If you are studying French, you might have come across these two acronyms: FLE and FLI. But what do they stand for and what is the difference between them?
Before comparing these two designations, it is essential to explain that these two concepts are closely related and that, we will see in this article, are not completely opposable to one another.
If French Language of Integration (FLI) targets a specific public and pedagogic approach, French as a foreign language (FLE) is a more general concept in the French teaching and its acronym utilization can be sometimes confusing.
What is French as a Foreign Language (FLE)?
French as a Foreign Language is a living language for non-French speaking foreigners. It helps them express themselves in French. French as a Foreign Language can be taught both abroad and in France.
From the grammar-translation method to the action-oriented approach through to the communicative approach, French as a Foreign Language teaching has innovated in its didactic and pedagogy during these past 70 years. But the goal hasn’t changed: meet the learners’ needs.
These needs are sometimes very different depending on the public and the situations. You can learn French to travel in France, to study in French, to work with French speakers, to teach in a French school or abroad…
Depending on the public, the themes and contents of the training will vary. However, the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR or CECR in French) allows the learners to have a complete understanding of the skills they need to reach their goal level (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2). Sometimes their apprenticeship is concluded with an examination.
The designation of French as a Foreign Language (FLE in French)
Throughout the years, after a lot of different opinions and debates amongst the experts and institutions, languages scientists have claimed that the scope of French as a Foreign Language was not precise enough. New designations have arrived to complete, or shake up (depending on points of views), the “FLE”.
The first “specialization” of FLE that appeared in the French Second Language. FLS in French refers to French teaching in the education system from primary to secondary schools for underage non-French speakers. Their goal is to integrate and follow a “normal” French curriculum. The FLSCO (French as a Schooling Language) will take over in French education in a schooling context.
Then, more designations have appeared:
- French for Specific Goals (FOS in French “Français sur Objectifs Spécifiques”) provides the acquisition of targeted language needs: French for the medical or in the Law field.
- French for University Goals (FOU in French “Français sur Objectif Universitaire) designated to foreign students wanting to take part in a French university. They need to follow lectures, understand the university administration, etc. We could say that “FOU” is a specific branch of “FOS” and of course, “FLE”.
- French as a professional language or to aim professional skills (FLP in French “Français Langue Professionel) will give linguistic fundamentals to access employment for allophones and French speakers with a very low level of speaking and writing. It is the main point that can differentiate “FOS” from “FLP”.
- French Language for Integration (FLI) is the use of French in an immigration context and so integration in the French society.
Our article is about links between FLE and FLI. In this first part, we have introduced you to different scope of French as a Foreign Language and now we will explain our perception of French Language of Integration.
FLI : Educative field and specific publics
French Language of Integration responds to a specific need in French language teaching. It will adapt its pedagogy to a specific public. To understand its interests, let’s go back to the origin of this designation.
“Since the 80’s, it is not a working immigration from young men alone who come to work for a limited time before they head back to their country: the workers “noria” (toing and foing) that describes Noiriel (1998) is now a long-lasting movement of families who migrate and build projects in France.
This change will be followed by deep transformations in the French politics for the foreigners’ integration. Indeed, mastering the French language is no longer a learning objective. It’s a real tool to integrate socially and professionally in France.
Learning through immersion will change the game: it is vital that migrants can understand and make themselves understood. Before being a learner, they are:
- A social actor who needs to interact in order to access a civic autonomy (administrative procedures, grocery shopping …)
- An economic actor who needs to work in order to meet their and/or their family vital needs.
- A civic actor who knows and respects the French values and rules.
Frame of reference and certification of label for FLI
French institutions published a frame of reference to obtain the certification of label “FLI” via the “General Delegation for the French Language and Languages in France” and the DAIC (integration, citizenship and reception department).
This frame of work classified tasks for different services with an assessment grid and criterion to respect to obtain the label as a training organization. We will focus mainly on the criterion regarding FLI teaching and the different approaches that will differentiate it from French as a Foreign Language.
