Au revoir for study of French, German?

French is not dying but it is in decline, and for many Americans, that's as good a reason as any to ditch it, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
PITTSBURGH—Jaclyn Davis, of Akron, Ohio, may be as American as apple pie, but when she answers the phone at La Gourmandine bakery in Lawrenceville, her accent is as rich, fruity and authentically French as the tarte aux fraises sold there.

And therein lies the problem: the 22-year old cashier at the new bakery is also a student at the University of Akron, working towards a teaching certificate in French, a culture she adores but a career choice she has to defend to her fellow Americans nearly every day.

"When I was working at Home Depot, I'd get wisecracks all the time," Ms. Davis said, mostly from people who couldn't understand why she'd want to learn French. "They'd say, 'Oh, the French are cowards, they didn't fight with us in the Iraq war, what do you want to do that for?' "

Ditto for Megan Leinbach, a German major at the University of Pittsburgh.

"My classes are full," said Ms. Leinbach, 21, who hails from Lancaster County. "But some of my friends say German's a dying language, and I have to remind them that Germany is an economic powerhouse, so I don't think it's dying, exactly."

Once upon a time, they were known as The Big Three: Spanish, French and German, and they are still the top three languages taught in colleges across America—although Spanish leads the other two by a mile.

Think about it: in what is widely referred to as "The Asian Century," nearly a billion people speak Mandarin Chinese. Nearly half a billion
speak Spanish. And now, a raft of studies are showing that higher percentages of American students are likely to tackle Pinyin—the alphabetized version of Chinese—than the intricacies of the French subjunctive or German punctuation.

Ach!! Is French passe? Is German kaput?

Not exactly, but signs of decline are there, locally and nationally: Some of Pennsylvania's state-owned universities are seriously debating whether to offer French and German majors after current students graduate. Enrollment in French classes is shrinking in Pittsburgh's public schools, and one high school is considering phasing out its longtime German program. Shady Side Academy, a private school with campuses in Fox Chapel and the East End of Pittsburgh, is eliminating French and German from its middle school curriculum to focus on Spanish, Mandarin and Latin.

A study released this year by the Center for Applied Linguistics found that elementary school students taking French decreased from 27 percent in 1997 to 11 percent in 2008.

At the college level, "The Big Three" still predominate in terms of numbers of students, with Spanish first at 822,985, French second at 206,426 and German third at 94,264, according to a 2006 study by the Modern Language Association.

But that same study found that percentages of enrollment growth for those two languages from 2002 to 2006 was in the single digits, compared to double-digit growth for Chinese and Spanish and triple-digit growth for Arabic.

Of course, fashions in language change. In the 19th century, all well-educated Americans studied German and French. Russian took off in American schools after the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in the 1950s. In the 1980s, Japan's economic boom—and subsequent bust—set off a similar cycle in that language's popularity.

These days, neither French nor German is considered central to the modern American's life or sensibility, says John McWhorter, a linguist and contributing editor at The Manhattan Institute, a New York City think tank.

"The emphasis on French learning back in the day was based on a logical desire to teach people a language that most foreigners they were likely to meet could speak," he said. "Today knowing some French is one part a marker of middle-class propriety and one part a key to reading 'Madame Bovary.' "

Tight budgets are forcing the issue for many schools, notes Martha Abbott of the American Council for Teachers of Foreign Languages. As the effects of the economic recession hit school districts, "... when you have to choose between math and a foreign language, you're going to cut out a foreign language."

Budget concerns weren't directly to blame for some state-owned universities in Pennsylvania placing French and German majors "in moratorium"—which means they will not be accepting new students, although that could change.

In some cases, State System of Higher Education spokesman Kenn Marshall said, only a handful of students were enrolled in those classes.

"Given the resources we have available, we want to be sure we're offering students programs they want and need and that also meet the state's needs, since we're public universities," he said.

Some of the colleges in the system have been talking about combining resources to preserve French and German majors, he added.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states in the Northeast with no foreign language requirement for high school graduation, said Marsha Plotkin, who heads the Pittsburgh Public Schools' world language program. Citing the state's 500 school districts—one of the highest numbers of any state—"requiring a foreign language for every small school district would be a big expense."

Nonetheless, "the decline of French is puzzling to me because of all the emerging economies in Africa where many educated people speak French," said Ms. Plotkin, who notes that Pittsburgh once had two French and German magnet elementary schools and now has only one of each—while it has two Spanish magnet elementary schools and a third offering a special focus on Spanish.

Pittsburgh Allderdice High School and Pittsburgh Schenley offer French and German along with three other languages, although there have been discussions about phasing back the German program at Allderdice. Other city schools, faced with budget cuts, have responded in different ways: French language was cut to a half-day at Pittsburgh Westinghouse High School, although at Pittsburgh Oliver High School the principal cut Spanish rather than French. At Pittsburgh Milliones 6-12, the principal kept French, Ms. Plotkin said.

In Mt. Lebanon, French enrollment has declined slightly, while interest in German has been "fairly steady, with slight ups and downs," said Nancy Campbell, who supervises the district's language program. Shady Side Academy decided to end French and German in middle school in order to focus on Spanish, Mandarin and Latin—in part because it was more difficult to schedule five different language classes. When parents were notified, "we didn't hear a word in response. Not a peep," said Amy Nixon, head of Shady Side's middle school.

French holds its own in some quarters. Springdale Junior/Senior High School just added it at the request of parents, and French classes at Carnegie Mellon University are filled, with a 25-person waiting list for introductory French next fall. Bonnie Youngs, a teaching professor in CMU's modern language department said students use the language to read architecture and engineering texts and for drama and music.

"The death of French is greatly exaggerated," contends Richard Shryock, chairman of the foreign language and literature department at Virginia Tech.

