Julie: After writing The Story of French, what I admire most about French is the resilience of French-speakers. We visited 15 French-speaking countries during our research, as well as Louisiana, and we discovered that francophones everywhere are amazingly united in their determination to preserve and spread their language. The French today don’t sound too enthusiastic about their language on the international stage, but trust us, behind the scenes, they are still working hard to promote their language in the world. Read more »
Monthly Archives: July 2011
Is French really on the decline? Many believe so. To explain this demise, they point to the fact that French is “controlled” by an academy. They blame its complex rules, its speakers’ refusal to adopt words from other languages, the insecurity that pushes them to pass laws banning other languages, and to spend millions of dollars making sure literature, music and film are produced in French.So how do they explain the fact that French is actually growing? Its speakers have tripled in the last 60 years – to 200 million, in 63 countries. One hundred million people across the planet are studying French, which is second only to English for the number of countries where it is an official tongue.
This paradoxical picture is the background for the popular history, THE STORY OF FRENCH. In this colorful narrative, Canadian authors Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow unravel the mysteries of a language that has maintained its global influence in spite of the rise of English. They show how French acquired its own peculiar culture, one of intense rigid grammar rules, politicization and pride, but also of great creativity. And they speculate on what the future holds for French.
Based in Quebec, Canada, Nadeau and Barlow lived in France from 1999-2001. To write THE STORY OF FRENCH, they drew on their experience in France, and their home-base of Montreal, Canada. Then they travelled across the French-speaking world in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas. On their travels, they saw that French was not only thriving but growing.
As entertaining as it is informative, THE STORY OF FRENCH challenges our old ideas about French and shows why French is still the world’s other global language.
Julie: We got the idea for The Story of French at the same time we got the idea for our last book, Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong. We had been sent to France in 1999 to study “why the French were resisting globalization” and quickly realized they weren’t, and we wrote Sixty Million Frenchmen to explain how the French think and why they organize themselves the way they do. At the same time, we realized that the French language truly WAS a language of globalization. So we decided to write The Story of French to explain where French came from, how it acquired the particular values associated with it, how it spread across the planet and why it is still so important in the world today. Read more »
By Jean-Benoît Nadeau
This whole DSK debacle shed light on a particularly disturbing aspect of Western culture: widespread and uninhibited francophobia.
The English language press (in the U.S, Canada and the U.K.), write about the French in a way no one would accept if they were talking about Jews, Blacks, Mexicans or Native Americans. Is francophobia the last acceptable prejudice among English-speaking journalists?
The paradoxic is that a great number of English-speakers – whether American, English or other – are as much Francophiles as Francophobes. This is even true of the most xenophobic among them. It took me several years to finally understand the complex origin of this paradoxical attitude. Read more »