James Agambire, Commander in the Ghanaian Navy
Could you start with presenting your link to France?
I studied French in high school, and then I was encouraged to take part in the programmes offered by the Ecole de guerre (“War school”) in France. I was lucky to be selected for the February 2014 session, which ran for over a year.
What was your reaction when you knew you were going to France, and once you arrived?
My first reaction was mixt because I was afraid of the difficulties I could face to express myself, but overall I was thrilled to be able to live in Paris! One key element to my integration in France was the student organization for foreign students following a military formation, through which I got to discover the capital city with local people.
What do you keep of this experience in France?
I would say many memories, and from a professional point of view I now have a recognized diploma which emboldens me to deliver high quality efforts on important missions. As a facilitator I play an important role for the cooperation to be operative here in Ghana, so people often come to me for contacts in French. I also am the maritime security coordinator, and for this I sometimes meet civilians who only are francophone. Besides I also discovered an education system which is seriously different from the Anglo-Saxon model that we have here in Ghana.
What do you think about France as a country?
It is really stunning, especially the architecture in Paris where the old buildings are so well preserved, with of course the cuisine and the culture. My only problem would be the living cost in Paris!
How do you see relationships to France and the French language here in Ghana?
While the interactions in our work have become vital, learning French still is more difficult than learning English, so the efforts have to be continued in the alliances françaises or with teaching French to the soldiers. French should be compulsory from primary to secondary school. The government needs to understand that this can make a difference in order to be part of regional organisations. And youngsters must seize the job opportunities that are available for bilingual people, particularly highlighted in common military exercises. Last but not least, I think that bilingualism increases our global comprehension as when one learns a language, one also discovers the culture.
A final comment?
Speaking French is a real advantage for young Ghanaians; they have to understand that it opens them to many other opportunities, which they then have to grab. One must also bear in mind that France has a lot to offer in education programs and employment.