French is spoken on all populated continents, he said, while Spanish is mostly confined to the Western Hemisphere. Twenty-seven of our trading partners are French-speaking countries, many of them in the emerging economies of Africa, he added.

Bob Kubiak, 54, of Park Place, is taking French classes from Christine Frechard, who offers them at her art gallery in Squirrel Hill. He is a huge fan of French cinema. And as a technology consultant and fine arts photographer with contacts in Paris, he's polishing his language skills.

"Spanish has a little more applicability, but I'm just more interested in French culture," he said.

These days, younger students—and parents—seem more attracted to the language of commerce rather than of diplomacy. "Children everywhere are learning Chinese!" shouts a headline on mandarinadvantage.com. Even English is touted as the new global language of business—one book recently called "Globish" the new lingua franca of commerce.

Still, "It takes three times as long to master Chinese, and a lot of people don't realize that," Mr. Shryock said.

Louis Schwartz, president of China Strategies LLC, a Squirrel Hill-based company that advises on trade and investment with China, said he took his first Mandarin course in the 1970s after graduating from Allderdice and before heading to the University of Michigan, where eventually he earned a bachelor of arts degree in Asian studies. A year spent in Taiwan helped him achieve proficiency in the language.

"My interests in China grew out of an interest in the culture and the language and the people," he said. "It was only later that I felt the need to turn a strong interest into a vocation."

So will the languages of Moliere and Goethe become a luxury and not a necessity for a well-rounded young person living in "The Asian Century"?

Perhaps, but China is hardly a cultural wasteland.

"I don't want to disparage France. It's a lovely country. And we have a lot of history with France," said Mr. Schwartz. "But I think there is probably no civilization with as deep and rich a cultural heritage as China."



La France en déclin

France being the only country in the world with a majority of French native speakers, la Francophonie relies heavily on France for its prestige. But what if France itself is in steep decline?
Plus de sept Français sur dix estiment que la France est "en déclin", même si elle dispose de "beaucoup d'atouts" aux yeux de 79% d'entre eux. C'est qui ressort d'un sondage Ifop réalisé pour le Journal du Dimanche.

Pour cette enquête, l'institut a repris les questions posées il y a cinq ans, en 2005, après le rejet par référendum de la Constitution européenne. A 71 %, les Français voient la France "en déclin", soit cinq points de plus qu'en 2005 (66 %). 28% expriment un sentiment contraire.
Click Here

Ce sondage, publié dimanche dans le JDD, a été réalisé les 2 et 3 juillet auprès d'un échantillon représentatif de 958 personnes majeures (méthode des quotas).


Invités à dire si la France a "beaucoup d'atouts", 79 % répondent positivement (contre 21 %). Ce chiffre reste élevé mais recule de dix points par rapport au sondage de 2005, où 89 % des personnes interrogées avaient répondu oui.

Les Français sont très légèrement plus nombreux (7 0% contre 69 % en 2005) à penser que le pays "est capable de se réformer" mais une forte majorité (62%) des personnes interrogées considèrent que la France "manque de confiance en elle", un chiffre en baisse de trois points par rapport à 2005.

En revanche, seul 46 % des personnes interrogées estiment que la France "constitue un modèle pour de nombreux pays". En 2005, 59% le pensaient.


French is a 'useless' language, says former foreign minister

At last, someone finds the courage to tell the truth about the uselessness of French (which is proportional to the irrelevance of the places where it is in use):
A former Foreign Office minister has branded French a 'useless' modern language.

Chris Bryant, now a shadow Foreign Office minister, told the Commons other languages - such as Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic - were more important.

'Unless we have sufficient numbers of people who speak modern foreign languages - and not just the useless modern foreign languages like French ...,' the Labour MP said.

Amid Tory protests that this was 'insulting' to the French, Mr Bryant, who was minister for the EU before Labour lost power, said: 'I've said this to the French. I think they realise there are problems.'

He defended his remark, insisting that while French had been the 'most useful language to use because it was the diplomatic language', things had changed over the last 30 to 40 years and now 'it certainly isn't.'

He said the most significant languages to speak now, aside from English, were Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic.

Mr Bryant was advocating the importance of young people taking up languages to win business in the emerging economies.

French was once one of the most popular languages taught in British schools. But in recent years, the education system has shunned it - and Spanish and German - for more 'fashionable' languages.

Chinese classes supplanting French classes

Yet another piece of news spells doom for French teaching in North America, making the often-read statement that French is with English the only language spoken on all five continents all the more laughable.
Associated Press - June 19, 2010 5:55 PM ET

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Language instructors say the rapidly growing Chinese economy is causing French language classes to be phased out and replaced with Mandarin Chinese classes in private and public schools.

The wave of Chinese language offerings includes introductory classes in three Memphis city schools starting in the fall. The offerings are in Mandarin, the most widely spoken dialect.

Laurie Stanton is the assistant head for teaching and learning at the private Hutchison School. She says the decision to offer Chinese was based on a supply & demand philosophy that began with research on student interest in languages nationally.

Stanton says the Modern Language Association did a survey in 2006 showing enrollment in French between 1990 and 2006 was down by 43%. Chinese was up 106%.

Quebec’s self-defeating language fetish

The following opinion piece could be found at the national post here. It does a good job of showing the dilemmas afflicting the protection of French in Quebec.

Special to the National Post June 4, 2010 – 7:40 am

Last summer, after close to 20 years in The Netherlands running the Dutch campus of a top U.S. university, I returned home to Montreal to accept the post of Director General of Marianopolis College. Three of our children returned with me and my wife, the fourth remaining at university in Amsterdam. Bringing children ages 10 to 16 and a Dutch wife to Canada was a challenge, but I underestimated how difficult it would be to bring them to Quebec.

