By Toby Helm in Berlin, 19 Jun 2001:
A GERMAN education minister has delivered a blow to Gallic pride and risked a diplomatic rift with Paris by floating plans to cut back French teaching in schools in favour of English.
The scheme, proposed by Klaus Böger, Berlin's education minister, has already ruffled French feathers ahead of a visit to Berlin next week by President Jacques Chirac and prompted fears of a "diplomatic row". One official inside the Berlin regional government said: "We all know how sensitive the French are over their language."
A spokesman said: "He [Mr Böger] wants English to be as important as writing and mathematics. We are not saying all French teaching will go. This is not the intention, but it could be the result." Of 279 primary schools in the Berlin region that offer foreign languages to eight- and nine-year-olds, only 39 currently give children the chance to learn French.