French 2.0

frenchman“The language of the Republic shall be French” says the first sub-paragraph of the Article 2 of the French Constitution, dealing with the question of sovereignty.

Following this idea, France and its scholars have always dedicated a lot of time and effort to the preservation of the French language and the avoidance of a widespread use of Anglo-Saxon terms and neologisms in the official works of the state.

The Tourbon Law of August 4 1994 assures the right of every French citizen to use their language in any daily life occurrences and in particular in the sectors of education, work, exchanges and public services. In addition to this law, a decree implemented on July 3 1996 created a plan for the enrichment of French terminology in specialised domains such as sciences, economics, law and technology.

The different stakeholders involved in this plan are required to identify the missing French alternatives, create, promote and establish French terms to be used in legal texts and daily life. The commissions work hand in hand with the terminology and neologism bodies of every French speaking country as well as with international standards organisations.

Recently, the Académie Française, official organisation in charge of the drafting and validation of the Dictionary, decided to replace widely used English technological terms such as “hashtag”, “crawler”, “credentials”, “webmaster” and pad and promote the official insertion of French terms.

According to the Académie Française, it is paramount to reduce the use of English terms that, by their ever-evolving and fast-growing nature, could threaten the clarity of discourse and homogeneity of the language.

However, it is not the first and only initiatives organised by the state in order to promote the sovereignty of the French language. Indeed, the French government put in place in 2010 an incentive for university students to come up with French equivalents for the words “buzz”, “chat”, “tuning” and “newsletter”. The winners were awarded with a placement at a French cultural centre abroad.

“The French language is not loved enough by our compatriots, and especially not by our young compatriots,” said then Alain Joyandet, France’s junior minister at the time, to the English newspaper Daily Mail.

The French effort in preserving the “purity” and morphological unity of its language perfectly fits in the constant and controversial debate over countries’ sovereignty within Europe. English seems now to be prevailing, in particular in specialised domains. The establishment of English as Lingua Franca has especially rapidly spread with the 2004 substantial enlargement of the European Union.

Questions are asked all around Europe: Is English turning into the unifying language that were Greek, Latin and French? Most importantly, how to face the dilemma and the fight for preservation of individuals’ cultures in a globalised world?

Article written by Floriane Loup, trainee at TermCoord

About TermCoord

The Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament in Schuman Building on Place de l'Europe, Luxembourg
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