A year later, I am increasingly concerned about Quebec and its direction. I worry — as a father, as the leader of one of the province’s top higher-education institutions and as a global citizen — that Quebec is moving opposite to global trends.
For example, on Wednesday, the provincial government unveiled its response to the recent Supreme Court of Canada judgement declaring Bill 104 unconstitutional.

Bill 104 amended Bill 101 — Quebec’s French Language Charter — to prevent parents not educated in Canada in English from securing eligibility for their child to attend English schools after spending one year at an un-subsidized English private school. The high court gave Quebec a year to find another way to plug that loophole, while protecting Charter rights. The Quebec National Assembly’s response, Bill 103, further limits access to English schooling.

This has happened despite the fact that the English community has evolved significantly while I was abroad. There is an openness to learning French that didn’t exist when I left in 1991. Graduates of English schools are increasingly fluent in both French and English, and the bridges that have been built between different ethnic communities are remarkable.

Yet, when I speak with the university-bound students at Marianopolis, many of whom attended francophone high schools, and with the academic leaders of Quebec’s French and English colleges and universities, it is clear: The brain drain out of the province persists.

Worse still, this flight of talent and economic prowess is not being replaced by immigrants: Only 18 percent of all immigrants to Canada come to Quebec, too few for a province with almost a quarter of the nation’s population.

Quebec’s auditor-general was the latest to call attention to immigration-related shortcomings, in his May 12 report to the National Assembly. In response, no less an authority than Quebec Immigration Minister Yolande James warned that making it a priority to recruit immigrants who speak French — the current policy — limits Quebec’s options.

Meanwhile, globally minded francophone and allophone students are choosing to attend English-language Cegep (as Quebec’s unique college system is called) at English schools at the first moment they are legally allowed to, when the Bill 101 restrictions are lifted after high school. Many stay in the province due to Quebec’s unreasonably low tuition, funded by the highest taxes in North America, but eventually they pay their taxes elsewhere when their careers take them outside the province.
Despite our high taxes, which are equivalent to those in socialist Holland, the services in Quebec are far fewer and less robust than they are in Holland: Health insurance, social welfare and the general infrastructure of the province seem to be lower here. As a hockey dad, I see many parts of Montreal. Too often, I am shocked by the poverty and crumbling roads and buildings.
Quebec’s protectionism translates not just into ill-qualified immigrants, fleeing educated people, fewer services and crumbling infrastructure, but into a society that is out of synch with the rest of the world.

Keeping in mind the undeniable decline of the French language worldwide, let’s compare Quebec’s language policy with that of The Netherlands. The Dutch welcome English as the international language. U.S. and English TV shows are never dubbed, but subtitled; most music on the radio is in English; even more tellingly, universities have converted all masters programs to English-only in order to prepare the Dutch for the global economy.

Does that mean the Dutch culture or language is on the decline? On the contrary, both thrive and the Dutch enjoy a most “distinct society,” despite being surrounded by large countries.

Quebec, meanwhile, has decided that language preservation is more important than economic progress. This has many costs, and it limits the ability of young people to be global citizens.

A recent analysis by the Quebec Ministry of Finance shows the province has one of the industrialized world’s most heavily indebted economies: When considering Quebec as a nation — as some say it ought to be — it ranks a disconcerting fifth in terms of public debt as a percentage of GDP. First on the list? Greece at 102%. Canada’s debt is calculated at 69.7% of its GDP; Quebec’s is at 94%.

My sense is that we need to have the courage to admit that the world has changed since Bill 101 was introduced, as has Quebec. We need to take a fresh look at the situation, and my bet is that together we can continue to protect the French language while developing strategies to strengthen our economy and convince our young people to stay home.

Len Even
National Post

Len Even is director general of Marianopolis College in Montreal.


Why the African street spits on France

A lot of people predict a rosy future for the French language on the sole basis of its African stronghold. Every Francophonist seems to believe that France's African empire is forever. One fact cannot be denied though: the African street loathes its French occupiers. Here Abidjan-based Kouamouo editorialized back in 07/09/2009 about the reasons for such resentment:
Jamais deux sans trois. Au commencement était la Côte d'Ivoire, où le long bras de fer entre Laurent Gbagbo, ancien « opposant historique » arrivé au pouvoir en octobre 2000, et Jacques Chirac, défenseur acharné du parti unique en Afrique accusé de soutenir la rébellion armée déclenchée en septembre 2002, s'est notamment caractérisé par ce que l'on a appelé des « violences antifrançaises ».

Puis il y a eu le Togo, où une bonne partie de la jeunesse urbaine a exprimé dans la rue, en 2005, à la fois son refus de la succession monarchique représentée par l'arrivée au pouvoir de Faure Gnassingbé et sa haine de la France officielle, coupable à ses yeux d'avoir sanctifié au point de vue international le « coup d'Etat électoral » du fils du général Gnassingbé Eyadéma.

Aujourd'hui, c'est au tour du Gabon de s'enflammer après la mort du président Omar Bongo Ondimba et « l'intronisation » de son fils Ali Ben Bongo sous un grossier masque démocratique. Les coupables désignés ? La nomenklatura du PDG (Parti démocratique gabonais, au pouvoir) et… la France, dont les symboles ont été incendiés et pillés à Port-Gentil, capitale économique du pays et dont les ressortissants sont montrés du doigt.
Les médias français occultent le principal : les causes de la haine

Chose curieuse : les médias parisiens semblent considérer ces poussées de fièvre d'un simple point de vue logistique, et insistent largement sur la sécurité et les probables évacuations des Français, en occultant une question fondamentale. Celle que les Américains se sont posée après le 11-Septembre à propos d'un grand nombre de personnes dans le monde arabo-musulman : pourquoi nous détestent-ils tant ?

