Bienvenue, Padharo Mhare Des: French language for tourism in Rajasthan
As Indian audiences, we must have all seen, at some point, the popular campaign around Rajasthan tourism “Jaane Kya Dikh Jaye”. What the ad shows us, is not news. Foreign tourists have, for decades, chosen the state for their desert adventures, the tryst with forts and the much publicized camel rides. French tourists, in particular, have made Rajasthan their hottest destination in north India. In 2017, during a visit to the holy city of Pushkar, I had a chance encounter with a young boy of 11 perhaps, who spoke “fluent” French, leaving my friends, most of whom were French nationals, rather awestruck. This is a common occurrence on the streets of Pushkar, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Ajmer and of course Jaipur.
French language is a widely spoken foreign language in Rajasthan, in fact it would be no exaggeration to say “the most spoken foreign language”. It is taught in universities, schools, and handed down as somewhat of a legacy from one generation of tour guides and shopkeepers to another generation, that keeps alive the tradition of greeting you with a “bonjour” and offering a smattering of “ca va bien, merci!” the instant they sense some French speaking atmosphere around.
It should come as no surprise therefore, that IFI Jaipur selected a group of hospitality and tourism sector employees to launch its first batch of “French with a specific objective.” The course is set to debut at the end of October, in its first intensive format training in Jaipur. The objective is simple: build a community of learners who work in a sector that is actively growing and will be one of the most influential parts of the state’s economy in the future.
Nikhil Pandit, who is a student of B2 at IFI Jaipur and director of TGS Tours, and Founding Secretary Rajasthan Association of Tour Guides, has to say, “More than 250000 tourists visit India from France. For anyone in the tourism industry it is vital to be familiar if not fluent with the French language in order to make the most of this very substantial business opportunity that the French source market provides. Tour operators, guides, hotel front desk staff, shop salespersons will all add great value to their job by listing the knowledge of French in their CVs, it is the time to begin.”