President Macron Announces Plan to Promote French worldwide and labels French teachers ‘heroes’
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, whose mastery and use of English is unprecedented among French leaders, has unveiled a plan to promote his native tongue, aiming to make it the first language in Africa, “maybe even the world.”
On March 19, International Francophonie Day, he set out his plan to spend hundreds of millions of euros boosting the French language worldwide, in a push to overtake English in Africa, increase the online use of French, and encourage more European officials to speak the language.
During his speech at the Académie Française, Macron called French a “language of freedom,” as he described plans to increase government funding of French teaching and double the number of students attending French schools abroad. He said he wanted “a new generation of ambitious heroes — teachers of French — to rise up.”
Macron announced about 30 measures to improve teaching of French, reverse the decline in its use in international institutions, and support francophone musicians and authors. he wanted to boost French amid the widespread use of English in the European Union. “The situation now is quite paradoxical. English has probably never been used as much in Brussels, while, at the same time, we are talking about Brexit,” he said. “This domination is not inevitable. It’s up to us to set some rules, to be vigilant, and make French the language which offers opportunities.”
Last year in Burkina Faso, Macron called on Africans to help make French “the first language in Africa and maybe even the world in the coming decades!,” saying that he was “from a generation that doesn’t come to tell Africans what to do,” and that “the French language is no longer solely French but also, maybe even more so, African,” showing that he is aware that pressurizing former French colonies to use the language could backfire
Franco-Djiboutian author and scholar Abdourahman Waberi is wary of the president’s intentions, telling Agence France Presse: “If he really wanted to get away from the colonial past, he would have consulted more, listened more, and engaged in more dialogue” with Africans.
Before Macron spoke, the award-winning French-Moroccan writer Leïla Slimani, his representative on francophone affairs, carefully stated that she “had listened to all voices, even the most critical,” and that there was no question of Paris presenting an “elitist and arrogant” view of the French-speaking world, insisting there was no “hierarchy” of French speakers or writers.
Macron argued that France saw itself as a “country among others” in the vast francophone world, and that today’s range of diverse and thriving global French literature– much of which emanates from Africa – must now be taught at school in France.
He said: “France is the fourth language on the internet, it’s the third language on Amazon”, but that wasn’t enough and French universities must put more resources online and more online courses to push French into a more key position on the internet.
Macron also announced a €200m ($250m) refurbishment for a castle in Villers-Cotterêts (northeast of Paris) to create a global center for the promotion and study of French. The town, which now has a far-right mayor, was home to the revolutionary General Dumas, who was born to a French nobleman and a Haitian slave, and was father to the writer Alexandre Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.