Professional French: a vehicle for new opportunities

A sensitization seminar about the professional needs and opportunities linked to the French language was held at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja on Wednesday 30th November 2016. The Seminar was organized by the Federal Ministry of Education, Nigerian French Language Project, Embassy of France in Nigeria and the Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie, Paris.
At the Opening of the Seminar, the Ambassador of France stated that France was more involved in capacity building through agencies such as the Institut Français (Abuja), the Centres for French Teaching and Documentation (CFTD) and Alliance Française network in Nigeria.
Having recognized the importance of French for the development of Nigeria, the Nigerian government adopted French as the 2nd official language and supported the establishment of the Nigeria French Language Project, CFTDs for the training of teachers to enable Nigerians acquire skill that will empower them. Elisabeth Itodo, desk officer at the Federal Ministry of Education, is the Nigerian representative at the management of the NFLP along with Fanny Dureysseix, who represents the French Government.

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From left to right: Representatives of the Perm Sec &  Minister of Education, the Ambassador of France in Nigeria, the Director of the Nigeria French Language Village and the MD of Ringardas 

The Seminar was divided into 2 sessions:

  • An Introductory Session that treated ‘French in the private sector’, ‘Diplomatic French’ and Military French’.
  • A Technical Session that discussed the ‘teaching of professional French in Nigeria’, ‘professional certifications and courses’, Campus France and the way forward.

French in the private sector.

The Chambre de Commerce et d’Industrie of Paris promotes French language as a tool for trade. French can have a positive impact on one’s career as some French companies have a strong language policies regarding their workforce, which they expect to be operational in French, carry out professional tasks in French, interact with people in the professional environment, understand and design professional documents in French. 

The French foreign business community, as represented by the Managing Director of Ringardas Nigeria Ltd, acknowledges Nigeria as their first trading partner. The bulk of their transaction revolves round Nigerian crude oil and its derivative products from France with companies such as Total and Schlumberger. The community is diversifying the profile of trade with Nigeria and engages in areas like automotive industry (Peugeot), Aviation (Air France), building (Lafarge and Bouygues), Insurance (Mansard), stationery (Schneider), pharmaceutical products and machine equipment out of about 100 French companies operating in Nigeria. France’s direct investment in Nigeria is the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Mr Young, as the foreign trade advisor of the community, stated that French companies intend to have a long term trade partnership with Nigeria. Thus, there is a need for a better linguistic understanding in those companies. Speaking French is important to an employee in their companies because it helps:

  • to socialize with French-speaking colleagues and improve the working atmosphere.
  • interactions between parents companies and local subsidiaries.
  • Working on actual operations in the company in the need for translation of policies or procedure documents.
  • Identify local talents who could have external and international careers.

The Human Resource Manager from Air France KLM highlighted the need to have a strong and competitive workforce. French is an important language in the company’s administration. Air France KLM has 3 operational offices, namely Abuja, Lagos and Port-Harcourt. For him, French is important for the following reasons:

  1. Looks good on your resume/CV
  2. Earns you more money
  3. Creates job opportunities
  4. Helps job mobility
  5. Cultural diversity
  6. Improve your English
  7. Communicate with French-speakers
  8. Its is fun.

For him, the corporate world is in need of professional French, tailored and flexible lessons for learners.
At the Central Bank of Nigeria, the board has approved a French language policy, mandating its employees to learn French. The representative of the CBN, however, lamented about the cost of acquisition of the French language by learners. He urged the French government to commit more investments to the propagation of French in Nigeria. Nigeria represents almost 80% of the ECOWAS GDP and population. For him, Nigerians are prepared to learn the language. They never hesitate to put their money on education. Let the French government help them realize the importance of French and reap from a French-speaking Nigerian population!

Diplomatic 

The ECOWAS Commission Head of Translation defined French as one of the official languages, which is used for multilateral treaties with French-speaking countries. However, not all members of staff are bilingual, and those among them who may wish to learn French have a busy schedule. They need a proactive online platform and an immersion system.

