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More Ugandans learning French

By Joan Akello

French is fast becoming a global language in regional and international integration. Uganda is grabbing the opportunity not only for linguistic but also for economic reasons.

The International Francophone Organisation (OIF recorded a population of nearly 96.2 million Francophones on the African continent, among whom are the neighbouring Congolese, Rwandese and Burundians.

The French Embassy in Uganda organised events throughout the Month of March dubbed Francophonie events such as discussions, students’ activities, a film festival and football competition. The football finale was held on March 23 2013 at the Kampala International School Uganda (KISU) in Bukoto.

These events were to encourage Ugandans and Anglophones to learn French, which is the main language of the African Union, the official and working language at the UN, within many European institutions, at the International Olympic Committee. It is also the language of communication at the International Criminal Tribunal. Aline Kuster-Ménager, French Ambassador addressed participants saying, “Clearly, there are several reasons to begin learning the French language in Uganda and elsewhere.”

Last year, 2,718 candidates sat French at ‘O’ level from 2,732 in 2011 while 746 candidates registered at ‘A’ level up from 657 in 2011. This comes with the assistance of two French teachers from France who train students in French language, civilisation and didactic lessons for diploma and degree programmes at Makerere University, Makerere Business School (MUBS) and Kyambogo University.

The University Cooperation also involves training and monitoring of the teachers of French in Uganda under their national association, Association of French Teachers in Uganda (APFO) which boasts of at least 400 teachers spread all over the country.

The Embassy of France also offers scholarships to ‘A’ level students joining universities for their first degree or diploma in Education as an incentive for them to become French teachers the army and police are involved in the learning programme. About fifteen senior and junior officers are trained in the language at the Junior Staff College (Jinja) at Diploma level to enable them join a military academy in France or in Francophone Africa.

The Ugandan army relies a lot on these young officers; it is involved in the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) present in two Francophone countries (Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo); the army is also involved in Somalia within the AMISOM arrangement alongside the Burundian army most of whom are French speaking.

The Police National Emergency Call Centre also requested the French Embassy through its Cultural Affairs Department for training, currently the embassy is training about 20 Ugandan police officers for 120 hours, 5 hrs per week in the French language at Alliance Française.  The language barrier affects the centre including calls from French speaking nationals and the training targets the officers in charge of taking phone calls and public relations.

Besides the French lessons being taught at all levels, Alliance Française Kampala (AFK) offers the possibility of sitting DELF and DALF (Advanced Diploma in French Language Studies) diploma exams (recognized internationally). AFK also organises a number of cultural activities to promote French language and culture. At the French school, children are admitted for pre-primary and primary education with French being the main medium of instruction.

It is reported that most students of French aim at career development in trade, education or diplomacy; to discover another culture and the love for the French language. The onus is on Ugandans to embrace and learn the language as it becomes a global language.

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