In an article entitled "French Students Still Get a Zero for English", French daily Le Monde reports that an annual Europe-wide language test revealed just how bad French youngsters are at picking up what the journal describes as "the language of Shakespeare."
In total, 109 countries sat down for the English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) test, compulsory for foreign students wishing to study in an English-speaking country. France came in 69th in the ranking while Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium headed up the leaders' board.
The paper tried to recover some pride, stressing, "this does not, however, represent the entire student population. It only provides information for the 200,000 students wishing to study in an Anglo-Saxon country."
It did not comment about the English language abilities of the remaining students who did not opt to take the test.
Internationally, the French are known to be fiercely proud of their language and its various dialects, refusing to anglicise as is commonly the case in other European countries like Germany and Italy.
While Germans have no qualms about taking the word "comic" into their mouths, the French prefer to use "bande dessinée" or colloquially, "BD" to describe their cartoons. Hundreds of people living in the western region of Brittany, stand by their traditional Breton language, refusing to give way even to French -- let alone English.
In 1996, the French government famously adopted a law ruling that at least 40 percent of music played on private radio stations should be sung in French, a move which aimed to combat what the government described as the "English-language influence," especially from rap, rock and hip-hop from the US.
But as the English language slowly but surely emerges as the lingua franca of business and other areas, many in France may now well want to polish their skills in "the language of Shakespeare."
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