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France to debate introduction of more English-speaking courses

Plans to ease a ban on the use of English in French universities will be debated on Wednesday with unions threatening to strike in protest at a measure some claim will turn French into a “dead language”. France EducationUnder a 1994 “Toubon” law defending the French language, French must be used in classrooms from right through nursery to university, barring lessons in a foreign language and visits from foreign guest teachers. The law also obliges public bodies to find French alternatives to Anglicisms, such as “mercatique” for “marketing”. Geneviève Fioraso, the Minister for Higher Education, wants to ramp up courses in English, warning that otherwise universities will eventually end up with "five people sitting around a table discussing Proust". The measure, she said, 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 it has ignited a storm of protest from language purists, including the influential Academie Francaise, set up in 1635 and the official guardian of the language. Courriel, a French language defence association, even branded it “linguistic assassination”. Now several leading unions in the education sector have threatened to strike on Wednesday, when a parliamentary debate over the proposal opens, with even some members of the ruling Socialist party opposing the plan. Leading the MPs' protest is Pouria Amirshahi, a lawmaker representing French expatriates living in north and west Africa. She said: "The signal given out to those everywhere who learn French is not reassuring.” Concessions ensuring the use of English or other foreign languages only accounts for part of the course were 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 who long fronted a national dictation contest, said it could kill off "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 vandalised and become poorer," he said. "It will turn into a commonplace language, or worse, a dead language." But with France battling record unemployment the case for English has never been stronger in an increasingly global jobs market. Miss Fioraso 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. Emmanuel Zemmour, head of France UNEF students’ union, said the entire row was missing the point. What really students really care about, he said, was: “Can I go to university, pass my diploma and find work?” Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/10068769/France-to-debate-introduction-of-more-English-speaking-courses.html

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