France bets on English to ‘conquer the world’

PARIS (Reuters) – France will take steps to improve French students’ English language skills to make them better equipped to “conquer the world”, the government said on Friday as it unveiled a strategy to plug a gaping trade deficit.

French students traditionally perform rather poorly in international ranking of English fluency. In the latest ranking by Education First, the French were ranked second-worst in Europe after Italians.

“English is now the lingua franca. That’s how it is. You have to speak English if you want to act and move in globalisation,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a news conference in Lille, northern France.

He said the government would make it compulsory for students in high school or undergraduate level at the latest to pass internationally recognised English-language certifications, such as Cambridge University’s IELTS test.

Taking these tests, which cost around 230 euros (202.4 pounds), will be paid for by the government, Philippe said.

“I‘m convinced these measures are game changers,” he said. “They will help more French people go and conquer the world.”

The new measures come as France posted its worst trade deficit in five years in 2017, at 62.3 billion euros. Rising exports were more than offset by a surge in imports, as French producers struggle to meet the need of a recovering economy.

The prime minister also said France would seek to outsource the work done by its ‘Business France’ export agency – the equivalent of Britain’s UKTI – to private operators in some areas, possibly international chambers of commerce.

Reporting by Michel RoseEditing by Ingrid Melander

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