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French report
by Euro Reporter
2013-06-23 10:56:27
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Change privacy policy or face fines

Google has found itself in hot water in France. The country’s data protection watchdog has told the internet giant to change its privacy policy or face a 150,000 euro fine. The CNIL (Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés) said that Google’s methods of collecting users’ data violated French privacy laws. CNIL President Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin said: “It may be a financial issue at the European level because as I said, some other Data Protection Acts have the possibility to have much higher financial fines.”

“I think it increases the pressure on Google for transparency, definitely, and the demand for trust from their users and also it increases the need for Europe to be unified and to cooperate on a European level,” Falque-Pierrotin continued. In 2012 Google started combining personal information from users across its services including YouTube, Gmail and social network Google+. Users cannot opt out of this.

Several other European countries are now preparing to challenge Google. Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain are all looking into whether their privacy laws have been breached. It all comes at a delicate time for the internet giant after revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) secretly gathered user data from nine American internet companies, including Google.


France Debates Teaching Courses in English

When I opted to send my child to an all-French school, rather than one of the expat-heavy ones catering to Americans in Paris like us, I braced myself for some complications. And indeed, three years on, much baffles me, like assignments where one memorizes Breton librettos or the work of 19th century poet Paul Verlaine—all before the age of seven. But now, with first grade winding down, one baffling aspect of French education has jumped the school wall and into politics, as President François Hollande’s government takes on a contentious issue: How to persuade—or even allow—the French to speak more English, while preserving their own cherished language. On May 21, France’s Minister of Higher Education introduced a bill in parliament aimed at overhauling universities, with one of its most controversial proposals a measure markedly expanding the use of English, the global lingua franca for the sciences and business, not to mention the Internet. Until now, the government has allowed classroom English, from kindergarten to graduate school, only in lessons that teach English language and literature. So, for example, reading Harvard Business School case studies in their original is, by the strict letter of the law, interdict. Hollande’s government argues that the restriction risks leaving French universities increasingly isolated. “India has 60 million programmers, and sends us only 3,000 students,” Geneviève Fioraso, the minister for whom the new law is named, told reporters. “We need more partnerships, and for that, we propose courses in English. Otherwise, we’re going to be five specialists on [French novelist Marcel] Proust sitting around a table.”

Logical as it sounds, the proposal, part of a much broader attempt to make French universities more competitive in the world, has ignited a firestorm. Last month’s debate in parliament raged for 29 hours, and barely squeaked through, with 289 to 248 votes. And on Wednesday the French Senate began a three-day debate on the bill, wisely timing it for when most universities have closed for the summer. The senators look set to approve the law, probably on Friday night. But victory has not come easy. Left-wing parties have threatened to vote against the law. Trying to calm the furore in the Senate, Fioraso told the lawmakers, “The world is moving fast. We have to adapt,” and said law would “not in any way call into question the primacy of education in French.” France, of course, is hardly alone in guarding its language from intruders. Bilingual education has been a political flashpoint for years in California, Massachusetts and other U.S. states, with some fearing that immigrant communities might not integrate fully if their children are not compelled to study in English. But with English now the dominant international language, the effort to retain the importance of French seems urgent to many purists—and to others, a pointless, losing battle. The Académie française, the official body founded in the 17th century to preserve the purity of the French language, creates alternatives for neologisms like “email,” “le weekend” or “le web” to stop the English terms from appearing in official documents and public broadcasts, and helps to enforce laws that, for example, forbid rock stations from playing mostly English-language music. Hence, the countless French versions of standards like “Hotel California.” When I mentioned the rule to a friend who runs a rock station in Paris, he laughed, saying, “We break that law all the time.”

In fact, with French youth logging many hours a day online, the academy’s standards are virtually impossible to maintain. And indeed, the French have long concluded that learning English is crucial for their prospects. About 92% of French surveyed in a 2010 EU poll thought English was the most useful language for their children’s future. To the linguistic purists, though, the new law has seemed like a mortal blow. The leading French writer Bernard Pivot wrote in the Catholic paper La Croix last month that if English were introduced into universities, French “will become a commonplace language, or worse, a dead language.” If this argument seems confounding, you probably do not have a child in French school. When the school year began last September, about 10 of us English-speaking parents of first-graders, Americans, Brits and others, suggested schooling authorities that we volunteer some classes for our bilingual children. After months of meetings with the school director and the English teacher, a transplant from Springfield, Mass., whose job includes teaching six-year-olds some basic phrases, we won the right to hold eight half-hour bilingual sessions, on condition that we used no English flash cards, or taught any reading or writing in English, which the director explained would for the moment impede their French learning. We filled a box with crayons and paper, which my son hauled into his classroom, boasting to friends that it was for “les infants anglais.”

The enfants anglais never saw the contents, however. One week before the sessions were to begin, the director canceled our program, explaining in an email that there was no spare room in which to hold it. Although the official version stuck, most of us wondered whether the truth lay elsewhere. Our mini-revolution was sure to cause upset from the start, in a system rigidly governed by the national curriculum—a fact that in and of itself chafed against our American individualism. In fact, a few days after the email arrived, a member of the school’s parent-teacher association explained that some teachers had rejected our idea, saying that it contradicted government pedagogy, which is geared to preserving French. As one American parent wrote in the emails that zipped around the parents’ group, “Nothing surprises me anymore about French educational philosophy.” Not even a fierce political battle to allow university professors to conduct some of their teaching of business, physics, or philosophy itself, in English.


France bans Depardieu from driving

Gerard Depardieu has been banned from driving for six months and fined 4,000 Euros for drunk driving. The ban follows an incident in November last year when the actor, 64, fell off his scooter and was taken to a police station drunk. Depardieu's lawyer, Eric de Caumont, said he planned to appeal Friday's ruling. He said his client, who was not at the hearing, was in Moscow filming.

The Frenchman has publicly feuded with France's Socialist government over high taxes and has accepted a Russian passport offered by Vladimir Putin. He was pictured leaving a police station in Paris the morning after his scooter incident, in which he slightly injured his elbow, last autumn. Dressed in a sleeveless white shirt, the actor was well enough to jump back onto the vehicle and drive himself home following the overnight stay.

Agence France-Presse reported that when police arrived at the scene and tested Depardieu, he showed a blood alcohol level of 1.8 grams per litre, well above the French limit for driving of 0.5. He was detained and brought to a police station where he could face misdemeanour charges 'after a period of sobering up,' the source told the French news agency.  In 1998 the actor was involved in a motorcycle crash when his blood-alcohol level was five times over the legal limit. He escaped with leg and face injuries. And it's not the first motor incident for the beloved French star this year.


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