2 million children to be involved in nationwide challenge to learn French

12 Jan 2007

Official launch at Eurostar's Waterloo International – 16 January 07
16th January, London Today saw the launch of a National Schools Competition initiative designed by the British Council and the French Embassy to inspire and encourage kids across England to learn French and understand more about French culture. It is anticipated that around 5,000 schools will participate and some 2 million children will be involved in the nationwide challenge.
The competition will be officially launched at Eurostar's Waterloo International terminal on Tuesday 16 January with Martin Davidson, Deputy Director-General of the British Council, M. Gérard Errera, French Ambassador, Lord Dearing, Dr Lid King, Department for Education and Skills (DfES), Richard Brown, Chief Executive, Eurostar and children from Charles Dickens Primary School, Southwark attending.
Eurostar, the DfES and the Institut Français are partnering the competition which culminates in an award-ceremony taking place during French Language Week (Semaine de la Langue Francaise), an annual celebration of the French language organised by the Délégation Générale à la Langue Française (French Ministry of Culture) held from 10 to 20 March 2007.
To get pupils talking, writing and working in French, participants will be asked to submit, depending on their age, a drawing, poem, story or essay inspired by the ten words that have been selected by the DGLF for this year's edition of French Language Week. They are abricot, amour, bachi bouzouk, bijou, bizarre, chic, clown, mètre, passe-partout and valser, and they illustrate the richness and character that French has acquired through its exchanges with other languages.
Martin Davidson, Deputy Director General of the British Council said:"Currently only 51% of English pupils take languages at GCSE while every pupil in France learns a foreign language at the same age and level (source – DfES). A Britain unable to communicate with other parts of the world in their own language will be economically weaker, competitively disadvantaged and culturally the poorer. It is essential both for our economy and for the ability of our children to become global citizens that we embrace other languages and cultures.
"To enable this, the DfES has launched two very important initiatives: the National Languages Strategy which encourages more flexible approaches to language learning; and the International Strategy which aims at partnering every school in England with a school overseas by 2010."
Mr Gérard Errera, French Ambassador said: "I welcome the launch of this stimulating and innovative initiative and thank the British Council and Eurostar for contributing in this way to promoting the French language in English schools. A second language is indeed a fundamental asset for young people, enriching them and increasing their chances in today's open society. French is a leading international language, spoken by 175 million people on all five continents and is also the official language of 29 countries. I wish the best of luck to all the young people taking part in the competition based on these 10 words. I am convinced this will encourage them to go on learning French during their studies and throughout their lives"
Simon Montague, Eurostar Communications Director, further commented: "France is our nearest European neighbour and one of the most popular destinations when children first go abroad (11.1M visits by UK residents in 2005 – source ONS). Our two countries are linked by geography, history and the Channel tunnel. We hope kids will understand that learning French is a really worthwhile thing to do, and that it will help them all their lives. Speaking another language is a cool thing to be able to do."
"Eurostar is a major employer of people with language skills, particularly French and English, and we are delighted to be supporting this competition."
Lord Dearing added: "This is exactly what is needed to get languages on track. Congratulations to Eurostar, the French Embassy and the Government on this event: It is the kind of action we recommended in our Consultation Report last month to promote interest in languages in our schools*".
- Ends -
Gareth HeadonEurostar Corporate CommunicationsT. +44 (0) 20 7922 4425F. +44 (0) 20 7922 4499M. +44 (0) 7802 260 096