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Now Swedish competes with French, German in attracting students

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OUTLANDISH CHARM: Learning a foreign language widens the field of opportunity, students and teachers feel. —
OUTLANDISH CHARM: Learning a foreign language widens the field of opportunity, students and teachers feel. —

Shyam Ranganathan

Visa norms relaxation and opportunities for free education are the factors

CHENNAI: Ishrath Naz Ara, Chief Executive Officer of Bright Training Centre, knows languages have their seasons too, and this year’s flavour at her language school is Swedish.

“There has been relaxation of visa norms to Sweden and some opportunities for free education. So we have been approached by more than 25 people, and are expecting more than 100 students this year,” explains Ms. Naz Ara, whose centre offers courses in 26 languages.

Preethi Balasubramanian, a French teacher at a city school, confirms the idea that the love for foreign language learning is largely driven by the opportunities available in far shores. Since school students have to learn at least one language other than English, increasingly many prefer to learn a foreign language, she says.

“Earlier French used to be popular among students because it had a charm for many people. It is being replaced by German as German universities are considered world leaders in many engineering disciplines. In schools where French is the only foreign language available, students prefer to study it because it still offers a wider scope for employment abroad,” says the 21-year-old who holds a Level 4 certificate in French and a Level 5 certificate in German (Level 6 is the highest in both languages).

She adds that most schools offer only French, while German is slowly gaining ground, and even Japanese is set to make an entry in schools soon according to reports.

The demand for foreign language teachers is so high that many schools have advertised for French teachers in their schools through Alliance Francaise, says R. Rudhran, an employee at the institute who also teaches part-time at Jawahar Vidyalaya.

He adds that along with the regular language classes conducted by Alliance Francaise and Max Mueller Bhavan among other institutes, summer courses are held for younger students every year owing to the interest shown by parents to give their wards training in some foreign language.

The principal of NSN Matriculation School, Chitra Sridhar, says that the demand for French in classes XI and XII is so high in her school that they have to choose only the top 45 students to be taught by the part-time teacher who takes care of the subject.

“Apart from other considerations, there is the perception that French is an “easy” subject and students can concentrate more time on core subjects. But French is as hard to learn for the first time as other subjects. So we take only the best students, especially given the demand,” she says.

Students also find studying a foreign language easy if they have a different background. Ricardo, a Class XI student, who studied Tamil until Class X, says that he opted for French in Class XI because his mother tongue is Hindi.

“I don’t want to start learning Hindi now. And I find Tamil tough in Class XI,” he says.

Subala Ananthanarayanan, principal of Sri Sankara Senior Secondary School, Adyar, says that students from abroad find foreign languages especially useful. “Some students come to India to study Class IX and Class X. They find learning French easier so we have a part-time teacher for the subject,” she says.

However, she adds that most students do not really learn the language but are content with finishing the syllabus taught.

“Many students showed interest in the subject when we started offering the option in 2005. But the number has come down to around 30 this year as they understand that it is also a subject to contend with in the examinations,” she says.

She also quips: “It is strange that English has become so common that we do not even realise that we always learn at least one foreign language.”

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