Wim Gombert

12 CHAPTER 1 In her dissertation on the development of French in the Netherlands, Voogel (2018) describes the state of teaching French as a Foreign Language (FFL) in the Netherlands based on a survey among teachers of FFL and 25 follow-up interviews in 2015 ( rst published in a professional magazine for teachers; Voogel, 2016). According to Voogel (2016), teachers of FFL in the Netherlands signaled a vast decline of perceived importance of French following major educational reforms at the end of the 20th century. She pointed to various contributing factors: a signi cant reduction in instruction time over the past two decades, increased competition from other foreign languages and other subjects such as science and economics; the steep decrease of the number of higher educational programs that require French and the increased importance of English, Mathematics and Dutch in the secondary school curriculum as a result of their newly gained status of core subjects in the curriculum. Voogel adds to this that, in a society in which social, economic, and political importance have come to dominate choices at all levels, French is considered less important than before and a reduction of classroom time for French seems a logical choice. At the classroom level, the decline of the status of French inevitably led to a reduction of the number of students opting to study French (Voogel, 2016). However, other factors mentioned by French teachers themselves (as revealed in Voogel’s questionnaire) suggest that there might be more to it than just a negative spino caused by a decline of social, economic, or political importance as perceived by students and parents in the light of the changed curriculum. Students might also be less attracted to French (and German) because they do not expect to achieve a high level and to learn what they really want to learn, as is the case with English as a foreign language. Teachers in the survey mention that students o en perceive French to be a particularly di cult language to learn. ey also point out that only reading skills are tested in the nal exams. ese are seen as important reasons for a decline in the number of students opting for French to complement their secondary school curriculum. Several attempts tomake the French classroomattractive againwerementioned by the French teachers who completed the survey, such as organizing extracurricular projects, using technological devices, or organizing educational trips to France, but none of these led to a long-term and substantial increase in interest in French as a secondary school subject. Although these attempts undoubtedly resulted in a higher level of motivation in speci c and individual French classrooms, teachers did not report a higher level of skills or a higher number of students opting for French as a result overall. Only one positive development was mentioned by these same teachers: the number of candidates who registered for the French DELF1 exam, which is a highly esteemed, international exam, did rapidly increase. 1 Diplôme d’études de langue française (DELF) is the French equivalent of the Cambridge exam. Students in regular secondary schools can opt to sit this external exam and receive an internationally recognized certi cate. In addition to the regular teaching programs for French in secondary schools, students can decide to enroll in follow-up courses depending on their level and prepare for the DELF exams in all four skills at all levels (A1, A2, B1 and B2).