Could German language be forgotten in France?

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Oliver Gee - [email protected]
Could German language be forgotten in France?
Students in Strasbourg, eastern France. Photo: AFP

The German ambassador to France has met the education minister to air her concerns about the decline of German language classes for French students, as new reforms threaten to push the language to a fourth option.


The German Ambassador to France Suzanne Wasum-Rainer met with Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem on Monday night for "extensive discussions" about the number of students in France learning the German language, reported Le Figaro newspaper
At the heart of the matter is a slew of education reforms that are on the table in France which would see a shift in the way younger children are taught second and third languages. 
The reforms, which are scheduled to take effect in September next year, include measures for pupils to start learning their second foreign language at the age of 12, one year earlier than they currently do.
This extra time spent on a new language could mean that cuts are made elsewhere, which would likely mean a removal of "bilingual" or "international" classes.

(Education Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. Photo: AFP)
And as many pupils opt for English as their number one choice of a second language, and often prefer Spanish as the easiest third alternative - the Germans are worried their language will be forgotten.
Ever since the 1963 treaty, France and Germany have both worked to teach each other's languages in schools as part of a reconciliation programme, and the bilingual classes have been seen as a strong part of this tradition.
Vallaud-Belkacem has argued these classes are generally reserved for "elite" students, reported Le Figaro, and that she wanted second languages to be accessible "for everyone".
Ambassador Wasum-Rainer, however, is not alone when it comes to the concern of the bilingual classes being scrapped.
Joachim Umlauf, the head of the Goethe Institute which promotes the study of the German language abroad, has slammed the reforms and said that learning German in France has about the same priority as growing orchids
Fifty-nine MPs who are part of a Franco-German unity group also signed a letter for the education minister outlining their own worries on the matter.
While the outcome of their discussions remains unknown for now, Vallaud-Belkacem is adamant that it's time to deal with a disparity in French schools. She said recently that France's high school education system (collège) is "doing badly" and pupils' results are deteriorating, 
"The problem with French high school pupils today is that they are bored. We need to reawaken their appetite," she said at the time. 
Her reforms aim especially to address the issues of children who are falling behind, in an effort to change what some have referred to as France's elitist school curriculum. 


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