May 13, 2014

In My Opinion: Study of French language crucial

In the current budget crises, proposals to reduce or eliminate French language instruction have been recommended in a number of school districts.

I believe those proposals are misguided. The French language has been an integral and valid part of New York’s curriculum for nearly 100 years.

It is certainly a relevant subject for study in North Country communities, where 20 to 40 percent of the population is of French or French Canadian ethnicity. Eliminating French programs would be a slap in the face to those whose ancestors came to our communities nearly 200 years ago.

French programs must be maintained in our area, where virtually all school districts are less than 100 miles and a two-hour drive from the Quebec border and less than a three-hour drive from Montreal, the third-largest French-speaking city of in the world. Six million French-speaking people reside in Quebec. 

The study of French is valid, relevant and applicable preparation for pursuing a career in international trade, travel and tourism, technology, transportation and business affairs. In support of this contention, I offer some statistics from our recently developed New York Needs French website:

For foreign direct investment, greater New York (New York, Connecticut & New Jersey) has nearly a fourth of the French presence.

The New-York Chapter of the French-American Chamber of Commerce lists over 500 companies for the New York City area alone.

More than 1,200 French companies in the U.S. employ nearly half a million Americans. Familiar U.S. manufacturers that are French owned include Mack Trucks, Zenith, RCA-Thompson, Bic, American National Can Corp. and Dannon. 

Far too many New Yorkers are unaware of the importance of trade between New York and Quebec. In fact, the No. 1 trading partner of many states, including New York, is Quebec. More than 100 Quebec companies do business in our state.

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