Quant aux gouvernants français, ils manient à merveille l'art de la litote, de la dénégation sans conviction, voire du mépris. Bernard Kouchner estime que « ce n'est pas au Gabon » que le sentiment antifrançais, « s'il existe », est « le plus fort ». « Qui veut noyer son chien l'accuse de la rage ! », ironise-t-il, sachant que le cliché des Africains notoirement incapables et accusant les autres de tous leurs maux est répandu dans l'Hexagone.

Ce cliché simpliste n'est pas le seul à prospérer et à faciliter la compromission des dirigeants français dans des aventures ambiguës en Afrique. « Si nous partons, les Américains et les Chinois nous remplaceront », entend-on de manière récurrente à Paris, y compris dans des milieux éclairés. Comme si l'idée de pays africains indépendants, commerçant comme ils veulent et avec qui ils veulent, était totalement extravagante… Ce serait donc un nom d'un intérêt national d'autant plus facile à faire accepter en période de crise mondiale et de crainte de déclassement que « certaines choses » continueraient à avoir cours.

« Ces pays sont indépendants depuis cinquante ans mais ne cessent de nous accuser de leurs malheurs », affirme-t-on ça et là sur les bords de la Seine. Mais l'indépendance du Gabon et celle du Ghana, ancienne colonie britannique se ressemblent-elles ? Le bilan d'Omar Bongo, qui laisse à son fils un « émirat pétrolier » où les infrastructures routières et sanitaires de base laissent à désirer peut-il être dissocié de celui d'une certaine continuité de la colonisation française ? La question mériterait d'être posée au chef de la diplomatie française, Bernard Kouchner, qui a longtemps arrondi ses fins de mois en livrant à Bongo des « études » et des « conseils » grassement rémunérées sans résultat évident sur le terrain…
Le Gabon, un des dernieres coffres-forts à la disposition des politiques français

La vérité est que le Gabon reste un des derniers coffres-forts à la disposition d'une classe politique française échaudée par les scandales politico-judiciaires des quinze dernières années, mais qui continue de manier quotidiennement de l'argent liquide à provenance douteuse. La liberté de parole de Robert Bourgi, sorte de « nouveau Foccart » encombrant mais indéboulonnable ne s'explique-t-elle pas par sa capacité à lever, en Afrique, d'importants « fonds politiques » ? Et si les « idées reçues » du commun des Français étaient en réalité au service d'intérêts privés, voire mafieux, d'un certain nombre de « réseaux » ?

Le désamour d'une grande partie de la jeunesse d'Afrique francophone envers une France qui n'a pourtant jamais été aussi proche au point de vue linguistique et culturel, notamment en raison des migrations, doit être pris au sérieux. Si les éruptions de violence se sont vite calmées jusqu'ici, la profonde amertume qui en est la base demeure pendant des années, voire des décennies.

Les Africains qui, aujourd'hui, scandent des slogans anti-Français sur des barricades ou sur Internet, sont les plus jeunes et parfois les plus éduqués. D'une manière ou d'une autre, ils « prendront le pouvoir » bientôt dans leurs pays. Les désespérer aujourd'hui, c'est faire de la politique à la petite semaine, à mille lieux des vrais intérêts de la France à long terme.


End of French Exclusionism in Senegal

African World Politics has a very interesting story about the rapidly changing face of Senegal. Senegal has begun to trade directly with non-Francophone nations. Senegal being one of the most economically and socially advanced countries of the Francosphere, much of what is going on there is likely to repeat itself in other French-speaking areas of Africa in the future.

Gilbert Khadiagala, in his article on Euro-African relations, asks how much of new African representation is truly substantive and how much of it is tokenism that sustains the “illusion of movement on African questions?” I’m interested in this notion of illusionism in the context of Senegal and its evolving relationships with foreign actors. Has France’s relationship with Senegal really changed? Are other countries such as the US, China, and Middle East now more important?

The legacy of colonial France has critically shaped independent foreign policy in Senegal but today the government lists four sets of countries as cornerstones of foreign policy: (1) immediate neighbors; (2) the remainder of Africa; (3) the Arab world and other Muslim countries; and (4) the Western democracies. Tony Chafer in his article on Franco-African relations states that though the French sphere of influence still exists, especially in continuing emphasis on La Francophonie, the disappearance of the Cooperation Ministry, the move to distribute French bilateral aid, the fragmentation of the réseaux, and other developments have reduced France’s direct political influence over African policy. Asserting its independence from this French influence, Senegal prioritizes regional unity as an effective competition mechanism in the international economic system. President Diouf, less personally connected to France than Senghor, sought closer ties with the US and other democracies, including Japan, thereby taking advantage of growing economic competition among Western democracies to lessen his country’s foreign policy dependence on France. Diouf, in signing contracts with South African and American oil companies in 1995 (despite intense French pressures,) reveals a departure from Senegal’s past tendency to give preferential treatment to French companies.

Senegal is also less dependent on French foreign aid and is looking to other places for aid and investment. Chinese investments in Senegal are increasing, while Senegalese businesses are encouraged to venture into the enormous Chinese market. Senegal’s current President Abdoulaye Wade has criticized the EU’s policies towards Africa and said the continent was now looking towards India and China for its economic needs. He said, “Africa wants to cooperate with Europe,” but “if Europe closes itself off from Africa, we have India, China, Brazil knocking on our doors to offer us the same thing that Europe has been offering at a better price with excellent conditions…”

This movement away from French exclusionary relations is seen not only in the opening up of Senegal to China but also in the country’s increased interaction with the Islamic world. The rising influence of Islam within the Senegalese political system is seen with the increased political stature of the Marabouts. In an earlier post, I mentioned the role of Muslim Marabouts, or religious leaders, in leading French-resistance movements. The leaders of these brotherhoods, especially the Tijaniyya, continue to hold great power in Senegal and look towards the Arab world for support.

Though France’s legacy in Senegalese foreign policy is undeniable and the two countries enjoy friendly diplomatic relations, Senegal is serving its best interest by creating strong relations with other powers.


