Promoting French in North America
The aims of linguistic cooperation in North America are twofold:
create or foster interest in the French language and French culture, a means of bringing people (and young people in particular) together and promoting dialogue, whilst monitoring the quality of the teaching of French in various establishments.
establishing a cultural and linguistic presence in this especially creative and dynamic part of the world by adapting to the context.
French is a minority language in the United States, but is nevertheless the country’s second most widely studied foreign language (after Spanish, but before German) and the fourth most widely spoken (after English, Spanish and Chinese).
Considerable effort has been and continues to be devoted to the promotion of 90 bilingual programmes to teach French within the American public (free) school system, and thus reach a greater potential number of students.
The "FrancÉducation" label, an accolade reserved only for those schools offering excellent bilingual French sections, was awarded to two New York schools in spring 2012.
The French Heritage Language programme was set up to promote and enrich the teaching of French and to encourage the teaching of French and French culture to pupils of French-speaking origin in New York’s public schools. The programme is run by France’s US Embassy in partnership with the French American Cultural Exchange (FACE).
Immersion and French as a foreign language (FFL) programmes also play an important role, through agencies such as the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (COFODIL) and the FrancÉducation Label in Utah.
There has been a marked increase in demand for French teaching in Canada. Canada, excluding Quebec, is home to almost a million native French speakers, with 330,000 pupils enrolled in French immersion schools, 12,000 at Alliance Française schools and 3,000 in the network of French high schools abroad.
French is no longer just an aspect of Canadian identity that sets it apart from its southern neighbour, but a factor in competitiveness. French is making progress throughout English-speaking Canada, especially among immigrants, and Canadian public opinion has come out strongly in favour of bilingualism.
French is taught primarily through immersion programmes set up 40 years ago and which now attract 330,000 young Canadians a year. Under the "2013 plan" passed in 2004, the federal government aimed to double the number of bilingual Canadians by 2013.
France and Quebec enjoy a special relationship expressed through cooperation in all areas, and particularly in the field of language.
Quebec, with a population of six and a half million French speakers, is the only Canadian province to have French as its sole official language (the province of New Brunswick is officially bilingual).
With its Centre de la Francophonie des Amériques (CFA), Quebec is bidding to become the flagship of French-speaking America and to help promote French language and culture in the Americas. An early concrete step in this direction came with the organisation in July 2012 of the first French Language World Forum in Quebec (to which France contributed a grant of €250,000).