The lower house of France’s legislative branch voted this week to allow the country’s universities to teach more classes in English. Up until now, French schools have been required to teach in their mother tongue. But there are some exceptions to this rule, and the proposal that just passed expanded the exceptions to this rule.
The vote sparked a huge controversy. Some pointed criticism came from right-wing MPs, who were shocked at the idea of compromising the purity of the French tongue. The Telegraph reports:
“Shall we speak English in this French Parliament one day? “, Daniel Fasquelle, a university professor and MP for the UMP party exclaimed in English. “This is a very bad signal for French language speakers around the world.”
Conservative MP Jacques Myard said: “A people that speaks more and more in a foreign language loses its identity more and more” [...]
One MP, Sophie Dessus quoted celebrated French author Jean de La Fontaine, who wrote: “Refrain from selling the heritage that your parents left you, a treasure is hidden within.”
On the other side of the issue, the left-wing French newspaper Libération published its whole front page in English in advance of the vote to support the measure. The FT:
In an editorial – in French – Libération fully backed the proposal, saying the “real scandal” was the “intolerable mediocrity of the French in the language of Shakespeare”. It added: “Let’s stop behaving like the last representatives of a besieged Gallic village.”