If you are familiar with the official French attitude* to the use of English in academic (and other cultural) settings, the appearance of a state-funded TV station, “France 24”, with an English-language feed might surprise you. It did me when I watched one of their online English-language video ads a few days ago. They also broadcast Arabic.

Reading the unofficial France 24 blog, it sounds like the presenters’ language skills are wide-ranging:

[D]uring the first 40 seconds of the interview there was no English translator for France 24 English. Andrea Sanke, whose microphone was still on, was heard saying the following: “Son of a bitch… I’m really annoyed. This is ridiculous. Where do we go now?”

Perhaps she should start an official France 24 blog to get it out of her system.

Also interesting is the editorial approach described by the blog:

Andrea Sanke, the evening anchor of France 24 English, interviewed the Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, and a member of the Israeli Knesse to debate the current state of the peace process.

Her questions for Saeb Erekat were far from being partial. While Erekat called for negotiations to take place between Israel and Palestine, she reminded him that the terrorist organization Hamas is the one holding power at the current time. “How can you expect Israel to negotiate with an organization that called for the complete destruction of Israel,” Sanke said.

She also asked the Israeli member of the Knesset if the U.S. President Bush had helped the peace process. His answer was that President Bush has not done enough for the peace process in the past six years, and “made huge, huge mistakes.” However, the Knesset member is part of a political party with only five seats out of the 120 available on the Knesset.

With the peace process back on the political agenda in the United States, we can expect more debates and interviews like these.

*[I use the word “official” deliberately. French scientists seem(ed) to be pragmatic about the daft rules they are/were expected to follow.

I remember that one of the main reasons I took German at school was because I was told that, if I wanted to be a scientist, I might find it useful to be able to read German-language engineering and chemistry papers, but by the time I got to study research publications the Germans were happily putting out the stuff I had to read in English. My main set physiology text was a German work translated by German publishers.

I only read German-language scientific papers on a handful of occasions and they weren’t essential. Now I can barely read the outside of a can of Beck’s.]