FLI, a very specific field
- Authentic documents: newspaper articles, classified advertisement, administrative documents (bank, post office …), audio or videos (films, ads, radio shows, news …)
- FLI’s goal is clearly practical. It aims tasks needing multiple daily interactions in interpersonal or transactional relations. First, it’s is important for migrants to understand and be understood in day-to-day social or professional life. The phonetics, syntax and grammar are not a priority. Migrants need to know how to use the language in day-to-day life and start owning it to progressively widen their skills and vocabulary.
- FLI will have a central position in the schooling question regarding parents and schooling institutions relations, school monitoring, school functions…
- FLI is also linked to the migrants’ occupational integration which needs to be clear in terms of of employment (knowledge of agencies and organizations in terms of job search, orientation, insertion via economic activity…), of work (labour code, rights and duty of employees…), of the company’s economic and sociocultural context (hierarchical relations, forms of address…), the functioning of different types of companies…
Focus on the values of the French Republique
A training in FLI must also include the citizenship rights granted by the French Republic laws. The values are freedom of speech, right to chose the representatives, right to free Public Education, right to protection of individuals, employees, private life, right to respect political, trade unions and religious opinions, but also atheism, agnosticism or apostasy.
For that, secularism is a fundamental principle in France. It ensures that there is a strict separation of church and state in private and public spaces, that the expression and practices of all forms of religions respect the French Republic laws. It must also address citizen duties protected by the law which must be respected in all circumstances: compulsory Education, respect for equality between men and women, respect for the French Republic institutions and its representatives, respect for justice and its representatives, duty to pay taxes in a solidarity state.
These extracts taken from the reference framework show the specific features that will differentiate FLE (French as a Foreign Language) from FLI (French Language of Integration): use of authentic materials. Migrants will be exposed to these materials in their daily life, the main focus of “understanding and be understood” rather than written and oral forms of interactions, targeted themes on socio-professional and civic relations of the learners rather than “general lessons”.
FLE vs FLI : A true-false opposition
We have detailed both FLE and FLI’s field of application to give our opinion on this question. Is there a difference between FLE and FLI ?
It is difficult to differentiate these two notions because FLI is seen as a branch of FLE with its particularities. Some describe FLE as a language taught to non-speakers passing by France. It is for us, a very basic description of FLE teaching. What do we do with foreigners who learn French in their home country for different reasons (personal, professional, cultural openness…)? Then, wouldn’t they have any specific designation? Yet, French learning institutions in foreign countries offer mostly FLE lessons. It’s precisely this confusion that brought up this opposition between designations.
FLE is finally defined as: French teaching to a foreign public.
FLI lost its designation since its removal from the LABEL in 2018 for political idea reasons. The “FLI” designation used and created to teach language to migrants who have signed the “Republican Integration Contract” has been judged “useless”. The debate on the utility of the FLI designation is not the objective of this article. But it is one of the reasons why FLE and FLI are brought face to face. So, it was necessary to have a little reminder.
FLI serving FLE
The FLI pedagogic approach is still part of French teaching. Linguistic trainings for migrants don’t officially have the designation “FLI”. The French agency in charge of immigration and integration (OFII Office Français de l’Immigration et de l’Integration), a public operator, has called its public contract “FL” (stands for “Formation Linguistique”) which literally means linguistic training.
However, the main goal of the training is themed oriented on the daily life of the learners and the use of authentic materials.
Moreover, every student who wants to learn linguistic science won’t be able to choose a FLI Masters anymore. Since the reform, all masters are called FLE.
Nevertheless, when we study the Masters curriculums, we can see that the “FLI touch” is still there in the units of the courses. “Linguistic politics”, “French in situations of migration” are just like other designations (FOU, FOS, FLSCO …).
On this statement, we can finally say that FLI has been “absorbed” and it is now serving FLE to add a string to its bow.