Language Matters

Kathleen Stein Smith, Ph.D

France seeks to soothe German language fears

France sought on Wednesday to allay fears in neighboring Germany that teaching of the German language would suffer under a forthcoming education reform.

A formal commitment to promote each other’s language has been vital to ties between the two countries often described as the “motor” of European Union.

German officials are so worried about the impact on Franco-German relations that even Chancellor Angela Merkel has raised the matter with President Francois Hollande.

The reform scraps arrangements under which the brightest French children can take on two foreign languages – typically English and German – on entering secondary school. Berlin fears German will lose out to English if there is just one choice.

The revamp also envisages letting children take on a second foreign language from the age of 12 – one year earlier than now. But at present, few children choose German, with many more opting for Spanish because it is considered easier.”

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Languages do matter!


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