Wim Gombert

CHAPTER 1. Introduction 13 In short, as part of the survey conducted in 2015 by Voogel, three aspects emerged that French teachers in the Netherlands then mentioned as developments to have detrimentally in uenced the popularity of French in the Dutch secondary school curriculum: the decline of the importance of FFL in the curriculum, the experienced di culty of French and the focus onwritten skills over spoken pro ciency. Unfortunately, di erent short-term attempts to revive FFL have failed to be e ective, and the overall picture that emerged from this survey is a rather negative one. e claims made by teachers of FFL, as reported in the survey (Voogel, 2016; 2018), appear to be justi ed and the disappointment they expressed is understandable. Disappointingly, however, no teacher who participated in this survey reported any attempt to opt for a di erent approach to teaching French as a foreign language or adapt their teaching program in accordance with what second language development researchers have reported in terms of e ective foreign language instruction (cf. chapter 2). Teachers can autonomously decide to reform the curriculum in an attempt to provide an impetus to the overall e ectiveness of FFL. e only positive development mentioned by these same teachers, the number of candidates who registered for the French DELF exam that showed an increase, suggests that curriculum reforms might be a promising direction for the revival of FFL: e DELF exam assesses all four skills and expects students to follow a supplementary teaching program, which enables learners to develop these four skills to the level expected for the exam. is is in stark contrast with a sole focus on reading skills, as is the case with the regular exam. Voogel’s analysis of the decline of French in secondary schools is valuable as it presents a clear picture of the situation in 2015. is situation seems, unfortunately, largely unchanged at present (cf. Michel et al., 2021). It is therefore all the more vital that changes are implemented in the FFL curriculum. With the Common European Framework for Reference to Languages (European Parliament, 2022) stipulating uency in at least two foreign languages other than the native language, it is high time to show that the perceived di culty in learning French and perceived impossibility of obtaining high levels of French language pro ciency are largely due to the way the subject has been and mostly continues to be taught. No curriculum reform can be instantiated without a solid foundation of research insights from the eld of Second Language Acquisition (SLA). FFL teaching programs, like other foreign language teaching programs in the Netherlands, are predominantly designed from a structure-based perspective: a great deal of time is used for (explicit) instruction and practice with grammar (West & Verspoor, 2016) and for developing reading comprehension strategies (Voogel, 2018). e focus on grammar is o en motivated by foreign language teachers as essential for developing writing skills, while the focus on reading seems to be a logical consequence of the fact that the nal exam in the Netherlands is a reading comprehension test. As the use of the native language (L1) in the classroom is thought necessary due to the nature of grammar instruction