Story by: Linda Adwoa Koomson (Leeson)
Did you know that French is one of the fastest growing languages in the world and that about half of all French speakers live in Africa? French is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, following Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. It is the official language in 29 countries, which puts it in second place behind English.
Interestingly, our motherland, Ghana is bordered by three French-speaking nations of Cote D’Ivoire to the West, Togo to the East and Burkina Faso to the North.However, there has always been a language barrier between students from these countries as well as other neighbouring countries.
Over the years, universities in Ghana have been admitting foreign students, most of which are French natives or second language speakers. Let me tell you a story! A Gabon colleague once told me, he came to Ghana to study English, since Ghanaians use English as an official language. But is that the case for Ghanaian students? Are Ghanaian students interested in learning other foreign language, especially, French?
Do universities in the country most importantly, Communication Institutions offer French as part of their courses, and if they do, is it a compulsory or an optional subject for students?
At the foremost Communication University in Sub Saharan Africa, GIJ, aside Certificate courses, the Institute offers a Two-year Diploma in Communication Studies, a Four-years Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, with options in Journalism and Public Relations, and Four Distinct Master of Arts Degree in Communication Studies.
All these programs have a number of courses of which language is a part. At GIJ courses are taught in English. Notably, the Institute also offers French as one of the courses but, until the 2018/19 Academic year, French was taught as optional course, especially, for first year students. Today, the story is different; French is taught at GIJ as a compulsory course.
Again, despite French becoming a compulsory subject for all Bachelor of Arts and Diploma in Communication beginning students, it is not graded as part of their GPA. This was affirmed by a student of the Institute during an interview. “It (French) was optional in Level 100 but became compulsory when we got to level 300. I had to study it. It’s not graded, yet we write exams and failure will lead to retaking the subject,” Dorcas Esi Koguah, a Level 300 student of GIJ remarked.
Meanwhile, at the African University College of Communications (AUCC), French is a compulsory course for both Communication and Business students in Level 100 and 200, respectively. However, students in Level 300 andLevel 400 have the luxury of studying French or not, as it is optional.
It is worthy of note, that, communication students in the country, especially, at the Ghana Institute of Journalism and the African University of Communication Studies, are ever willing not to study French, should it be a voluntary course of study. “Well to be honest, no since I study it to pass, it’s not a subject of interest to me. I self-study other languages which I’m better at, as compared to French”, a Level 300 student of GIJ remarked, concerning, the study of French.
A Strategic Communication student from AUCC, Wintoss Kyekyeku, underscored the essence of studying of French, saying, “The French language is important, most especially for communicators,”but was quick to add that, “the way it is taught becomesproblematic.”
“It should be made optional so that those who studied French in the basic school can carry on, and not people like myself who only got introduced to French in the university,”Kyekyekuemphasised.
Meanwhile, one thing is true, and is that, people study French for varied reasons.Interviews with some students from GIJ and AUCC also affirmed the relevance of studying French, particularly by communication students. In the view of Smart Tekyi Ninson, a Level 300 student of GIJ, speaking international languages, including French, propels one in a chosen career. “As a communications student, if I can speak more than one international language, it gives me an upper hand in my career, Ninson said.
On the part of Christabel Yaaba Benn, a student of AUCC, “Languages are an essential tool to becoming a good communicator so it’s for a greater good, I’ll definitely recommend it”, Benn, reiterated.
Undeniably, the study of foreign languages, including French plays a significant role to communicators, both practitioners and students, alike.