What you need to know:
- With the expansion of the East African Community, most Francophone countries have joined the bloc, the most recent addition being DR Congo. This has boost the zeal of member states to add French to their most sought after languages.
With the Democratic Republic of Congo joining the East African community, many people have been motivated to learn the French in order to ease communication and aid trade with the new entrants.
In March, a total of 96 learners received their DELF, a certification of French-language abilities for non-native speakers of French, certificates. The learners who ranged from secondary school students, the army to journalists received their certificates (diplomas and masters).
On March 11, Nabisunsa Girls’ Secondary School in Banda, Kampala graduated 64 learners in DELF and a day later, more 32 received their certificates at the residence of the ambassador of France to Uganda.
On March 12, 22 UPDF officers received their diplomas in different levels of French competence, while seven journalists attained the beginners’ certification –basics of French. Also, one learner graduated with the advanced diploma in French language (DALF) while two graduated with a Master’s (Patrick Bugingo, a lecturer at Makerere University Business School, and Guy Maza, a librarian at Alliance Francaise De Kampala. Addressing the graduates at his residence on March 12, the ambassador of France to Uganda, Jules-Armand Aniambossou, said keeping French alive will help more Ugandans access important opportunities in international organisations such as the African Union and United Nations.
Aniambossou said most West Africans rose through the ranks in most international organisations quickly because of their knowledge of international languages, especially French.
He urged Ugandans to embrace the opportunity to learn more languages to widen their scope of work.
“The more Ugandans will be in international organisations such as African Union (AU), United Nations (UN), the more they will take part in decision making not only for Africa but, also for their country,” Aniambossou said.
Acquiring the certificates
Because of the lockdown that engulfed the country due to Covid-19, most learners had to study remotely to be able to sit exams in time for the recent graduation. This, gave other learners such as journalists and tour guides an opportunity to join the course. While some just attended Zoom lessons, others looked for more creative ways of getting their students involved while in the comfort of their homes.
Michael Kushemererwa, a teacher at Nabisunsa Girl’s Secondary School, is one of the people who thought out of the box and built a website to teach French, to not only his school students but also their friends.
“I built my own website because I can teach Cambridge, International Baccalaureate, Delf and I would teach all categories. I used Twitter and Facebook to market the website and my students were able to locate it and tell others about it,” Kushemererwa recounted.
He revealed that his students kept learning and by the time they returned to school, they were ready for exams.
Learning a new language
According to Aniambossou, the pressure to be good, the desire to succeed, the fear of failure, and above all, patience and energy are some of the qualities that learning a second language requires. He said, one has to be able to put these feelings into the learning process to succeed at a second language.
“However much French is a romantic and elegant language, it is also demanding. Sometimes it is tricky, and learning it requires rigour. While taking this path, you need to also rethink your language and to discover other concepts to balance both languages and not lose yourself in the process,” he said as he addressed the graduates at his residence recently.
Learning a second language and in this case, French is helpful in many ways to different people’s careers.
Karim Cwinya’ay, the course coordinator at Alliance Francaise Kampala, who has also taught the UPDF officers in Kampala, said because officers work with international communities, learning French helps them ease their work with peers from, especially Francophone communities.
“Because the army officers are sent to different countries, having knowledge of French helps them gather information easily and communicate easily with the natives and their peers. For example, Uganda UPDF officers had to go to DR Congo to fight the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) alongside Congolese soldiers as a joint force,” Cwinya’ay said.
He also added that knowing French is an added advantage for one to be chosen for the different training opportunities in Francophone countries.
According to Joseph Duke Chwa, a Captain in UPDF Jinja and a recent graduate, choosing a language to study in the military is different. He explained that one is just selected and they have to abide. It is in the process that one starts realising what knowing a second language can do for them.
“French was not my interest until I completed A1.1 (the beginner’s level). I knew it was not an easy language but I was ready to take on a challenge when I was selected. After the first course, it fascinated me and I realised why I had to learn the language. I kept upgrading to date,” Chwa said.
According to Chwa, when one has the command of a language such as French, it is easy to tap into the numerous opportunities for training in Francophone countries. He says many fail to get in even if they wanted to because of language barrier.
“There are also military career guidance courses that bypass people because those courses are only taught in a language they do not know. Having a good command of a second language also adds value to your workplace because when certain issues that need that expertise arise, one is readily available,” Chwa explained adding that, “Luck only finds a prepared mind. If an appointment comes in and one is interested, they cannot get it if they are ill-prepared.”
Patrice Gilles, director at Alliance Francaise Kampala, says being born in Southern France where French was not commonly used did not stop him from studying English and French concurrently.
“Mastering another language gives you more opportunities to travel and do different things. I have been appointed several times as director of Alliance Francaise in Anglophone countries and one of the reasons for that is because I know many languages including English,” he explained.
According to Zulaika Nabukeera Kabuye, head teacher Nabisunsa Girl’s Secondary School, Delf offers more knowledge to the French students and they are awarded internationally recognised certificates.
When it is time for them to attain higher education, they can use it as a stepping stone as well as in the world of work, which is an added advantage.
“French now is as predominant as English and Kiswahili since it is a major part of the East African Community with the addition of DR Congo that falls in the category of Rwanda and Burundi, the other French-speaking countries. Students will have a wider scope of feeling comfortable in any community they find themselves in,” Nabukeera says.
She adds that with Delf, one does not have to have a background of French to study it and that people can start at any stage.
To give a guided choice of the language (and subjects at large) to students, Nabukeera says when students report to school, there is orientation week. In this week, different teachers are able to interest the students in the respective subjects. And, they tell the students all about it so that they know what they are getting themselves into.
She adds that the ceremonies, such as the graduation the school held on March 11, for French students, helps the decision-making of the other students who are skeptical about a subject.
The East African Community (EAC) is made up of seven partner states: The DR Congo, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania.
EAC Sectoral Council on Education, Science and Technology, Culture and Sports (SCESTCS) adopted a roadmap for the implementation of Kiswahili and French as official languages of the bloc.
A statement issued last week by the EAC’s headquarters in Arusha said the SCESTCS adopted the roadmap at its 17th meeting held Tuesday in Dar es Salaam.