French, one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, is in danger.
That’s what right-wing politicians and defenders of the language of love would have you believe after French lawmakers on Thursday approved a plan to offer more classes in English at universities.
Most members of the National Assembly, France's lower house, backed the controversial proposal – the second article of a higher education bill that is expected to sail through the left-wing dominated lower house and Senate.
The plan is aimed at boosting the number of foreign students in French universities from 12 percent to 15 percent of the total by the end of the decade.
During a heated two-hour debate ahead of Thursday’s vote, right-wing lawmakers expressed their opposition to the measure, which they say threatens France’s very identity.
“Shall we speak English in this French parliament one day?” Daniel Fasquelle of the main opposition party UMP said in English.
“This is a very bad signal for French language speakers around the world.”
Fellow UMP member Jacques Myard said: “A people that speaks a foreign language more and more loses its identity piece by piece.”
Education unions and the Academie Francaise, the influential guardian of the French language, have attacked the measure, but to no avail.
Education Minister Genevieve Fioraso dismissed criticism of the proposal as “posturing” and said opponents of the article had given France a “narrow-minded image.”