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French bad at English, minister admits as education inquiry starts

Reuters

The French are bad at speaking English and it is “a true weakness of our country”, Education Minister Luc Chatel said Monday as a special task force started work on “reinventing” the way the language is taught in French schools.

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“We’re not good at English,” Chatel declared ruefully on the i-Télé TV station.

“It’s not a question of the number of hours,” he added, pointing out that a school student will have studied English for 1,000 hours before sitting the baccalauréat examination.

“The point is to find out what they do in those 1,000 hours and how they are spread out during the course of their schooling,” the minister said.

A committee which started work on Monday is to try to find the most efficient way of teaching English, and see how new technology can be used to help the task.

Chatel mentioned the possibility of using visioconference with native English speakers. But he said that he favoured acquainting children with the language when they are as young as three or four-years-old, using “words, nursery rhymes and songs”.

The suggestion has been poorly received by education professionals, who point out that government education reforms have meant cuts in the number of language teachers in primary education.
 

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