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.
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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.