Page last updated at 20:28 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 21:28 UK

French row over English lessons

By Emma Jane Kirby
BBC News, Paris

High school classroom in France (archive)
President Nicolas Sarkozy is likely to back the plan

The main teaching union in France has criticised the education minister's plans to offer free English classes in the school holidays next year.

Xavier Darcos announced the plans on Monday, insisting that speaking fluent English was the key to success.

The Snes-FSU union leader Roland Hubert said Mr Darcos should be concentrating on what happens during school time.

The policy marks a real break from the traditional Gallic strategy of promoting the French language.

Two years ago, the then President, Jacques Chirac, famously stormed out of an EU summit when a fellow Frenchman began making his speech in English.

In 1994, the French parliament passed a law obliging music-orientated French radio stations to increase their French-language programming to at least 40% of their output.


Xavier Darcos said it was a "handicap" to speak poor English.

He said that while "well-off families pay for study sessions abroad, I'm offering them to everyone right here".

President Nicolas Sarkozy is likely to back the plan.

He has already infuriated traditionalists by suggesting that the French should no longer insist on speaking their own language at international negotiations.

The French leader does admit however that his own English needs a little work.

He once made a speech to businessmen in English, telling them they would all be welcome to invest in "Frence".

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08 Jul 08 |  Country profiles
Country profile: France
08 Jul 08 |  Country profiles

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