Articles

Laugh at the French

In Uncategorized on January 31, 2011 by grahamharrowell

The (British) press tells me that Nicolas Sarkozy is going to “force” French children as young as 3 years old to learn English. Has he no scruples? Let’s face it people in France are desperate to learn English because they recognise that it is another weapon in their armoury when looking for a job. Contrast this with the British (perhaps the English) who have now think that they have an excuse for not learning a foreign language because “everybody in the world has to speak English”. If a monoglot gets a job where s/he has to attend a meeting abroad they’ll soon find out the disadvantages they face by only speaking English.

The time to start learning a foreign language is when you’re young but, unlike in the UK, you must keep on when at secondary school. This is just the time when young people’s self-consciousness inhibits language learning.

The UK press also quotes a French academic, M. Zemmour, who tells them that learning English is like surrendering to colonisation. He says it’s a “fad” like learning German under the occupation. Of course the press miss the point. He doesn’t actually mean that. He is French and, challenged to counter the argument in favour of learning English, he comes up with a reasoned and (to some) compelling argument. That’s how the French are trained.

Michael Gove tells us that the English “baccalaureat” is the way forward. He suggest that this continental sounding qualification is the answer to the ills of education. However he doesn’t include in it the big element that is essentially French – philosophy. It’s there and it’s the first exam that has to be done. The Cartesian tradition demands that in France secondary school students must be able to formulate a cogent and reasoned argument to support any proposition. There is an old joke where the Frenchman, presented with a motor car or an aeroplane says, “Yes, it works in practice, but does it work in theory?” It’s important to be able to present your case.

So the UK press shouldn’t believe that the French don’t want to learn English, or that they have given up on their own language. No, they’ll continue with their own tongue, whilst at the same time wiping the floor with us in our own.

The press and Michael Gove should forget the English baccalaureat and mocking the French and get on with promoting language learning in schools in the UK. It opens up understanding as well as communication.

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