Chafer, Tony. “Franco-African Relations: No Longer So Exceptional?” African Affairs. 2002, 101, 343-363

Khadiagala, Gilbert M. “Euro-African Relations in the Age of Maturity.” Africa in World Politics: Reforming Political Order.

Schraeder, Peter J. “Senegal’s foreign policy: challenges of democratization and marginalization.” African Affairs 1993 Oxford University Press.


Africa looking towards India, China: Senegal president http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/business/africa-looking-towards-india-china-senegal-president_100209139.html#ixzz0ktsEeBYn


Letters Of Credit Issued In French

Mr. Old Man's blog received the following question from a Korean reader:

Dear friends,

How do you deal with Algerian banks which insist on
issuing their letter of credit in French ?

With warmest regards,

You need to have drunk oodles of the Francophonie koolaid to believe that a Korean bloke will read anything you write to him in French. Heck, not even the Vietnamese will read it:
During my eighteen years working for Vietcombank, I saw only one L/C issued in French. The issuing bank had to re-issue another in English as the beneficiary refused to take up the L/C issued in French.

Best regards,
Nguyen Huu Duc

Then comes another guy who apparently did not get the memo about the dominant role of French on all five continents and shows understanding of the Korean querent's perplexity. To make matters worse, he is from Belgium of all places:
Working with LC's in French causes no big problems for most banks in Western Europe as it is still an important language and many bank employees know sufficient other language. However, the use of French is declining also in EU.

If your staff does not know sufficient French (which I can understand) there are several possibilities to cope with...

Ouch! Our French friends' pride smarts. Methinks we'll hear more of their calls for the internet to come under UN control, allowing the French-speaking group of nations to stop any such talk of decline being published. What a beautiful world that would be!


The Precarious Status of French in Senegal

The shift away from French in West-African education is, to say the least, a rather under-reported topic. The reason why this trend tends to escape the notice of observers is the slow pace at which it is happening, only Rwanda having enough determination to completely scrap French from primary education. In the introduction to her "Sounding Off: Rhythm, Music, and Identity in West African and Caribbean", Julie Huntington gives an aperçu of the situation of French in Senegal.
Although French is the official language of Senegal, many Senegalese citizens do not speak French, particularly in rural locations like Keur Momar Sarr. In rural areas, people tend to speak their maternal languages at home with their families. Some of these languages, including Mandingué, Bambara, and Balanta, are minority languages that are not represented by the Senegalese government as national languages. For those minority language speakers who do business outside of their villages, a vehicular language is often utilized for the purposes of communication and commerce.
Generally speaking, Wolof is the preferred vehicular language in northern Senegal (the part of Senegal north of the Gambia), and Dioula is the preferred vehicular language in southern Senegal (the part of Senegal south of the Gambia), although other languages like Serer, Pular, Malinké, and Soninké are preferred in specific subregions. Although French remains the official language of secondary and University education, in recent years, the Senegalese government has encouraged a shift away from French to Senegalese languages in elementary education, particularly in rural areas where residents are less likely to speak French. (...) 7. Whereas 80 percent of Senegalese citizens speak Wolof as a maternal or foreign language, about 15 to 20 percent of Senegalese speak French. Although this information is published in book form (see Leclerc 1992), the most up-to-date information is available on Leclerc’s Web site, Aménagement linguistique dans le monde, at http://www.tlfq.ulaval.ca/axl.

The following excerpt (pp. 69-70) from the same book describe the absurdity of the language situation in Senegal. French is an obstacle to the development of the country as most of its inhabitants don't understand it at all. It will not be possible to alphabetize West-Africa as long as primary education remains in French. La Francophonie is chiefly about pressuring third-world governments into ramming the French language down their populace's collective throat even at the cost of development.
Indeed, local language instruction is deemed by many to be a prerequisite to alphabetization and development in Africa. It is, therefore, a promising sign to see primary instruction gradually shifting away from French in countries such as Senegal.


Nedeleg laouen deoc'h holl!

Nedeleg laouen deoc'h holl!

Merry Christmas to you all!

Frohe Weihnachten!

¡Feliz Navidad!

Buon Natale!

Vrolijk Kerstfeest!

Bon Nadal!


Swiss Status Quo

The below story about Switzerland is, like so many articles of this kind, replete with assurances by all concerned that English will not likely tarnish the importance of Switzerland's national tongues, the author even suggesting that measures might at some point be taken to maintain the status quo if it was ever put in jeopardy (one is left wondering if she has ever given the concepts of language or personal freedom any thought). Yet whatever the denials and caveats, the story that we reproduce underneath does describe a situation in which Switzerland's national languages are retreating from vital cultural fields, especially in Academia. In linguistic terms, this means that languages other than English are becoming incomplete languages, i.e. languages that are not suitable for certain areas of life because they lack the necessary vocabulary. The more research is conducted in English only, the more new terms are coined solely in English and the more difficult it gets to describe realities that belong to those new fields of knowledge in languages other than English, both because all the new vocabulary hasn't yet been translated in other languages and because the experts and professionals themselves increasingly lack practice of their very own mother tongue in this or that particular technical subject.
Neither can it be discounted that English is affecting other languages and making them more like itself when ever more people use it in addition to their respective mother tongues in their everyday lives and English idioms and words worm their way into their native tongues. This represents a loss of language diversity which is less obvious than outright language extinction but is also significant in the long run.
The Sarine river running through the medieval Swiss town of Fribourg acts as a language border between its inhabitants, with German speakers living on the east bank and French on the west. Fribourg (Freiburg in German) is one of several towns that straddle Switzerland’s language divide. It is officially bilingual and as such its river also goes by its German name, the Saane.

