One-quarter of all employees in French companies with 20 or more employees are called upon to use a foreign language at one time or another in their professional activities. The most revealing fact in the latest DARES survey was the high percentage of the subjects who were ill at ease reading a document in a foreign language. The figure represented approximately 500,000 people in companies with over 20 employees, or 22 % of all of those interviewed.

France lags behind in language learning

The rigorous laws regarding the respect for a country’s language of origin are perfectly compatible with multilingualism. Take Quebec, for example, where 62.5 % of the French-speaking active population use English in the context of their work, and only 12 % feel uncomfortable with it.

France has a lot of catching up to do; especially as relatively few companies offer language learning programs. According to DARES, 62 % of the people who said they were uncomfortable understanding a foreign language had taken courses during their professional careers, but only one-tenth of them had done so in language learning.

The debate over foreign language training in companies has become all the more relevant as more and more members of the workforce require these skills. Nowadays, supervisors and technicians need to be competent in foreign languages. In the near future, factory employees and workers will be joining their ranks.

A range of training options

The software market for language learning methods, in particular English, is growing slowly but surely. It now represents 5 % of the total training methods market, estimated at 300 million Euros. There are currently 2,000 business-related language schools in France. They all offer several learning modes, most of them combining traditional presential methods and the use of multimedia or e-learning tools. To attract and retain these targets, the software industry will have to find new solutions for 2008.

Online voice exchanges between learners are likely to grow, thanks to lower Internet telephony rates.

Visioconferencing, which up to now has been expensive and relatively inaccessible (special equipment, dedicated lines) will spread with the development of ADSL connections. It is now being used in conjunction with local networks and general public educational software. These usages lead up to the concept of communicating classrooms, which could become a major feature in “blended learning”.