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.