Switzerland’s multilingual heritage sets it apart in Europe, with the four national languages – German, French, Italian and the little-spoken ­Romansch – contributing to about 10% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to a 2008 study.
English has entered the mix over the last two decades. Its influence has been spread by the numerous international firms headquartered in tax-friendly Swiss municipalities, its increasing use in academia and its general acceptance as an additional language in wider communication.

“Over the last 20 years English has made quite a lot of inroads in Switzerland,” said Daniel Stotz, an English-teacher trainer in Zurich and researcher into the role of language and Swiss identity.

“In most cases now English is used in wider communication among non-native speakers. Quite a lot of Swiss adults have experienced the fact that English has become a company language. Sometimes it was forced upon them as well. I think some of this interest and perhaps pressure has trickled down to family life.

“It is connected a lot to young people’s life chances. There is a perception that English is important, that it allows you to get better jobs. It has a highly symbolic value as well,” Stotz said.

In a ruling last year, the government decided that the most important Swiss laws should be translated into English in response to growing demand for translation of legislation.

Strong demand for English lessons in schools has also undermined the priority given to national languages in the curriculum. Switzerland’s 26 cantons have agreed to introduce measures over the next few years whereby English will be taught in all primary schools alongside a second national language. Eight and nine-year-olds are already learning it as their first foreign language – ahead of another national language – in 10 cantons.

Swiss multilingualism has been the subject of a four-year research programme by the National Science Foundation that aims to understand the role of language and help the government to map out “a new equilibrium”, according to Walter Haas, president of the steering committee.

The programme is currently compiling a final report from 26 research projects, which is due for review by government at the end of 2009. The findings show English has a place in Swiss culture, although not necessarily a dominant one.
In one Bern University study, Swiss people viewed English as the most useful foreign language, although most opted to use one of the other national languages when first trying to communicate with someone from a different part of the country.
Another study by the University of Teacher Education found that early English teaching later helped German-speaking pupils to learn French, while a third project by lawyers proposed making English a semi-official language in order to attract more foreign professionals to the country.

Another contributor, University of Geneva economics professor François Grin, calculated that Switzerland’s multilingual heritage gave it a competitive advantage worth $42bn – a tenth of GDP.

“If society is going to invest money anywhere, investing in foreign languages, which in Switzerland means essentially one other national language and English, the rate of return is simply fantastic. By and large, we find that multilingualism is a very well paying asset,” Grin said.

Past research by Grin also pinpointed that English was more valued in German-speaking parts of Switzerland. As German is the majority language spoken by 63% of the population, it was more advantageous for Swiss ­Germans to know English than French or Italian.

It was different in French-speaking regions. The 1997 study established that while English added 18% to salaries in German-speaking regions, it equated to a 10% pay difference in French areas, compared to 14% increases with German or Italian as a second language. Between 1990 and 2000 the use of English increased in the workplace by about 28% and overall use rose in line with other languages, according to census reports.

According to Grin, this shows that multilingualism is expanding as a whole. “English is a very frequently used language but it is not replacing national languages. It plays a supplementary and complementary role,” he said.

One area where English is gaining prominence is within academia. Switzerland backs the 1999 Bologna Declaration, which aims to create a European space for higher education, and the Rectors’ Conference of Swiss Universities has in the past acknowledged English as the “language of academia”. It supports offering more courses in English as the best way of attracting foreign students.

Grin says use of English in academia has grown significantly, but as an advocate for linguistic diversity, he warns that the dominance of any one language in intellectual circles risks “eroding creativity”.

“I believe we are better off with ­diversity than without, and that it is important to develop language ­policies that are conducive to the maintenance of diversity. This means if a hegemonic language becomes too overbearing, you have to keep this in check.

“Switzerland defines itself not despite its multilingualism, but as a product of its multilingualism. It’s a very deeply rooted cultural value. Without multilingualism, [there is] no Switzerland,” he said.

It is a view shared by the cross-cantonal educational authority, the Swiss ­Conference of Cantonal Education Directors. “In a multilingual state, the coordination and development of language teaching is particularly important,” a spokeswoman said.

“Therefore the notion of a ‘lingua franca’ will not be limited to English, but rather to an ensemble of languages used within a real context in order to achieve a linguistic exchange.”

She said under Swiss linguistic strategy English had and would continue to have “an important status as an international language”.

But, she added, it is still only part of a bigger picture in which Switzerland shares goals set by the Council of Europe to prioritise multilingualism by ensuring a range of languages, including English, are taught.

Jessica Dacey

Hat tip: Edward J. Cunningham

Merry Christmas to you all


Decline and resistance in quebec

Many French-speaking observers of the French language in Quebec point out its decline over the last few decades. While this will be dismissed by some as a gimmick used to drum up French-Canadian resistance, studies paint the picture of an erosion that mass immigration from more or less Francophone countries hardly helps slow down.

En tant que président du Réseau de Résistance du Québécois (RRQ), Patrick Bourgeois tient à féliciter le citoyen Jean-Roch Villemaire pour le geste qu’il a posé contre la candidate Barbara Charlebois, elle dont l’équipe a osé poser des affiches unilingues anglaises dans le secteur d’Aylmer, en Outaouais.

Bien qu’il s’agisse ici d’une initiative personnelle de M. Villemaire, le Réseau tient à dire qu’il se sent solidaire et fier de ce patriote. Le Réseau est convaincu qu’il a bien fait de retirer une douzaine desdites affiches unilingues anglaises.

« Je partage l’opinion de M. Villemaire lorsqu’il dit que les citoyens, quand les élites politiques abdiquent, ont la responsabilité de combattre eux-mêmes les situations injustes. Lorsqu’il y aura des centaines et des milliers de Québécois qui imiteront Jean-Roch Villemaire, la question du français sera enfin réglée au Québec », a dit M. Bourgeois.

