Deepa H Ramakrishnan

"It is just not about business or jobs but to be able to understand world"

PUDUCHERRY: With its presence in 135 countries around the world with over 1,000 branches and 8,000 teachers, Alliance Francaise, established in 1883, taught French to over 5,00,000 students last year alone, according to Alain Marquer, its Director of International Relations.

"French and English are two languages that are taught in almost every country. That's not the case with Chinese, Spanish or Japanese, at least not until now. If you knew English and French, you can go anywhere in the world. Of course, you need to know other languages also. They have their own importance. Our director in Japan speaks Japanese," Mr. Marquer told The Hindu during a recent visit for a conference of Directors of the 15 Alliances here.

Key skill

He said the skill to speak different languages, something that Indians seemed to possess, was important. "This is also important for the European Union. French, German and English are the three main languages used there. But there are 25 countries in the EU, with two more joining in a few months, and there will be 28 languages," explained Mr. Marquer, who speaks French, English, Spanish and Brittany, from where he hails.

Alliance Francaise, he said, believed in preserving linguistic diversity. "Through French we have to talk about multi-cultures and multi-languages. If the world was to speak only one language, it would be very sad and desperate. Life would be too simple."

Challenges

On the challenges that the French language is facing from languages such as Chinese and Japanese, he said every year there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of people learning French. "By this I don't say French is getting bigger. But we have students in the U.S. and even in South America, where they know that knowing French makes a difference in the job market. It is just not about business or jobs but to be able to understand the world."