French Down from Second to Fourth Place in Cyprus' Schools

In Cyprus education, French is in steep decline while Spanish is booming:
Three out of ten students choose Spanish
By Claudia Konyalian
But could Latin American soap operas really be behind the trend?
THE CURRENT school year has brought with it a new wave of interest in Spanish, with over a third of teenagers opting for the romantic language in the last two years of lyceum.
While English continues to be the most popular, and is considered the most important among the foreign languages to master, numbers this year show a drop in the popularity of both English and French, as trends are shifting. Assistant Director of the Education Programming Unit of the Ministry of Education, Charalambos Hadjithomas believes that there are several factors causing these shifts. “By the time students reach the second and third year of lyceum, they have already been studying French for four years. Those who feel they have gaps in their knowledge and don’t want to continue may drop French at this stage. “But these last two years also offer the opportunity to study a whole new language from scratch,” he said. Hadjithoma added, “It seems students view Spanish and Italian as ‘easier’ languages than French and German. But I also think that the popular Spanish language series on TV account for the increased interest we are seeing.”
This effect of the popular media is an opinion shared by other experts in the field. A private Spanish language tutor fromNico sia referred to the recent wave of Argentinean teen television soap operas ‘Rebelde Way’ and ‘Floricienta’. “Teenagers love these shows, which are on during the afternoon, just after they get home from school. They relate to the characters and they like to discuss who is the most attractive, and so they become interested in learning the language, and one day visiting Spanish-speaking countries,” she said.
Director of the Hispalingua Spanish language institute in Nicosia, Miguel Matayoshi referred to the prevalence of Spanish songs being played on popular radio stations. “Maybe Russian and Arabic would be more strategic languages to study, considering the economic links in Cyprus, but I think teenagers are attracted by the sound of the Spanish language, which has also become trendy somehow,” he said.
In fact Spanish is used by some 400 million people in the world and competes with English as the second most commonly spoken language by native speakers. The study of foreign languages has become increasingly important in the school curriculum with Cyprus’ accession to the EU, with French and German being added in 2001, Russian in 2002, and Turkish in 2003.
In accordance with the national curriculum, students have to study two foreign languages out of a choice of seven in the last two years of secondary school. The statistics of the Educational Programming Unit of the Ministry of Education reflect the recent changes in teenage tastes and trends.
For students in the second year of lyceum, French language used to be the most popular after English, but since last year now ranks fourth. 62.96 per cent chose English this year, down from last year’s 66.71 per cent, while only 12.65 per cent of students chose French, compared with 16.21 per cent last year.
Meanwhile the number of students choosing Turkish language is steadily increasing, with only one per cent in 2003, when it was first introduced into the curriculum, compared with today’s 7.76 per cent.
German and Russian remain the least popular at 2.81 per cent and 3.50 per cent respectively, while Italian remains extremely popular – consistently second only to English it is chosen by over one in two students.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008
Dec 14th, 2008



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