académie Française noted, the current bill is far too vague.

"The Minister argues that this move would help attract the best foreign students to France. But this is deluded. The universities of choice for the best English-speaking students will naturally be in Anglo institutions. For them, French universities would only be a fallback option.

There are other languages than English to learn

"Fundamentally, it is clear that excellence is not just about speaking mediocre Globish (global English) but about mastering several languages. This is true today, and it will be even more true in the world of tomorrow.

"Multilingualism is an enrichment of the spirit and an invaluable asset for innovation and success in all areas, including in science and commerce.

"It is true that the level of foreign language ability ​​is not good in France. But it's not by removing French from universities that we will solve this problem.

"We need to promote foreign languages: English of course, but also Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and many others. Obviously French universities should offer more bilingual and multilingual courses. But this is not the spirit of the law proposed by Fioraso.

"The minister is blinded by a utilitarian ideology which believes that knowledge is a commodity and a language is simply packaging. But this is false: language itself is knowledge and the ability to speak several languages is extremely enriching.  

If you want to be competitive and attractive, then this is what we need too promote - not monolingualism, which only leads to poor results.

We are ignoring growing French speaking world

"The minister’s bill also ignores the opportunity that the French-speaking world represents for France and its universities. French is still the world’s second language, even if it is a long way behind English. And the population of the French-speaking world is growing rapidly.

"Thousands of students in French-speaking countries but also in other regions (the Gulf region, Asia) would like to study in France.

They too speak English, but also other languages. These are the ones we need to attract and we should introduce a visa for the whole French speaking world ('visa Francophonie') as soon as possible.

The  Minister for La Francophonie, Yamina Benguigui, has publicly stated her commitment to this idea. We can only encourage her to implement it."

Frederic Werst is a French author best known for his 2011 book "Ward, an anthology of poems and tales on the fictional Wards people", that was written half in French and half in the made up language of Wardwesân. Along with novelists Eugène Green and Olivier Rolin, Werst is leading the campaign against the government's plan, which is set to go before parliament in May. 

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Top Gear to launch new French version of show
Hit British car series "Top Gear" is coming to France. Photo: Ana Poenariu/AFP

Top Gear to launch new French version of show

France is going to get its own version of legendary British auto series Top Gear with the show set to hit the TV screens by next year. READ  

Ukraine crisis
Mistral deal: Pressure on France as tensions rise
France may be forced to take another another look at its warship deal with Russia. Photo: Sergei Supinsky/AFP

Mistral deal: Pressure on France as tensions rise

Increased tension in the Ukraine has only served to heighten the pressure on France, which so far has stubbornly refused to pull-out of its €1.2 billion deal to sell two Mistral warships to Russia. But will Paris be forced to re-consider? READ  

Paris building blast: Eighth body found
Firefighters pull a body from the rubble after an explosion brought down an apartment block near Paris on Sunday. Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP

Paris building blast: Eighth body found

French rescue workers pulled an eighth body out of the rubble of a four-storey building near Paris on Monday. The apartment block collapsed on Sunday after an explosion. Rescuers don't believe anyone else is still missing. READ  

Opinion - School reform
'New five-day week is vital for French pupils'
French primary school pupils will attend school five days a week from now on, despite opposition from parents. Photo: Shutterstock

'New five-day week is vital for French pupils'

The head of a major parents' group in France tells The Local why the new five-day school week will bring French schools into the 21st century. READ  

Ligue 1
Blow for French league as Falcao departs
Radamel Falcao has left French Ligue 1 side to join Manchester United. Photo: AFP

Blow for French league as Falcao departs

The French league was dealt a blow on Monday when one of its star names, Monaco's Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, left to join Manchester United. The move shows clubs in France's Ligue 1, with the exception of PSG, cannot compete with Europe's big teams. READ  

Photo of French pupils draws 'racist' backlash
An Education Ministry photo has prompted an online controversy in France, because only one kid is white. Photo: Sophie Brändström/Education Ministry

Photo of French pupils draws 'racist' backlash

The French government has firmly rebuked scores of 'racist' comments left on an education ministry Facebook post which shows a back-to-school scene with mostly non-white children. The image has elicited a furious online debate. READ  

French bureaucrats go after baker for 22 cents
Bureaucrats at the RSI have threatened legal action against a retired baker for a debt of 22 centimes. Photo: AFP

French bureaucrats go after baker for 22 cents

A retired pastry maker from the south of France was given a nasty shock this week when French authorities threatened to take legal action against him over unpaid debt. He stands accused of owing 22 centimes to the state. A stamp in France costs 59 cents. READ  

Ask The Experts - French savings
Saving money in France: What's the best option?
What's the best thing to do with your savings in France? Photo: Shutterstock

Saving money in France: What's the best option?

Ever wondered what's the best thing to do with your savings in France? As part of our "Ask The Experts" series we've invited expat financial adviser Jonathan Cooper to tell you what to do with your hard-earned euros. READ  

France's 'Tony Blair' divides Socialist Party
Does the French PM Manuel Valls remind you of anyone? A younger Tony Blair perhaps? Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

France's 'Tony Blair' divides Socialist Party

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls urged Socialist Party rebels to unite behind the government this weekend, as opposition among dissenters on the left against the leader they are increasingly referring to as a French "Tony Blair", continues to grow. READ  

Ligue 1 round-up
PSG in five-goal rout as Bordeaux slip up
Zlatan celebrates after scoring one of three goals against St Etienne on Sunday night. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

PSG in five-goal rout as Bordeaux slip up

French champions PSG made a statement of intent on Sunday beating Saint Etienne 5-0 at the Parc des Princes, while leaders Bordeaux slipped up at home to Bastia and Lyon lost again. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Ten dos and don'ts for keeping your French in-laws happy
National
Unemployment: How does France compare to Europe?
International
Are all the talented professionals really leaving France?
National
La France profonde: Is it a rural idyll or a backwater hell?
Travel
Check out the four new attractions coming to Paris this autumn
Gallery
The French words you can't translate literally
National
Ten things you need to know about France's economics whizzkid
International
VIDEO: Watch the top five street scams to avoid in Paris
Politics
Take a look at the bulging to-do list that awaits France's new government
Politics
Six questions for France after Hollande ousts rebels
International
Choosing schools in France: Do you go international or French?
Gallery
From kissing to bad-mouthing: Ten ways expats in France drive you mad
Culture
Ten things you need to know about the Liberation of Paris:
Travel
Watch this impressive time lapse video and you'll want to move to Paris
National
Veiled Muslim woman on a French beach prompts politician's angry rant
Travel
Forget Paris and Provence where are the least touristy areas of France?
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The battle to liberate Paris from the Nazis
National
What France means to you in just one tweet
National
15 French 'false friends' you need to watch out for
International
12 reasons to invest in Paris and seven not to
National
French hamlet 'Death to Jews' mulls name change
National
French tourist caught in Pompeii brothel romp
International
'Forget the Anglo-media's image of France, the reality is much different'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se