Saturday, October 23, 2004

TOEFL: The Teaching Of English through French Logic — Out of Touch with Reality

The AFP:
A new report recommending English become a compulsory subject in all schools in France has stirred heated debate in the country, with teachers' unions and proponents of linguistic diversity clenching their jaws in opposition, Friday's Le Monde newspaper reported.

… Such a move would help French pupils catch up with their counterparts in other EU countries who enjoy a big lead in using what the commission's report called the language of "international communication".

… But some politicians who want to see English usage diminished until it is just one of several widely accepted languages — among which French, of course, would figure — have railed against the idea of making English being compulsory.

"English is the most-spoken language today, but that won't last," one deputy from the ruling UMP party, Jacques Myard, told Le Monde.

He predicted that Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish would all become increasingly important in the future.

"If one has to make one language obligatory," Myard added, "let it be Arabic."

(Merci à Grégoire Schreiber) Might it be that when the French and/or Europeans will have to learn the intricacies of Arabic irregular verbs and Chinese grammar (in their own scripts), they will look back to the "good ol' days" with a longing sigh, remembering when English was paramount?

Meanwhile, "The enemy is English" concludes Virginie Malingre, describing various attempts at resistance by French MPs and pointing out that a manifesto to officially consecrate French as the legal language of Europe has been supported by not a single "Anglo-Saxon" VIP. (The significance of the supposed perfidy to be found in this final sentence is somewhat deluted by the fact that besides a former Portuguese president and an Albanian writer, she cannot name a single foreign VIP who does support the initiative, and that besides Maurice Druon, none of the three Frenchmen who inititated the project a week earlier are very famous. Besides, two of them are 80 or older.) Ah, these Frenchmen, they always know who the real enemy is, and when to fight for a worthy cause…

An editorial weighs in with a proposal that all EU pupils learn two languages:

The imperialism of the Anglo-American language [that racial aspect, again] would provoke less tension if the education ministers of the European Union agreed on the obligation to teach two foreign languages in all their countries.
All very good and democratic (in the French sense of the word), but if a Frenchman has learned English and Estonian, and an Italian knows Swedish and Portuguese, and a Dane speaks Greek and Arabic, then we're back to square one, which is that… everybody needs one single common language (especially if the Chinese businessman heading for Paris knows Japanese and Spanish).

More importantly, this quick solution fails to take into consideration all kinds of practical matters, such as the fact that, even if all politicians agree to more spending on this matter, and even if many (tax-paying) parents agree to this solution, many of their children may not see any interest whatsoever in having to spend three (two?) extra hours per week in school to satisfy what boils down to their elders' need to keep up appearances.