During our travels we tried to get an idea of how much English was displacing French in France’s former colonies. This led us to understand a curious phenomenon. History has led many Americans, British, French, Spanish and Arab speakers to believe that languages are somehow a zero-sum game, that the gains of one language necessarily come at the expense of another. This point of view is widespread among journalists, business people and even diplomats. Yet from what we saw, nothing could be further from the truth. Most Algerians, Senegalese, Indians and Polynesians are at least bilingual (not surprisingly, since only ten countries in the world, and very small ones at that, are classified as strictly monolingual). The progress of French in Algeria and Senegal has made no impression on Arabic or Wolof. By the same token, the progress of French in some former British African colonies (French is now an official second language in Nigeria, for instance) has not affected the status of English there. And of course, in countries where French second-language teaching is the most extensive- Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia-few, if any, have lost their English. Read more »
Comments From Our Readers
I have been reading your books since just before I moved to France in 2008 with my husband, who grew up with parents from France in Canada, thus a completely bilingual Canadian. Your book about France (60 Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong) was my go-to for any time I really needed a refresher on why things were the way they were. And it’s because of your book, I went from being an unsure, skeptical immigrant, to a francophile.
We have just moved back to Canada and have made Montreal our home. I have been looking into schools for our children, and stumbled upon your site when I was looking for “English” versus French school systems. If I was confused about which school to send my kids to before we moved here, the Quebec system has put me in confusion overdrive. What a difficult decision. Because I am from Vancouver and was schooled there, I have the option to send our kids to English school. So there’s that. However, I am a little clueless on whether a French school has enough English to get my kids bilingual, since we speak French at home. Read more »
In this three-hour “On Solid Ground” seminar organized by the Editors’ Association of Canada, Jean-Benoît Nadeau explains how to handle the business of writing – outside of writing.
April 19, 2012, Montreal. To register »
The Pitch of your Life: Writing Book Proposals workshop with Montreal award-winning non-fiction author Julie Barlow.
April 21, 2012, Saint John, NB. For more information or to register »
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The Toulouse massacres and standoff may have allowed president Sarkozy to score a few points in the run-off for the presidential elections, but he still stands as the loser. Polls show a virtual tie against the Socialist François Hollande, with Mr. Sarkozy showing a 28% lead in voting intentions against Hollande’s 27%. Indeed, Mr. Sarkozy effervescent campaign has overcome Hollande’s 6% lead by blowing hot and cold about immigration or terrorism.
But this will not be enough because France has a two-round system, and it’s the second round that matters. Mr. Hollande is assured that most of the left and even the center will rally to him rather than to Sarkozy on the second round, which is why even if he is in a tie with Sarkozy on the first round, he enjoys a solid 8 to 10% lead for the second round.
Such are the arithmetic and psychology of the two-round system à la française. In the first round, which is slated for April 22nd, the popular vote is split between ten candidates. They range from the Front National on the extreme right to a more varied choice of extremes on the left – between the Trotskyites to communists and greens. Read more »
Comments From Our Readers
Dear Ms. Barlow and M. Nadeau,
Thank you for your efforts on the several of your books I’ve read, which have been enjoyable, particularly The Story of French but also Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong. Being something of a linguist myself, I decided to read the Pas si Fous version of the latter, too. In the course of it, I was surprised to take note of a reference as to how removed Anglophones in many cases are, compared to the French, from awareness that meats, for example, do not in fact originate in styrofoam plates under clear plastic wrap. I hope you will forgive that I can’t recall exactly where in the book I read this. Read more »
Questions From Our Readers
I’m looking for a French and English dictionary. I have a Harrap’s Modern College which I bought when I was in grad school at Berkeley in the 1970s. Could you recommend one?
It all depends on what you want. If you are looking for technical or specialized terms, that’s one thing. If you are interested in digging deeper into the language, that’s another thing. If you are looking for a quick fix… it’s yet another.
Le Robert Collins Senior French-English English-French Dictionary is reputedly the best standard translation dictionary. It was recommended to me when I took some translation courses, and it is used as reference for most translators who work in French and English. The reason is simple: it’s a very good, idiomatic dictionary. It lists a lot of expressions, and works well either way: from English to French or from French to English. For example, if I look up the word trottoir (sidewalk), there are translations for five common French expressions with the word trottoir in it: trottoir roulant, se garer le long du trottoir, changer de trottoir, faire le trottoir or se retrouver sur le trottoir. Read more »