London: The French are known to have had a hard-nosed attitude towards the English for long. But, now children in France may be compelled to learn English from as early as nursery school if Nicolas Sarkozy gets his way.
The French President, who has recently come under fire for his own grasp of Francais, has said that he wants France's youngsters to learn "the language of Shakespeare", the 'Daily Mail' reported.
He has further enraged a proud nation by suggesting that French children should learn the Queen's English from as young as three, the report said.
Critics fear Sarkozy's proposal will dilute the cherished French language and halt its dissemination.
The mooted educational change has sparked intense debate in France, with staunch right-wing traditionalist intellectual Eric Zemmour dipping his oar, praising his country's resistance to learn English.
"It is a sort of unconscious linguistic resistance to the colonisation of minds," he was quoted as saying in 'The Sunday Times'. Zemmour said that the desire to study English is just a "fad", akin to "learning German during the occupation".
However, French Education Minister, Luc Chatel, this week said: "Not mastering English in France these days is a handicap."
He said that plans were afoot to educate three-year olds English with the help of computers -- in England school pupils tend to take on a foreign language at the age of 11, though some start earlier.
"Three years old seems much too young for me," teacher and linguist Claude Hagege told the newspaper arguing that at that age a kid willn't have even mastered their mother tongue by then.
Bizarrely, under new educational reforms signed off by Sarkozy, some 1,000 language teachers are to lose their jobs this coming year.
Some say that the plans are a reaction to the president's personal frustration at not being fluent in English, and missing out on some of the jocular banter that flies at the world leaders' top table. It is the latest in a growing list of perceived anti-French behaviour by President Sarkozy who turned 56 on Friday.
Earlier in January, a Minister leapt to the defence of Sarkozy after the President was accused of speaking in a vulgar and common manner and without paying due attention to normal grammatical rules.