Preface: Hello readers! I know that I haven’t written in awhile, but I am currently studying university in Paris, so I have been very busy, as you can imagine. This post will go under my “Opinion” tab and is based solely on a class that I have called French: Myths and Realities. I know it is unlike me to write articles like these; however, it’s fascinating, and I hope you all like it (hopefully, my professor will too.) Please comment, email, like, and I hope you all have a wonderful day (or night)! 🙂
Language, in its definitive form, is “the method of human communication, either spoken or written, consisting of the words in a structured and conventional way” (oxforddictionaries.com). It is a method of communication, not a person, place, or thing that needs to be protected. Granted, language identifies the multi-faceted diversity that the world presents and allows each and every one of us to characterize ourselves through this vernacular. However, when language is dramatized as a tour-de-force spectacle — much like how the French treat their language— it becomes personified and a want of protection becomes evident. Nevertheless, this said protection presents a problem to the point that the repercussions as to which their people defend their language is borderline ridiculous.
In 1635, the Académie française was created under the great Cardinal Richelieu in order for France to protect its language from Italian influences. It was designed to be “the official custodian of the French tongue” (“The French protect their language like the British protect their currency”, Andrew Gallix), as if France was an introverted high school boy that needed protection from the outgoing new kid in his math class. In contrast, a country’s pride belongs solely on its culture, and it is fairly debatable that language is, in itself, a culture. It makes sense that if invaders came and took over one’s country that one would retreat and try to protect one’s people; it does not make sense that one defends one’s language from invaders because let’s face it: there is a world out there that goes beyond Alsace, Strasbourg, Normandy, and (yes, Emperor Napoleon) even Paris.
However, the French elites are naturally punctilious and codified that they tend to become meticulous within every inch (or centimeter, perhaps) of their affairs— especially language. To this day, the French still make an effort to banish languages (with the exception of the French language) from their system. In the article, “Nous twitterons,” the author claims that “…By law, any brand’s English slogan, such as Nespresso’s “What else?”, must be translated with a subtitle (Quoi d’autre?). This produces comical results.” Agreeing with the comical results stated by the author, modern society must not forget the fact that the supercilious aura that the French emit about their language is common knowledge, “good sense” as Descartes once claimed in his “Discourse on the Method”.
This haughty mindset pre-dates back to 1066, when the French language became the lingua franca of the Western world and lasted between the 1400-1500s. Unfortunately, French language dominance is no more, and in the article, “Nous Twitterons”, the author bluntly states that the French are jealous and possibly annoyed of English language dominance through: “France is haunted by its lost American future.” — aka:
Susan Sontag once pointed out that French is “a language that tends to break when you bend it” (“The French protect their language…”, Andrew Gallix), and she is correct. Anglicisms interwoven within the French language are, quite frankly, ugly. “Linguistic watchdogs” (Gallix) use alternative terms for words like “post-it note”, with “papillon”. In “Nous Twitterons”, the author states the fact that a fast-food chain across France “introduced le French burger to its menu, helpfully translating it as le burger a la francaise”. Going back to the article “Nous twitterons”, this seems utterly comical to a modern-day student like me.
Isn’t this push-and-pull between the meticulous “immortels” of the Academie and the younger, more world-renowned younger generation ridiculous? Shouldn’t the French give a little more slack to its own society and explore beyond their borders through language? I am implying that the Academie should not be so harsh upon a society that is widely influenced by English dominance; instead, they should use it to their advantage, to learn two (or more) languages in order to become well-rounded, more intelligent, and more adaptable citizens. After all, the world is ever-changing, and the way I see it, the French will not rise up to first-world, 21st-century expectations if their mindsets are still frolicking in the 17th-century.