Ghana is surrounded by many French-speaking countries – Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, Niger, Mali and many more – and yet we are not able to speak French.
Many Ghanaians do not believe in learning French because they do not understand the importance of this very special language.
The importance of French language cannot be over emphasised because everybody needs French. Now almost all the professions need it today.
Lawyers are crying because they cannot handle certain fantastic cases due to their inability to speak French.
Military men and women could not occupy that high role of commander for the UN Mission because they cannot speak French.
I will not leave out medical doctors, nurses, engineers, architects, businessmen and women, marketing experts, international business experts, supply chain and all other professions, even journalists.
They all need French.
Many of us have neglected French in school due to certain reasons, such as the French teacher is not friendly; French is difficult; and a lack of French teachers.
Today, the same people will go to Alliance Francaise (af) and pay huge sums of money to study, and sometimes are not even able to acquire basic proficiency.
Recently, I met a lady with a French notebook, and as curious as I have always been, I greeted “bonjour”, and she was a bit cold, but responded “bonjour” as well, without any confidence, and I knew she was a beginner.
I tried to find out about her background, and she told me she did an aviation course and will like to add French in order to land better job since her sector is very competitive.
Apparently, she was studying French at Alliance Francaise, and she admitted it was not easy and that it is better to learn when you are in school. Tony is a victim of such a situation.
He found a very lucrative IT job, and the role was based in Burkina Faso. His boss instructed him to learn French in order to make communication easy for him, his colleagues and, more importantly, clients.
Tony was given 6-9 months to do this. Unfortunately, he did not get enough time to study because his schedule was always busy. Even though he acquired his proficiency certificate after the stipulated time, he could still not express himself well in French. His boss was not happy, and they could no longer afford the services of a translator as a business.
What do you expect? Tony was replaced by someone else, and he is back in Accra looking for job.
Do not be like Tony, who had the expertise in IT but failed to keep his job because of French, something he could have learnt from age 3 till university so that by the time he completed tertiary education, he would have had a full grasp of the language.
My objective is to reduce, if not eradicate, this occurrence.
How to fix it
We have created Learn French Early Foundation (LFEF).
This foundation seeks to promote the teaching and learning of French among children from age 3. The children need to understand the need for French, which is WHY they have to study French; not to reach a certain stage and when it hits them before they will be struggling to study and end up paying more money, and they will not even achieve it. I have a lot of friends who are in a similar situation now, and they do not want their children to face the same challenge, and are therefore doing their best for their children to learn French from a tender age. We have even developed a home tuition option, where our team move from home to home to teach the children.
Some of the parents themselves have enrolled and are taking part. We also visit schools and Sunday Schools to educate the children. We strongly believe this is the way to go, and government needs to watch and support this project.
When you go to Francophone countries, a second language is compulsory, irrespective of the department, whether sciences or arts. We also need to adopt a similar approach in Ghana by making French compulsory at the secondary and tertiary levels.
Columnist: Francis Nutsuego