Former president François Hollande famously signed a congratulatory note for Barack Obama’s election victory in 2012 with the grammatically-incorrect “Friendly, François Hollande” (a direct translation of “Sympathique, François Hollande”). The proper way would’ve been “Friendly yours, François Hollande”.
Another ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy’s lack of command of English also led him to famously fail to graduate from SciencesPo, the elite French politics school, according to The Daily Beast.
Such high-level English language mistakes is a reflection of the country’s long troubles with the English language, something the current administration aims to change through the education system.
French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe announced recently that all students will have to pass English language tests, such as the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication), Cambridge (Cambridge English Language Assessment) and IELTS (International English Language Testing System), at the end of high school and their undergraduate degree.
Philippe said that the French government will sponsor and help students to pass these internationally recognised assessments, Morocco World News reported.
He said at a press conference in EDHEC Business School
“English is now the lingua franca. That’s how it is. You have to speak English if you want to act and move in globalization.”
These measures will help “French people go and conquer the world”, he said.
Philippe’s statements hold some weight. Research by the Cambridge English Language Assessment (Cambridge English) and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) revealed that employers across all sectors and business sizes will offer higher salaries and promotions to those fluent in the English language
But French students appear unprepared for this. A report by Education First, an international language training firm, found French students performed poorly in a global ranking of English proficiency, finishing at 37th position out of 70 countries. They were the second-worst in Europe, after the Italians.
It’s a problem that has long plagued the country’s race to keep up with global competitiveness.
French universities, however, have been increasing their share of courses offered in the English language in a bid to attract more international students.
France is now the third most popular destination among foreign students in a newly released Forbes study.
A 2012 report from the Institute of International Education also lists France as the country with the 4th largest number of English-language master’s programmes among other non-English speaking European countries.