Jean-Benoît was invited by Angel Miguel Martínez, Vice President of the European Parliament, and Olga Cosmidou, Director General of Conferences, to speak to representatives and officers of the European Union about how Europe’s main languages are globalizing and how this is affecting the “language market.” He was accompanied by representatives from the Alliance française of Brussels-Europe and the Québec General Delegation in Brussels, who organized a series of conferences for him in different Belgian cities during Francophonie Week.
Section: French / France and Europe
by Jean-Benoît Nadeau
Here we go! Very soon, I’ll be embarking on a trip to the South Pacific…New Caledonia to be more specific. I feel privileged to have been invited as the guest conference speaker for the Forum francophone du Pacifique (French Speaking-Communities Forum of the Pacific). Held between October 14 and 17, the forum unites the Alliances Françaises from Austrailia, New-Zealand, Papua New Guinea, the Cook Islands and Vanuatu.
There are three obvious advantages to venturing to the opposite end of the world. Firstly: language. The statistics on French language instruction in Australia and New Zealand are surprisingly high. I’m very curious to hear from their delegates, especially during the roundtable on broadcasting. Inadvertently, I will no doubt learn about the other countries that will be at the forum, and learning about different countries is always fascinating.
Secondly: to better understand Oversea France. Oversea France plays a key role in France’s international status. New Caledonia is a TOM, a Territoire d’Outre-Mer (overseas territory), which has a different status from a DOM, a Département d’Outre-Mer (overseas department). I’m looking forward to observing firsthand how it all works together politically, economically and socially speaking.
And lastly, there is New Caledonia itself. It will be an amazing opportunity for discovery. I will get to explore a whole new country, take in a different culture and their traditions, as well as try new and exciting culinary dishes. The only thing that I know for sure is that one week in New Caledonia is much too short.
As the only government minister who refused defeat against Germany, de Gaulle sought refuge in Great Britain, where he made his famous call to resistance on the BBC.
Few people actually heard him that day and there is no recording of it. But he repeated it to a broader audience four days later on the day of the signature of the Franco-German armistice.
It is a particularly moving text. However, it was not in this call to resistance that he uttered the famous line, “France lost a battle! But France did not lose the war!” That quote actually appeared in August of 1940 on propaganda posters smuggled into France.
Excerpt taken from the book The Story of French (Ch.9)
The heritage of French colonialism is complex, and nowhere more so than where language is concerned. We met a young fundamentalist in Tlemcen who said he refused to speak the language of the colonizer and went as far as pretending he only spoke English (though he spoke it with a French accent). But the hostility towards France doesn’t translate neatly into a rejection of French. Among the former colonies, Algeria actually has the highest proportion of French speakers, to the point that French is hardly even a second language there. Half the population speaks French fluently, eighty percent of Algerian newspapers and most of the TV channels are French, and nearly everyone has some understanding of it.
The fact is, despite how painful Algeria’s colonial history was, the country is a striking example of how successful the French were in spreading their language during the second colonial push, which lasted roughly from 1830 to 1960. In many ways the second colonial era was the second great historical opportunity for French. Read more »
Excerpt taken from the book Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong (Ch.11)
During our stay in France, we met at least half a dozen mayors who explained the various aspects of local administration to us. The most generous was our friend Jean-Marie Marsault, the former sergeant of the First Armored Marine Division, who fought in Algeria. Before retiring, Jean-Marie worked as an insurance salesman. He had had a busy life raising a family of four and acting as mayor of his town, Fresnes (population eight hundred), in the Loire Valley from 1977-89. His biggest accomplishment, by far, was the transformation of a swamp near the village center that used to belong to the local châtelaine (castle owner) into a park with a pond. Read more »
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 »
Julie Barlow and Jean-Benoit Nadeau tear his argument to bits, point by point.
Last week Gary Girod published an article in New Geography entitled The Decline and Fall of the French language? This article is so loaded with false information, bogus theories and slanted assumptions that we decided to write a point-by-point rebuttal. (We also invite Mr. Girod to read our book The Story of French, which he will find instructive.) Read more »
The French Have a (Precise and Elegant) Word for It
By William Grimes
During the 2004 presidential primaries, Senator John Kerry , a fluent French speaker, dropped a remark to an inquiring journalist for French television. Life on the campaign trail, he said, was “affreux” — that is, “awful” or “dreadful.” Not “terrible,” the obvious word, but “affreux,” a more subtle choice. For the French, selecting the precise word is the equivalent of a firm handshake or a level look in the eyes in the United States. With two simple syllables, Senator Kerry had passed a crucial French character test.
The unique relationship between French speakers and their language is one of the grand themes in “The Story of French,” a well-told, highly accessible history of the French language that leads to a spirited discussion of the prospects for French in an increasingly English-dominated world. The authors, Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow, are bilingual Canadians with a sense of mission. They value French as a vehicle of expression uniting 175 million people scattered in a linguistic archipelago across several continents. They also see it as a counterweight to American political and cultural power. Unlike the French elite, which has “thrown in the towel on French,” they are spoiling for a fight. Read more »
What makes the French so infuriatingly French?
By Philip Delves Broughton
From our old apartment in Paris, I used to walk our dog down the Boulevard Saint Germain past the once bohemian, now touristy, Cafe des Deux Magots. At around 7.30am, while Paris slept, lined up in the windows of the cafe, each at their own individual table, would be four or five American men peering over their coffee cups into the street. You could tell they were not French from their books, their baseball caps and the fact they were up that early.
Read more »
By Solange De Santis
It is hard to imagine a better moment for trying to understand the French, so recently the enemies of American foreign policy and still the butt of American jokes. With perfect timing, Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, a Canadian couple, have produced “Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong” (Sourcebooks, 351 pages, $16.95). One imagines a corresponding book titled “But 60 Million Americans Want to Spit in Their Eye.” Read more »