• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Unions threaten strike over English at unis

AFP · 20 May 2013, 14:05

Published: 20 May 2013 14:05 GMT+02:00

Several leading unions in the education sector have threatened to strike on Wednesday and the influential Academie Francaise, set up in 1635 and the official authority on the language, has led a chorus of disapproval.

The country has for decades zealously propagated the use of French both at home and abroad through cultural institutions and the French-speaking Francophonie bloc of nations.

But the use of English has made rapid inroads at home with the vast majority of French youths learning the language and using it on a near-daily basis. Many now respond to telephone calls with an energetic "Yes?" in place of the traditional "allo" or "oui".

English is seen more and more in graffiti in Paris and "franglais" is gaining ground. People pepper their sentences with expressions such as "why not?", instead of the French equivalent "pourquoi pas?"

Higher Education Minister Genevieve Fioraso has said the measure is aimed at increasing the number of foreign students at French universities from the current level of 12 percent of the total to 15 percent by 2020.

But even fellow members of her ruling Socialist party have opposed the plan.

Pouria Amirshahi, a lawmaker representing French expatriates living in north and west Africa, was cutting in his criticism.    

"The signal given out to those everywhere who learn French is not reassuring," he told AFP.

Although the proposed plan foresees the use of English or other foreign languages for only a part of the course, it is still "unacceptable," critics said.

"It is the cultural heritage which is at stake," said Claudine Kahane, a senior official of Snesup-FSU, one of the main unions in the education sector.

Journalist Bernard Pivot, a leading figure in French cultural circles, said it could sound the death knell for what locals quaintly call "the language of Moliere."

"If we allow English to be introduced into our universities and for teaching science and the modern world, French will be vandalized and become poorer," he said.

"It will turn into a commonplace language, or worse, a dead language."

But the case for English is gaining ground in an era of globalization. The French economy is currently in recession with double-digit unemployment and many people fear they might eventually have to work abroad.

Story continues below…

Fioraso on Wednesday said the controversy was unjustified.

"Today there are 790 training courses mainly in English ... and nobody is shouting," she said.

Khaled Bouabdallah, vice-president of the conference of the heads of universities, said: "We have been in favour of this for many years.

"Foreign students who normally shun our universities will come", and "for our own students the mastery of English is an important aspect," he said.

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
BREAKING
Ten children struck by lightning in Paris park
Photo: AFP

Eleven people including ten children have been injured by lightning during a thunderstorm at Parc Monceau in Paris on Saturday.

What to expect when working in a bar in Paris
Photo: Fabrizio Morrola/Flickr

Fancy the idea of a bar job in Paris? There are a few things you need to know first, writes bartender Lauren Belcher.

Five key tips to opening a bank account in France
Photo: Dave Dugdale/Flickr

Avoid the headaches. Read this before opening a bank account in France.

Afghan migrant killed by lorry in Calais
French riot police guard a truck after migrants tried to mount several trucks near the Eurotunnel, near Calais earlier this year. Photo: AFP

A 25-year-old Afghan migrant was killed by a lorry on a motorway near the French port city of Calais in the early hours of Saturday, according to officials.

French PM Valls stakes political career on union fight
A demonstrator wears a sticker featuring France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls last week in Nantes, western France, during a protest against government planned labour law reforms. Photo: AFP

Engaged in a fierce tug of war with unions and some of his own party over labour reforms, France's embattled Prime Minister Manuel Valls has staked his political career on staring down the crisis.

Which of France's strikes could affect Euro 2016?
Photos: AFP

A series of ongoing strikes in France could continue to affect the country throughout the Euro 2016 tournament, which starts in just two weeks.

Fuel crisis eases as French police unblock depots
Tires on fire in front of an oil depot near the Total refinery of Donges, western France, on Friday. Photo: AFP

After a week of fuel shortages in France, things are improving in time for the weekend.

Opinion - French strikes
'Stop pissing everyone off': French boss to union chief
Philippe Martinez, the head of the CGT union. Photo: AFP

In an open letter to the man attempting to bring France to a standstill, a business owner tells him to stop "living in the past" and stop "pissing everyone off".

Want a '30-hour work week'? Move to Paris (or Lyon)
Lunchtime in Paris? Photo: reynermedia/Flickr

Workers in Paris and Lyon put in the fewest hours out of 71 major cities around the world. Lazy or supremely efficient.

The nations the French love to make fun of the most
Photo: Romain Seignovert

The British are not the French's top target, believe it or not.

National
Which of France's strikes could affect Euro 2016?
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
'You're not welcome': French police chief warns English yobs
How to avoid running out of fuel if you're coming to France
National
It's Neighbours' Day! But what does it all mean?
National
The French fuel crisis for dummies: 27 key questions
National
The trials and tribulations of moving to rural France
National
Five free smartphone apps to help you find petrol in France
National
A complete guide to France's (many) ongoing strikes
Culture
Paris: Street artist makes the Louvre pyramid disappear
Interactive map: Where to find petrol in France
Who is the French union in a 'fight to the death' with the government?
Society
Opinion: Why the French are absolutely right to go on strike
National
Here's why both sides despise France's labour reforms
National
Who is really to blame for the fuel crisis in France?
National
Here are the parts of France hardest hit by the fuel shortages
Travel
It will soon be time to say 'au revoir' to the Paris Metro ticket
Culture
Revealed: The ultimate sex map of France
National
Migrants at Calais camp given dignity in death
International
How good is security at Charles de Gaulle airport?
Culture
How to make a traditional French cassoulet
Culture
IN PICS: Commuter trains in Paris get royal makeover
International
Terror attack 'likeliest cause' of missing EgyptAir plane
International
Who was on board the missing EgyptAir flight from Paris?
2,738
jobs available