Military French

Colonel Marc Lambert, military attaché at the French Embassy in Nigeria, compared the present Nigeria’s need for French to France’s need for English in 1991 (in Kuwait) and 1992 (in Kosovo). In 2016, every French military officer speaks English. The feat was achieved through education and systematization. Since 2014, at the meeting in France of Head of States of countries affected by the Boko Haram insurgency around the Lake Chad Basin, Nigeria has acknowledged the importance of French language knowledge by his troops within the setup of a multinational force. Unlike the French who are mostly monolingual and could find it hard to acquire a second language, most Nigerians are multilingual in view of their knowledge of English and other Nigerian languages. Therefore, acquiring another language such as French should not be a big deal. There is a need for motivation and time in the acquisition of French on the operational field, at the garrisons and defense headquarters. 266 military officers have been trained so far.

The Nigerian Director of Defense Education affirmed that the military, having realised the importance of French in view of Nigeria’s neighbouring countries being francophone, has taken some actions. The Nigerian Navy has made the teaching of French  compulsory in all primary and secondary schools under its control. All students must take French till SS III, but are not forced to register it as an examination subject at WAEC level. The Nigerian Army looks forward to seeing its personnel using French at operational level and deepening the cultural understanding of citizens of the neighbouring countries and enhancing information sharing and fostering partnership with neighbouring countries. The problems faced by the military are lack of resources and practice in French. The Director requested for an online French language course with certification and an avenue for interaction in French language.

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Navy officers representing the Nigerian Military, surrounded by Dr Eugenia Mbanefo (University of Port-Harcourt) & Dr Wumi Olayinka (University of Ibadan) 

THE TEACHING OF PROFESSIONAL FRENCH IN NIGERIA

Alliance Française Port-Harcourt wants French language customers to understand that trainings have to be planned ahead. Alliance Française Lagos bemoaned the work constraints and unexpected irregularities by learners. A need analysis is required before training. During training, the use of ICT is crucial in the provision of online resources. After training, an evaluation must be made. The key words are anticipate & innovate.

The Director of the Nigeria French Language Village in Badagry, Prof Rauf Adebisi recalled that the French government used to sponsor all Nigerian students for their immersion courses in France, and later on in French-speaking countries in Africa. But due to the proliferation of universities in Nigeria and the economic challenges facing both countries, the need to establish the French Village arose. It was mandated to simulate an immersion environment for Nigerian students. He stressed that Government should have a strong political will to back its announcement of French as the 2nd official language.

The Institut Français of Abuja decried the availability of its corporate customers who are involved in the learning process. The Institute is involved in the training of staff from ECOWAS Commission, Nigerian Armed forces, the Central Bank, the International Labour Organisation and Watore Chemical Industries Ltd, a fertilizer company. Contracts are in progress with Air France, Ringardas Asca, Ecobank and Water Aid. There is a tripartite Agreement between OIF, IFN & ECOWAS. The Institut Francais suggested that training centres should be within the company premises. The Centre offers professional courses in Secretarial studies, business (from B2) and diplomacy (from B1).

Olivier Mouginot, from the CFTD Enugu, uses En Avant as French manual for the military, whose officers are unfortunately always on the move. He lamented that teachers do not have relevant training in professional French. The Centre’s project is to implement courses such as French for professional communication, targeting individuals and corporate bodies. The manual to be used in Objectif Express.

Finally, discussion were held on various professional certifications and courses available at the CCIP (Paris) and the study opportunities available in France for First Degree and Master programmes. For this, you can contact any Campus France Nigeria representative at Abuja or Lagos.

The sensitisation seminar will be followed by a 2-day training of 15 lecturers of Nigerian tertiary institutions on the development of resources for French for Specific Purposes in Nigeria.

A. Souleymane

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