French to Anglo-Saxons: English? Who Needs It?November 15, 2013
I loved this report from the New York Times from earlier in the week Education First, a commercial education provider, has been compiling an index of proficiency in English across various countries.
And apparently the French have been slacking:
The study put the country’s average English language skills in the “low proficiency” bracket, between China and the United Arab Emirates — and last among European nations. It also found that France was one of only two European countries where proficiency had decreased over the past six years.
According to Ms. Bell, the level of English proficiency among French adults suffers both from inadequate teaching at high school level and the reality that — despite fears of French culture’s being overwhelmed by American pop culture, very little English is actually used in everyday life.
France’s secondary school system, which has only recently started testing English oral skills as part of the Baccalaureate, is a major reason for poor language skills, she said.
There’s a nice idea here.
“English is the de facto language of communication today between people who don’t share a native language,” Ms. Bell. said “Measuring English proficiency is in many ways a proxy measurement of international integration.”
Conversely, the EF study suggests that weak proficiency in English may correlate with weak integration into the global economy.
“The Middle East and North Africa are the weakest regions in English,” the study said, with Iraq ranked 60th, at the bottom of the list.
So what needs to be done? You need to stop dubbing foreign programmes
Unlike its smaller northern European neighbors, France dubs most American films and television shows into French. The top English speakers in continental Europe — Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands — all tend to use subtitling.
“It’s a vicious-virtuous cycle,” said Ms. Bell: Audiences not used to subtitling tend to shy away from it, which in turn diminishes their capacity to understand English.
I rather admire this refusal to get with the programme. Perhaps the French response would be to compile an index of French competence that correlates with the degree integration into the world of culture….
The actual report is here.