Parles-tu Français?

In recent years, French language programs have fallen out of favor in the American public school system. Students are opting for (seemingly) more useful languages such as Spanish, Arabic, or Chinese. As Kirk Semple wrote in the New York Times last week, “the idea of learning French, to some, may seem kind of quaint, even anachronistic.”

However, despite this perceived shift away from French, New York City public schools are going against the grain and are offering an increased number of French/English dual language programs. And perhaps surprisingly, the French government is taking notice and offering its assistance.

In recent years, the French government has provided financial aid to these schools and is even starting a fundraising campaign to help expand the programs.

French people take great pride in their language and consider it to be a huge part of their culture. By teaching American children French, they are being exposed both directly and indirectly to French culture and are learning to love and identify with it.

Rather than relying solely on exchange programs for older students, they are targeting a younger demographic who will grow up with an inherent love of all things French – a very smart public diplomacy maneuver.



One thought on “Parles-tu Français?

  1. While there is some merit to the notion that the French may have less use in terms of those who speak it/the employment sector it is still a language of vital importance. My personal bias is that I studied abroad in Paris, France and looking back at my experience there I realize the significance of the language to understanding the culture.

    Americans may not understand this but the existence of French people is heavily intertwined with the language. It is not like the United States where English is the predominantly used language and it is rare when someone speaks more than one language, but rather in addition to French, the French speak another romance language, English and an additional language they learned in school.

    And while I can attest to how difficult it is to learn the language (especially the grammar) I was able to make myself understood in several other European countries and Istanbul using French. And while some think “the idea of learning French, to some, may seem kind of quaint, even anachronistic” they are unaware of the strength of the French language. The first declaration of the rights of man was in French as were some of the finest pieces of literature written to this day.
    In terms of public diplomacy, France is one of the P5 members of the UN Security Council and one of the US’ greatest allies. The exchange of language is one of the most vital forms of public diplomacy and soft power, cutting funding would be would seem like a backhanded form of public diplomacy.

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