Regionalt forum för franska i arbetslivet (16 april 2015) [fr]
Tal på engelska av ambassadör Jacques Lapouge vid det regionala forumet för franska i arbetslivet den 16 april 2015.
"Ladies and gentlemen, Dear friends, who have travelled from France, Norway, Finland, Denmark and from all over Sweden,
It’s a pleasure to welcome you to this Regional forum on “French language and the professional world”, organized in collaboration with the Stockholm School of Economics.
As an introduction, I would simply like to ask this question: is French nowadays, not only beautiful, attractive, good for your general culture, but also « useful »?
Let me say first that French is, along with English, the only language spoken on all five continents. According to the statistics of the International Organisation of the Francophonie’s, 274 million people in the world spoke French in 2014. As an official, minority or privileged language, it is present in 68 countries. That makes it the fifth most widely spoken language in the world. I should add that French is also an important language of international communication and the second most taught foreign language in the world
France has also one of the largest networks of cultural institutions abroad, in which French is taught to more than 750 000 people. If all of the above continues, and if you factor in the natural demographic growth of francophone countries, particularly in Africa, the number of French speakers should increase very significantly in the decades to come.
In our globalized society, it is also becoming increasingly clear that speaking only one language is no longer enough. Students who speak several languages increase their opportunities in their own country and abroad. Learning another language means acquiring extra skills and opening oneself to new personal and professional experiences.
One question remains: is French an asset for one’s career? Is it a language that helps people find a job?
Intuitively yes. Proficiency in both French and English should increase one’s chances on the job market. Proficiency in French is a gateway to companies in France and abroad in all francophone countries (mostly Canada, Switzerland, Belgium and the African continent). Being the world’s fifth economic power, in the top three highest ranked destinations for foreign investment and the first destination in the world for tourism, France alone is obviously a valuable economic partner.
Is this also true in Sweden and in other Scandinavian countries? That is the question that will be directly addressed during this forum.
The forum is a concept created by the language center of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry and is supported by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the French Institute. It is designed to be a moment for brainstorming and sharing experiences through panels. During these two days, actors from all walks of life will share their opinions and make an assessment of the situation of French language in the professional world, both now and in the future.
The goal is to identify clear guidelines and to make recommendations so that a suitable offer to institutions and companies can be generated by the universities, the training institutes and our own network.
This is an operation organized in cooperation with the different departments of the French Embassy in Sweden and with our colleagues in Finland, Norway and Denmark. We shall also benefit from the participation of an expert from the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
I would like to thank the keynote speakers for sharing their experience with us. As you have seen in the program, they are prestigious and come from diverse fields: business, first and foremost, but also the fashion industry, the military, the European institutions, organizations working with French speaking countries, universities, business schools, and secondary schools.
The audience is also very diverse: human resources managers in companies and institutions, representatives of chambers of commerce, association leaders, heads of departments of modern languages in universities, schools principals, teachers, and more generally professionals from a wide range of sectors.
I am convinced that your work, which will therefore bring together actors from the academic and the entrepreneurial fields, will be fruitful, and I am looking forward to its conclusions.
Let me finish by assuring you that French is everything but a dead language. It is continuously evolving and changing: in the last 50 years, the French Academy dictionary has grown from 40 000 entries to 60 000. And if, during the fika pause, you order a “sous-marin” in Quebec or a “pistolet” in Belgium you will finish by eating a sandwich, which is a very French word.
I wish you all a good forum."