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Sacre bleu! French in uproar over plan for courses in English

| Saturday, May 18, 2013, 9:21 p.m.

PARIS — There was a time, not so long ago, when anyone with a proper education spoke French. Even today the country cares so much about its language it maintains a whole ministry to promote it.

So when Higher Education Minister Genevieve Fioraso last week introduced a bill that would let French colleges teach more courses in English, even when English is not the subject, the idea sparked outrage.

The goal, she explained, is to attract more students from such countries as China, Brazil and India.

“Ten years ago, we were third in welcoming foreign students, but today we are fifth,” she said in the magazine Nouvel Observateur. “Germany has put in place an English program that has passed us by. We must make up the gap.”

Her plan has united people from across the political spectrum who insist that learning French should be part of any foreign student's experience in France.

“You cannot image an idea that is stupider, more counterproductive, more dangerous and more contrary to the interest of France,” Jacques Attali, an adviser to the late President Francois Mitterrand, intoned in a blog.

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