By Jean-Benoît Nadeau & Julie Barlow
The French love to underline events with little glossaries of words. In honour of the International Week of the Francophonie, March 20, we’ve taken a shot at French art of the lexique: The Francophonie in Ten Words:
1. Réseauter: Réseau is French verb for “network”. Now it’s used as a verb, like in English. Networks are what link the francophone world together.
2. Francophone: To the French, this means anyone who speaks French, who’s not French! For most Quebeckers, it’s a synonym for French-Canadian. But in the dictionary, it just means anyone who speaks French correctly. Maybe if everyone replaced “French-speaker” by francophone, French-speakers would start to see the French-speaking world for what it is. Read more »
Comments From Our Readers
Quebec French is a dialect (or rather a sprachbund of closely related dialects), much like Metropolitan French. The fact that the prescriptive norms of written French in Quebec, France, and everywhere else in the French speaking worlds are essentially identical and entirely mutually intelligible does not change the fact that the two places use difference expressions, have different slang, speak with different accents (though there is actually considerable accent diversity, even within Quebec and within France), and even get separate dubbings for some imported television programs. A speaker from Tours, France who has never heard a Quebecois speak French would have little trouble understanding a Radio Canada news broadcast or a speech by Jean Charest, but some Loco-Locass songs would be half-incomprehensible.
Thanks for your comment Josh. About the French from Radio Canada vs Loco-Locass songs, the same could be said of CBC English and songs by the Barenaked Ladies (a Brit would understand the first, but probably be pretty mystified by a lot of the colloquial language of the second).
The problem is perhaps the definition of the word “dialect.” The intent of the original blog post is to deflate a persistent myth that Quebeckers actually speak a different language than the French. They don’t. They speak a variety of French with local inflections, but it’s not a different language, with a different grammar. Read more »
Françoise Ploquin is the president of L’Association pour la promotion de l’intercompréhension (APIC) (The Association for the Promotion of Intercomprehension). According to Ploquin it is possible to read an Italian newspaper or listen to a song in Spanish without having to speak those languages because of intercomprehension.
Ploquin discovered this method 15 years earlier while she was editor in chief of Le français dans le monde (French in the World), a magazine targeting French instructors.
Interestingly, Claire-Blanche Benveniste, a linguist from the University of Aix-en-Provence, experimented with intercomprehension with French, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese non-linguist students. She observed that within forty hours, the students were able to read in the three other languages. Read more »
The precursor to the World Wide Web was called Minitel. Launched in France in 1982, these chunky brown machines are now relics in history museums. But at the time, the Minitel was an innovative technological and industrial success story.
Interestingly, it was the French who introduced the concepts serveur, fournisseur de service and autoroute de l’information, which were translated into English as server, service provider and the information superhighway. In Minitel’s last days, an odd Entrer (enter) key was introduced to their keyboards – that simple idea was replicated on every computer in the world.
This shows that objects have a language, too. Read more »
Photo: Lisa Morris
Is French really the language of love?
Because today is St. Valentine ’s Day, we thought the question was à propos. The Forum mondial de la langue française blog (The French Language World Forum) asked their readers to send in their favourite quotes, definitions and declarations of love.
Readers had no problem coming up with quotes that did justice to the four letter word. For example, Richard Seke from South Africa shared, “The verb “to love” is only good when it’s conjugated in the present. If it’s conjugated in the past, it makes you cry, and in the future, you can only dream.”
It’s not easy to combine love and language. Jean Cocteau once said “Le verbe aimer est difficile à conjuguer : son passé n’est pas simple, son présent n’est qu’indicatif, et son futur est toujours conditionnel” (The verb “to love” is hard to conjugate: its past is not simple, its present is merely indicative, and its future is always conditional). Read more »
Starting today, Jean-Benoît will act as editor-in-chief of the Forum mondial de la langue française’s blog (The French Language World Forum). Every week, through interviews, photos and videos, an exciting new entry will be posted on French language from around the world. For the latest news on French language and culture, this is a blog worth bookmarking.
About the Forum: www.forumfrancophonie2012.org
Jean-Benoît Nadeau in the press room of the Forum mondial de la langue française (The French Language World Forum), which was held from July 2nd to 6th in Quebec city
At the beginning of our research, Jean-Benoît travelled to the island of Jersey, a mere sixteen kilometres off the coast of Normandy in the English Channel. The island is a kind of pastoral dreamscape, with small trails criss-crossing a beautifully unassuming countryside of green vales, medieval castles and Celtic stone monuments. At low tide its surface area extends to a grand total of fourteen by ten kilometres. A dependency of the British Crown, Jersey is a tax haven that harbours five times more foreign capital than Monaco. Like Monaco, it won this role thanks to a combination of handy location, beautiful scenery and unusual historical circumstances. Amazingly, over the centuries this tiny island has managed to retain its autonomy: it’s not even considered a part of the European Union. It has managed to hold on to an ancient Anglo-Norman law system that dates back a thousand years, and that financiers and the wealthy find particularly well adapted for sheltering their money. Read more »
Quebec and France: two different cultures separated by the same language! On the French radio program TOUT UN MONDE, which aired on Oct. 11th, 2011, Jean-Benoit explains the cultural differences in language when it comes to humour, vocabulary and perception. Listen here »
Also posted in Press, Various
Tell us about The Story of French…
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 »
Unlike learning a second language, experience has taught me that to teach kids a second language, you need a plan. There’s nothing organic or natural about it.
My twins spoke French Creole for the first three years of their lives.
When they arrived here, learning French was more like a transition than a leap. Eighty percent of the vocabulary of Creole is French.
So French doesn’t really count. English was a true second language for them. When I started speaking English to them a few weeks after they arrived, they laughed at me. They thought it was a made-up language. They thought I was playing.
That’s when I realized I needed a plan. Read more »