La question du français préoccupe au plus haut point la direction et les membres du Réseau de Résistance du Québécois. « Il est clair qu’il faut faire quelque chose de signifiant pour enfin renverser la tendance à laquelle on assiste depuis quelques décennies maintenant au Québec, tendance qui établit clairement le déclin de la langue française. Et la désobéissance civile est très certainement une des possibilités que nous envisageons pour assurer la pérennité du fait français au Québec », a soutenu M. Bourgeois. En cela, Jean-Roch Villemaire vient peut-être de lancer un mouvement.


Abdou Acknowledges Decline

Prefacing an interesting document titled "Suivi Vade Mecum", Secretary General of la Francophonie Abdou Diouf dispenses with the buoyant tone that is de rigueur in such publications to take stock of the real status of French in international institutions. Apart from acknowledging the decline of French, this text gives a marvelous example of the impossible balancing act which la Francophonie has condemned itself to perform as it is seen forever shilling for diversity against monolinguisme all the while denying or plotting to deny smaller languages the same official recognition that French enjoys, be it in France, Africa or the European Union.
Well, if we are to believe the same document, we shall very soon be able to observe if the Francophone lobby still is in a position to force a lesser status on such languages as Spanish, Italian or Polish within the EU:
"Dans un communiqué, daté du 17 septembre 2008, annonçant la nouvelle stratégie de l’exécutif européen sur le multilinguisme de la Commission, M. Orban a indiqué que la « prochaine Commission décidera en novembre 2009 de l’ajout de nouvelles langues de travail, qui sont actuellement l’anglais, le français et l’allemand." (p. 83)

Adopté par le Sommet de Bucarest, en septembre 2006, le Vade-mecum relatif à l’usage de la langue française dans les organisations internationales est un texte de nature règlementaire qui s’impose à tous les États et gouvernements membres, associés ou observateurs de l’Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). Si les États et gouvernements ont souhaité son existence, c’est qu’ils ont mesuré à la fois le déclin du français dans les organisations internationales et l’importance que revêt le respect du multilinguisme pour un fonctionnement efficace et démocratique. En me demandant d’assurer le suivi de la mise en oeuvre de ce texte, les chefs d’État et de gouvernement se donnaient, au-delà de la déclaration politique, une obligation supplémentaire : celle de se doter des moyens de renforcer, en toutes circonstances, la présence de la langue française au service du multilinguisme. D’ailleurs, certains de nos pays membres reconnaissent d’autres langues officielles et utilisent ainsi l’arabe, l’espagnol, le portugais ou l’anglais. Notre conception de la diversité des expressions culturelles et linguistiques ne réfute, en effet, aucune langue, mais elle s’oppose avec force à la facilité réductrice qu’offre le monolinguisme. De même, l’OIF ne considère pas que telle langue aurait, par je ne sais quelle qualité intrinsèque supposée supérieure à celles des autres langues, ou par la force du nombre ou du fait accompli, plus de légitimité à être utilisée plutôt que telle autre. Concernant les organisations internationales et les échanges entre États, nous ne succombons pas à la tentation radicale consistant à revendiquer pour chaque langue le même statut. Si cette revendication est tout à fait légitime dans une approche patrimoniale de sauvegarde et de reconnaissance des milliers de langues que compte encore notre planète, elle nous conduirait, dans le contexte des organisations internationales, au résultat inverse de celui escompté. Le Vade-mecum a été adopté voilà deux ans. Cette « jeunesse » explique sans doute pourquoi si peu de nos États et gouvernements membres ont pu, jusqu’à maintenant, se doter de réels moyens de mise en oeuvre de ses principes. Cela étant, certains sont engagés, depuis plusieurs années parfois, dans des actions de formation de leurs fonctionnaires et de leurs diplomates, avec l’appui de l’OIF, mais aussi celui de la Communauté française de Belgique, de la France et du Luxembourg pour ce qui concerne l’Union européenne. De nombreux pays dont la langue officielle est le français, singulièrement en Afrique subsaharienne, par leur pratique irréprochable, renforcent le statut de langue internationale du français. Certains de nos membres ont même pris le soin d’émettre des directives prescrivant explicitement l’usage du français, parfois aux côtés d’une autre langue officielle.
Bien que plusieurs de nos États et gouvernements membres n’aient accordé au français qu’un statut de langue étrangère, certains d’entre eux font néanmoins de remarquables efforts pour la promotion de la langue française. Les Groupes des ambassadeurs francophones s’organisent et s’emploient à faire respecter le statut du français par des interventions auprès des organisations internationales. Des diplomates agissent parfois directement, lorsqu’ils sont en situation d’exiger une traduction ou une interprétation défaillante au cours de telle ou telle réunion. Ce sont là autant de faits encourageants. Mais nous devons être plus ambitieux encore. Car je dois constater que, malgré la lettre que j’ai adressée à nos États et gouvernements membres et à la lumière des réponses reçues, aucune nouvelle circulaire, instruction ou recommandation spécifiquement dédiée au Vade-mecum, ne nous a été signalée et son existence même est souvent ignorée par des représentants des États et gouvernements sensés l’appliquer. Je déplore, par ailleurs, l’existence de contre-exemples emblématiques du comportement de certains très hauts représentants de pays francophones, qui s’expriment systématiquement en anglais, brouillant ainsi un message que le Vade-mecum cherchait pourtant à rendre clair. Je compte donc sur la mobilisation de tous nos États et gouvernements. N’oublions jamais que la langue française est le socle de notre Organisation. Et je forme le voeu que le vade-mecum soit perçu par tous comme un levier puissant permettant de faire progresser notre langue en partage, plutôt que comme un instrument de contrôle tatillon. La langue française ne pourra rayonner que par l’adhésion responsable et enthousiaste de tous ceux qui l’ont acceptée en tant qu’outil de l’expression concrète de leur solidarité, dans le respect de la diversité linguistique.

