The challenges of linguistic cooperation: Promoting the French language
In the Philippines, the French language enjoys a positive image. The development of the country’s service sector, particularly in tourism and call centres, offers promising prospects and an optimistic context for learning French.
Although the Philippines is not a member of the International Organization of La Francophonie, nor does it have historical roots in the country, French is nonetheless the primary European language taught in Filipino universities besides English which, along with Filipino, are official languages of the Philippines. This comparative advantage can mainly be found in international study programmes, as well as in schools that offer nursing, tourism, and hotel and restaurant management. French is also the second most taught foreign language in secondary schools after Spanish, which is a remnant of the country’s colonial past, but before Japanese, which was the language of instruction used during the occupation (1942-1944). Taking all levels and establishments into account, there are a total of over 10,000 Filipinos studying French.
The French Embassy is able to rely on a dynamic network to help promote the French language: the Alliance Française de Manille, founded in 1920 and one of the most prominent cultural institutions in the capital; the Alliance Française de Cebu, inaugurated in 2012 by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and one of the few foreign cultural institutes located outside the capital; the French School of Manila, founded in 1973 and a partner of the German International School to form the Eurocampus; on the Filipino side, the Department of Education, as well as universities and the Association of French Language Teachers, are invaluable partners. And of course, the Belgian, Canadian and Swiss Embassies are regularly involved in the promotion of the Francophonie.
However, the task of expanding the French-speaking community in the Philippines continues to be a challenge. The increased emigration of Filipinos to Quebec once introduced a spike in the number of learners of the French language. With the decline of this trend, the promotion of the French language in the country is now focusing on expanding its horizons. One of the priorities already identified is the training of more specialised French language teachers, especially in tourism and business.
In order to promote French language certificate programmes, such as the Diploma in French Language Studies (DELF) and the Diploma in Advanced French Language Studies (DALF), which are the only French foreign language diplomas awarded by the French Ministry of National Education, regular workshops are organised during annual seminars in partnership with the Alliance Française de Manille and the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris 3. French language teachers are also selected to undertake a distance learning Master’s course in French as a Foreign Language (FLE) or to study in an institute located in France under a particular scholarship programme.
Employment, mobility and emigration constitute potential sources of learners who can be offered adapted language courses. The development of French-speaking tourism in the Philippines (more than 45,000 French tourists visited the country in 2015) generates a significant demand for the hotel & restaurant management sector. The 150 French companies that currently employ more than 40,000 persons in the Philippines are driving forces for learning the French language that should be further capitalised on. Call centres looking for qualified and multilingual workers also represent a key target.
Efforts to promote the French language and to continuously attract the interest of the public are organised every year through language events, such as the Francophonie Week, the poetry festival ‘Printemps des Poètes’ or the programme ‘Lab Citoyen’. The French Embassy also encourages the recruitment of interns and French as a Foreign language (FLE) assistants to teach not only the French language, but also literature and civilisation in partner universities, thereby helping to promote the Francophonie in the Philippines.
Partnerships between universities in the two countries, actively encouraged by the Embassy, are certainly an excellent way of promoting the Francophonie through student mobility. Two universities in Manila, each having their own department of languages, serve as invaluable partners in this mission. The Department of European Languages of the University of the Philippines trains many of the French langauge professors of other universities, while the Ateneo de Manila University opened an extended French section within its Department of Modern Languages in 2014.
The Alliance Françaises of Manila and Cebu are two important centres that serve as the foundation for the Francophonie in the Philippines by offering French language instruction and awarding DELF/DALF certifications. The French School of Manila, a pole of excellence, has made it a priority of its development strategy to broaden its reach in the Philippines. The Department of Education of the Philippines, an important partner to the Embassy, is supporting the institutionalisation of French as an optional language in 12 Filipino public secondary schools. It also promotes the training of secondary-school French language teachers. The Association of Filipino French Language Teachers (APFP) has become a privileged network for French language instructors in the Philippines that must be developed even further.
The Francophonie also represents the defense of diversity and French values. Thus, its promotion beyond the institutional set-up is a shared concern between both French and Filipinos who look forward to contributing to the development of our language.
The French, especially those in the business sector, also have a role to play in the promotion of the Francophonie through their corporate social responsibility initiatives. The Embassy strives to develop any initiative aimed at this goal, and the Filipinos can definitely count on this support. Created in 1981, the French-Filipino Club of Bacolod City offers one example that should definitely be recognized and followed.