French TV urged to broadcast programmes in English with subtitles

The French have long struggled to resist the tide of English expressions flooding into the language of Molière, but a petition calling for television programmes to be broadcast in English with subtitles is rapidly gathering support.

It was launched by Delphine Tabaries-Poncet, a language teacher in the southern town of Béziers who is concerned that her pupils’ imperfect command of English could hold them back professionally.

She realised the value of TV series and films in English when a 15-year-old Romanian boy joined her school, and could speak English far better than his French classmates.

He had achieved fluency mainly by watching television, which in Romania often broadcasts films and series in English. “He spoke so well that the others couldn’t even follow him,” she said.

Concerned that the failure of many French schoolchildren to master the global lingua franca handicaps their career prospects, she is now urging President Emmanuel Macron to take action to put more English on French airwaves.

Her petition to stop dubbing English-language programmes in French has gained thousands of signatures in only a few days.

But it is certain to provoke controversy in a country that tries to ward off the “Anglo-Saxon cultural invasion” by imposing quotas for French songs played on radio and French films screened in cinemas.  

Alex Martin, 55, an engineer, said: “Why should we be forced to watch programmes in English?  Too many people already use English words like ‘job’ and say things like ‘c’est fun’. We should be defending our language, not letting in more English.”

Mr Macron, however, who speaks English fluently, may welcome the language teachers’ call. His close ally, Benjamin Griveaux, the government spokesman, said small and medium-sized French companies “could easily do more business internationally if their managers spoke English.”

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