French versus English in the war of words – InsideSources


No surrender, no peace.

Eight years ago, the French marked an extremely important cultural milestone by celebrating the 350th anniversary of the French Academy, whose 40 distinguished members act as guardians of the purity of the French language.

They pronounced 2014 as “the year of the reconquest of French from the English peril” and of its safeguard from “Anglo-Saxon” pollution, whether it emanates from Great Britain or the United States.

This is why native French speakers do not travel by jumbo jet; they board a “jumbo jet”, presumably carrying a “laptop” rather than a laptop computer.

Paris has just given up the six-monthly rotating presidency of the European Union at 27 (the Czech Republic has replaced it), an alternation which could jeopardize 2022 “the year of the French language“, proclaimed by President Emmanuel Macron as a morale booster.

He has been clear on his ambition: the populist leader hates the decline in the use of French in everyday EU affairs – and should be stopped or, better yet, reversed to make French the lingua franca it used to be in the 60s and 70s.

For several reasons, it’s a long shot… or a “hard shot to hit”. It is framed by a paradox that Macron, an excellent English speaker, acknowledges – namely that although the UK has self-ejected from the EU (“Brexit”), the soft power of its language runs deep through the continent.

The three working languages ​​in the EU institutions are English, French and German — in that order of use — although only Ireland and Malta are officially English-speaking in the EU club.

Beyond the French petulance, there is a global context to consider. According to a partly EU-funded study (“Languages ​​in Europe, Theory, Policy and Practice”), English is unparalleled in world history. It has achieved a “hypercentric role,” say the authors, who note that 80% of the world’s homepages are in “some kind of English,” which drives information technology.

For the same reason that China and India compete to invest in learning English, believing that it is synonymous with business or scientific success. His position is not because English is superior or necessarily more useful, but a reflection of geopolitical realities, drawing heavily on Britain’s colonial past and the superpower status of the United States. At this point, he has no practical rival.

The joke about the most common language in Europe invites the answer: “Bad English”. It does not matter. English is extremely adaptable, a linguistic yard sale that isn’t bothered by its theft of foreign words if they seem more relevant.

An “English Academy” would be wasted as soon as it opened. The historical irony is that so much English vocabulary has seeped through France for centuries.

Another irony: it was a Frenchman — Jean-Paul Nerriere — a former IBM executive who coined “Globish,” a subset of 1,500 stripped-down English words, which he calls “decaffeinated English” or “English Lite”, allowing two native non-English speakers to communicate or negotiate.

He deposited his work and wrote a popular text titled “Don’t Speak English, Parlez Globish”, longing to hear it in the diplomatic halls of the United Nations and Brussels, the so-called capital of Europe.

The book is translated into 18 languages. Its author affirms that his work “helps to save French”; he thinks that widespread use of Globish would come at the expense of English, greatly limiting “Anglo-Saxon”.

However, some multicultural experts identify monolingual English speakers as barriers to better communication. Jennifer Jenkin, professor of ‘Global Englishes’ at the University of Southampton, believes they speak too quickly to strangers, use slang and deploy tribal references and jokes understood only by their own people. Due to the dominance of language, the Hooray Henrys feel no need to make sympathetic concessions; they just turn up the volume.

Cross-cultural trainer Chia Suan Chong puts it this way: “Suddenly the American or the Brit walks into the room and no one can understand him.”

“My God !” — as the French would certainly exclaim.

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