Expat Culture Shock: Food or Swedish Fish?

French is, unfortunately, a language that is becoming less and less popular. Spanish is taking the lead against this beautiful language in schools. Why? Well, I have heard it claimed 鴨肉醬 that Spanish is a lot more widely spoken and therefore more relevant in today’s society. It is probably true that more people speak Spanish than French, but I fail to comprehend how it is a more relevant language. Francophone countries are not going to stop speaking their native language just because not as many other countries speak French, they are not going to stop trading with foreign countries just because they do not speak French. The world of business and economics is always going to need people who can speak foreign languages, plural. As for the age-old argument of “well, all other countries now speak English, so why should we bother learning another language?” – it is just plain ignorant, and I am sure I am not alone with that opinion.

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If we take a look back through history, the French and the English have been rivals in many eras and battles. However, I ask myself the question how would we know what both sides felt about each other and how would historians make their television programmes and write their books if we did not have translators and interpreters working together to discover all the hidden historical secrets that we do not see simply from looking at a battle drawing or the Bayeux Tapestry, for example?

There are so many industries today that rely on the comprehension of the French language to trade and to thrive. We do not have to look far to realise that the world faces a lot of problems today with money and the economy – but I cannot help but wonder how many more problems we would face if linguists disappeared and we could not communicate with foreign countries anymore. We have the French to thank for so many things. Without the French language, we would not have the literature of Voltaire, Marivaux and Rousseau. Without the French we would not have the art of Toulouse Lautrec and Monet, or the couture of Dior and Louis Vuitton. We would not be able to enjoy the incredible French food that has become famous literally all over the world. Without French translators, the words of French authors, the recipes of French chefs, and the availability of French fashion would be inaccessible.

For children in schools today, French is seen as a difficult and, dare I say it, pointless language. However, I feel that part of this view is fuelled by the government and education secretaries who cannot fully comprehend the importance of this language to our society and to the rest of the world. Yes, French can be tough for some people to grasp, but it is no tougher than Algebra or Particle Physics – and I do not see those subjects being taken off the curriculum any time soon. I cannot stress the importance of French enough; for economical reasons, and for recreational reasons. When travelling around the world, how much more of an advantage would it be to be able to converse with native French

speakers in Africa, Canada, Switzerland, Belgium and France? So many people have said to me that they wish they had learned French but never had the motivation or the will to persist at it. How many more generations of people will feel the same? I wonder if, as I get older, I will still have young people saying to me “I wish I had continued to learn French, but I didn’t think it was important at the time.” I hope not. French is a valuable and fascinating language that can lead to careers beyond imagination; not just teachers or translators but actors, journalists, politicians, authors and scientists to name but a few. Don’t give up on French, it has brought so much more than people realise and will continue to do so

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