Foreign Languages In Tomorrow’s French Aerospace Landscape

A French Student Prospect

By Amélie Spire
as@sldinfo.com

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In today’s global world, speaking several foreign languages represent a major asset for the aeronautical and spatial engineer. As international networks expand, companies require a high level of fluency in foreign languages, so that the engineers can contribute efficiently to the fast-extending net of exchanges.

Specialized English, A Must
In this context, for non-English speakers, English naturally imposes itself when it comes to make linguistic choices. Since the first superpower is English speaking, not mastering English appears to be a handicap. That is why French aerospace schools have made English compulsory and insist on a very precise practise of specific and specialized English vocabulary.
Concretely, students are required:

  • to pass international exams (such as TOEFL, TOEIC, Cambridge)
  • to spend a training period in English-speaking countries
  • to attend exclusively English-speaking scientific classes, conferences in foreign languages
  • and can even be part of university exchange programs.

However being fluent in only one language is, nowadays, not enough anymore. Indeed, China’s economic weight, Russia’s aerospace legacy, or the emergency of Arabian countries, are reasons why students widely take advantage from their schools’ proposition to study languages considered to be difficult to learn. An extra-asset especially useful in a resume…

Are their motivation only strategical ?

On the one hand, yes.

Given Russian weight in aerospace – even if Russia’s supremacy is not a primary argument anymore-, students still tend to select Russian as a second foreign language.

As far as China is concerned, motivations are more varied : of course, its economic power weights in the balance, but it also benefits from a cultural phenomenon/fashion that has been spreading since the last decades.

This is the case for Japanese too, which seduces students thanks to its exotism and dynamism.

German as Second Choice
On the other hand, lots of students choose to strengthen their notions in German. Is it about high school continuity? Is this a preference due to the fact that this language was particularly and traditionnally reserved to good students and therefore – given the French math and science-based selection system – to engineers-to-be ? Or can we consider that European construction and multiple partnerships with Germany are responsible for such a predilection? The reasons seem to rely on personal preferences. One thing is certain: France will not lack German-speaking engineers !

As far as other languages are concerned, students are also influenced by taste and curiosity. In the case of Spanish, Italian or Portuguese, no career plans are involved, more a way for students to improve their skills or reconnect with their roots.

Foreigners scholarized in France are required to be fluent in French thanks to the assistance of tailored classes.

To help students to master one, two or more foreign languages, French aerospace schools provide all kinds of resources, such as news conferences, movies and exchange programs with foreign counterparts: the choices are vast…

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***Posted on May 12th, 2010

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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