French may be the world’s sexiest language but it’s only the eighth most spoken, having suffered a decline when 10 countries joined the EU in 2010. Even in Brussels, English is the EU’s working language.
And still, like a jealous lover, the French refuse to acknowledge the presence of English in the room.
This certainly came to light mid-March 2014 when the Minister for Higher Education, Geneviève Fioraso, announced plans to increase the number of foreign students at French universities by – quelle horreur – offering courses in English. This is already policy at the Grandes Écoles and elite business schools in the country.
In typical French fashion, education unions are calling for strikes while critics, like journalist Bernard Pivot, claim: “If we allow English to be introduced into our universities and for teaching science and the modern world, French will be vandalised and become poorer … It will turn into a commonplace language, or worse, a dead language.”
But one show of support in favour of the measure came from the Left-wing newspaper, Libération, which on March 10th ran its entire cover in English, with the headline “Teaching in English. LET’S DO IT” followed by a header: “Sex and condoms: the best is yet to come”. Surely even the French would say oui to that.