Abdou Diouf, Sécrétaire Général de la Francophonie

French Verb Decaying

The below thesis work focuses on the decline of written accuracy in pupils' use of French verbs. As any linguist knows, the verb is the most difficult part of language, but also the one part that most clearly sets a language apart from the others. The verb, its constructions, its forms, are at the core of a language's identity. The rapid decay of the modern French verb is a clear sign of the rapidly changing nature of the French language.

The decline of written accuracy in pupils' use of French verbs
Authors: Peter Metcalfe a; Diana Laurillard a; Robin Mason a
Affiliation: a The Open University,
DOI: 10.1080/09571739585200431
This article presents a survey and analysis of Examiners' Reports on French written papers, looking specifically at difficulties in using verbs appropriately. It draws on evidence from second-language acquisition research to determine the nature of the problem and hypothesizes links between the decline in written accuracy and the rise in oral fluency. (25 references) (CK)


English pushes aside French as the language of status in Lebanese capital

Lebanon has been particularly affected by the spread of English and the decline of French. The Lebanese can now be said to be in the phase of English- learning, the next phase being the near-total disappearance of French through disuse.

BEIRUT–There's a deal being offered on Mazda automobiles in this freneticMiddle Eastern capital, a city where little stays the same for long. "Turn me on," urges a billboard on Zalka St. in the east end of Beirut. "Zero down payment, 1.99 per cent interest. Limited quantity."

Sounds good – but what is most intriguing about this advertisement is not the nature of the offer. It is the nature of the language in which the offer is being made. The offer is being made in English – and only in English.
The same goes for much, if not most, of the brash outdoor advertising that sprouts like gaudy thickets of mercantilism along the boulevards and avenues of Beirut.
"The Chivas Life." "For Burger Lovers!" "Chicken Your Way." "Sally Hansen Line Freeze for Lips."
Never mind the absence of French – long the language of choice for cultured Lebanese – there isn't even a single Arabic character to be found on most of these signs.
"English is cool," said a Western diplomat in Beirut. "If you're hip and you're young, you speak English."
You do if you are Lebanese.
According to Christian Merville, an editorial writer at L'Orient Le Jour, Lebanon's only French-language daily newspaper, English has incontestablement (indisputably) supplanted French as the language of status in this resolutely status-conscious land. Or, as Merville, puts it: "Rambo has replaced Rimbaud."
He's referring, in the first instance, to the action hero played by American Sylvester Stallone in a series of 1980s movie thrillers and, in the second instance, to the mercurial 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
It's a play on words, but the point is clear. English – particularly American English – has muscled French aside in this Mediterranean land,whose capital was once known as le Paris du Moyen-Orient. The Paris of the Middle East.
In many ways, the sobriquet remains apt.
Despite the pummelling it has suffered during a succession of wars, Beirut continues to boast an array of continental charms, including fine restaurants, an exuberant nightlife, a sophisticated café culture, and enduring ties to a certain former imperial power whose capital is the Paris of Europe.
Increasingly, however, when les citoyens et citoyennes of Lebanon converse with the outside world – or even among themselves – they do so in English, not French.
Granted, Arabic remains the sole official tongue of the country properly known as Al-Joumhouriya al-Lubnaniya. But even Arabic is starting to buckle somewhat under the globalizing force of English.
This is Merville's view, anyway. He believes that Arabic speakers in Lebanon increasingly express themselves in an impoverished vocabulary and tired clichés.
"There's a decline in the quality of French," he said, "but there is also an extraordinary decline in Arabic."
Arabic, of course, has been spoken in these lands for millennia. French, however, arrived in the late 19th century, when Jesuit clergy in France sought to counter increasing Protestant influence in the region by dispatching legions of missionaries to the mountainous eastern shores of the Mediterranean.
Following the break-up of the Ottoman Empire in 1922, the territory now called Lebanon became a French protectorate, an arrangement that lasted only a quarter-century. But Parisian influence – linguistic and otherwise – endured long after Lebanon became an independent state in 1946. "Cultured Lebanese were all educated in French-speaking countries," said Ghassan Moukheiber, a Beirut lawyer.
Even families that could not afford to send their children abroad typically dispatched them to local schools where the language of instruction was French, not Arabic.
Explanations vary for the recent ascent of English.
Some observers here – oddly, these individuals tend to be native French speakers – advance the view that English is a "simpler," less challenging tongue than French.
But others note that English opens more doors nowadays than French ever could. It is the primary language of the Internet, for example, as well as the lingua franca of industrial and commercial globalization.
In Lebanon, as in much of the world, U.S. television and films are a powerful cultural force, easily exceeding the influence of their French counterparts.
At the same time, Lebanese citizens who may be contemplating an international move – as many do – are far more likely to be accepted as immigrants in English-speaking countries such as Australia, Canada or the United States than they are by France.
"English," said a French-speaking diplomat, "is a lot more useful if you want to go abroad."
Still, French is far from dead in Lebanon. Especially among gatherings of well-educated folk, it is not uncommon nowadays to hear the conversation shift easily from Arabic, to English, to French, and back again. "It's a wonderful trilingual country," said the Western diplomat. "In a single sentence, you will hear all three languages."
And, although dramatic and unmistakable, the current shift toward English is not uniformly spread among all of Lebanon's four million citizens.
Fluency in French is still highly prized in the affluent Ashrafiye district of Beirut, for example, a neighbourhood mostly populated by Maronite Christians, for whom the language of Voltaire continues to imply good breeding and high economic status.
The country's large Shia Muslim community, meanwhile, is said to be the sector of Lebanese society most drawn to English, but no group in the country is immune to the economic opportunities or the cultural appeal now associated with the language of – well, of Sylvester Stallone.
Repos dans la paix, Arthur Rimbaud. Rest in peace.

TheStar.com - News - English is cool in
trendy Beirut

October 08, 2007