A UK language teaching expert and education academic has won one of France's most prestigious academic awards.
Terry Lamb, director of teaching and a senior lecturer in the department of educational studies at Sheffield University, was shocked to be awarded the Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques, one of the world's oldest civil awards, created by Napoleon in 1808.
"The first person I told was my mum," said Dr Lamb after being commended by the French prime minister for the development of a joint qualification (a Diploma-Baccalaureate) which is recognised both in England and France.
"I was happy to be nominated, but I only realised that I had won when I got the certificate last month. I felt honoured. I look forward to wearing my medal to the next event I attend," he said.
Dr Lamb was given the award by the French ambassador to the UK, Maurice Gourdault-Montagne, in a ceremony at his official residence in London.
"The award is usually reserved for the French, particularly those who have contributed to the French language and culture, so it really is an honour," said Dr Lamb, who is also the president of the International Federation of Language Teacher Associations.
He received the medal in front of close friends and family. "It was fantastic because I was allowed to invite 15 guests," he said. "It was a nice ceremony with lots of food and wine. It was wonderful to be able to share the moment.
"The French are really enthused about the diploma, and it is also an exciting step for languages in the UK. The fact that it is recognised both here and in France means it is truly an amazing qualification."
French president Nicolas Sarkozy and Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed to explore the idea of a common accreditation for language learners in 2008. The diploma in languages and international communication was developed in collaboration with the French government and will be available to post-16 learners as an alternative to A-levels from 2011.
"I think the diploma will help to shake the attitude of languages that many young people have, that it is not worth doing. It is a unique collaboration, and I am honoured for the recognition," said Dr Lamb.
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