‘For any language to garner learners, there needs to be adequate number of teachers’

“We talk about ecology in the environmental sense, but we also have to talk about the ecology of languages, and find ways to preserve them,” said Jean-Pierre Cuq.

Mr. Cuq, who is president of the Paris-based International Federation of Teachers of French (FIPF), was talking on the sidelines of the Third Regional Congress of the Asia-Pacific Commission of French Teachers held recently. The conference was organised by the International Federation of the Teachers of French, in association with Indian Association of Teachers of French.

Close to 250 French teachers from India, 100 participants from Asia-Pacific countries, and delegates from countries such as France, Australia and Germany congregated to reflect on ‘French language in the Asia-Pacific region: the passion and the reason’ at the three-day conference.

The relevance of, and the interest in French, has been steadfast in India, affirmed Anuradha Wagle, president, Indian Association of Teachers of French. “Tamil Nadu along with Maharashtra has one of the largest numbers of French teachers in India, and the number of schools offering French too, is going up,” she said.

Globally too, Mr. Cuq said, French had a presence in all major institutions in the world and close to 25 countries have French as their official language. “Our federation has its presence in 140 countries, which means we have teachers in 140 countries, and this does not include countries which do not allow the formation of federations,” he said. But for any language to garner new learners there needs to be an adequate number of teachers. But, this observes, Mr. Cuq, is a larger challenge facing teaching as a profession.

“If you read UNESCO publications, they talk about the need for more teachers in many spheres and this is also true for French. To cater to the demand for the language we need around 1,00,000 teachers across the world.” One of the reasons there weren’t more teachers, he added, was because they were not remunerated well enough.

Ms. Wagle pitched in and said that the 15 departments in Indian universities, the Alliance Francaises and other centres were training many teachers in French each year, but the number of jobs outnumbered teachers, and the demand was huge.

“There are plenty of avenues in teaching, translation and diplomatic jobs. There are around 10 lakh people learning French in India and 8,000 teachers,” she said. To kindle a deeper interest in the language, Mr. Cuq said that teachers must introduce students not just to classical French literature and cinema, but also to contemporary literature emerging from France as well as Francophone countries.

Benoit Olivier, director, Alliance Francaise of Madras, said that a boom in the hospitality sector in the city coupled with tourist interest in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Kerala had lent scope for the growth of the language. “The number of people interested in learning French in the city is on the rise, and we had 3,000 students in 2012,” he said.

Another niche segment of students is employees of multinational companies, he observed. “We have a lot of students from the corporate sector. and this is a great specificity. It is part of the strategic wheel of companies to train their employees in a foreign language, and this includes French,” he said

The congress was organised in partnership with the French Embassy in India, Alliance Française of Madras, University of Madras, the Institut Francais and Tata Consultancy Services.

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