The Ugly Duckling reigns supreme : an investigation into students' perceptions of the English language and Anglo-American culture in France
Using data obtained from questionnaires and tape-recorded interviews this study aims to
answer three questions concerning students' perceived needs for learning English, their
perceptions of the English language, and perceptions of their own French identity. This
study found that their primary need for English was to succeed in their chosen future
profession for which the English language was seen as necessary even indispensable.
The inverse also held true: a shortage of skills in English could put a brake upon their
career aspirations. The second need for English was for the purposes of communicating
with foreigners and in order to be understood when travelling overseas. The third need
for English was short-term; for sport, music, the cinema and television, and surfing on
the Internet. The respondents expressed a need to learn the language to a sufficiently
high level and welcomed the present trend in French schools to introduce the teaching
of English in infant schools. English is perceived as essential in the sectors of business
and communication, and as an easy language to learn in terms of vocabulary and syntax.
However, the political closeness of England and America was perceived negatively, and
this in turn led to negative perceptions of England for some respondents. Just over half
the respondents perceived a necessity to protect the French language against English
and Anglicisms, citing the need to protect their culture, their heritage and their history.
Those that did not perceive this need felt that in an ever changing world the English
language had already penetrated French, that all spoken languages were in a constant
state of evolution, and speaking a second language presented distinct advantages.
Language appropriation was a common feature with the overwhelming majority of the
students, even those who perceived it was necessary to protect the French language
from English, using Anglicisms in their everyday language. The majority of the
respondents perceived an important impact of both the English language and AngloAmerican
culture on their own youth culture, and felt that the language had a greater
penetration in France than any other non-indigenous language. This penetration was
perceived as especially marked in the areas of music, cinema, television and fast-food
restaurants. The respondents' perceptions of their own French identity were extremely
strong. They perceived the French language, the French culture, and centuries of history
as coming together to form a unifying and immensely strong heritage. The perception of
the respondents was that not one single element of this heritage should be lost as it
presented a barrier against any eventual domination by either the English language or