BONJOUR!

Make French language education compulsory, to enhance regional integration, Prof. Opara urges, in inaugural lecture

By Jet Stanley Madu

A Professor of French Language Studies, Carol Chinyere Opara has made a case for the federal government of Nigeria to reactivate its diplomatic relations with the French government to reintroduce bursaries for teachers and learners of French Language to French-speaking countries.

Opara who lectures at the Department of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos, made this appeal when she delivered her inaugural lecture recently, the second in the education faculty and the first by a woman from that department, at the main auditorium.

In the lecture titled, “Quest for Sub-regional Integration: The French language Education Factor,” Opara argued for the need to adopt the French language education as a tool to foster closer intra-regional and inter-regional ties in Africa and even beyond. 

She strongly recommended reintegration, through French language education, of countries in the region, which she said were one before being divided into a mixture of peoples, religions and most importantly, languages through colonialism. “For instance”, she remarked, “we find the Yoruba people in the Republic of Benin, Ghana and Togo.”

While making a case for the role of French language education in the integration processes, she said that this is underscored by its use in over 50 percent of the African territories. The language, according to her, is taught throughout the world either as a foreign, maternal or as a second language in educational system of most countries of the world to almost 120 million students, and by over 500,000 teachers. In addition, she explained that French is popular in the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, Latin America, Indonesia, Polynesia and the Middle East because of the success of the French colonial ventures in those parts of the world. Currently, there are over 220 million French speakers worldwide, she informed.

In her appraisal of the 1998 bilingual language policy in Nigeria, she remarked that the policy appreciated the role of the French language as a useful and dynamic tool with the potential for promoting integration between Nigeria and its neighbours in the West African sub-region.

With reference to her researches, she pointed out that the teaching of the French language is not without its own challenges. Among these is the problem of Nigerian multilingual environment where over 500 local languages coexist as learner’s first language, vis-a-vis the English and French languages.

Other challenges she listed include lack of adequate instructional materials to inculcate the communicative competence in the learners and the non-availability of audio-visual materials to bring the realities of the French language into the learning experience of the students.

Some education exchange programmes Prof. Opara had been involved in by way of seminars, workshops and conferences had given birth to suggestions that could help the French Language education in the sub-region. Among several recommendations, she suggested, in her lecture, that the teaching and learning of French language be made compulsory in the training of security operatives. This initiative, she opined, would help forestall aggression from French-speaking countries. She also recommended adequate funding for educational and cultural exchange programmes as well as more advocacies.

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