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France Ready to Admit English Is the New Lingua Franca?

French students struggling with English can soon take intensive English-language classes during vacations. France's education minister Xavier Darcos thinks poor English is a handicap disproportionately bestowed on the nonrich. He said, "Well-off families pay for study sessions abroad, I'm offering them to everyone right here."

This development deviates from France's usual protection of the French language. In 1635, L'Académie française (the French Academy) began conserving what it deems the proper vocabulary, usage, and grammar of the French language. Lately the academy especially tries to stop the Anglicization of the French language — email should be called "courriel" and walkman should be "baladeur."

While the French have a lofty academy to protect their language, American businesses turn to ordinary signs informing customers that "This is America. When ordering speak English." But with a loudening call for second-language fluency in both America and France, these countries' conservative forces may soon have more than one language to protect.


rabidmoon rabidmoon 9 years
I believe "when in Rome"...when possible. It amazes me in Europe how well the people I know from unexpected places (Poland, Sweden, Norway and Finland) all speak AMAZING English but its not representative of the whole country, I admit. Gaming culture has done a lot to push English naturally because these guys roll on English-speaking game servers, games are usually in British English and they just "learn it" over time. I ran into less English speakers in Spain in the late 80s when I was in University, but I reckon that has also changed now. Saying that, while I struggle slowly to pick up Finnish, most Finnish people I meet under 40 speak at least some English, enough to carry out basic transactions, place orders, greet each other, give directions, etc. It amazes me how the culture adapts so quickly to it and I, as a newcomer, am grateful. But, as that newcomer I see it as MY RESPONSIBILITY to learn the FINNISH language. Not theirs, to learn mine. And the same rule applies in America... I do believe if you come to America, you need to either know, or be willing to learn English. Being able to properly communicate helps everyone, it helps with integration into the society and the community, its simply critical. On the other side of that, I also wish language had been more celebrated while I was a kid in the USA, it wasn't even mandatory to try to learn a second language, not even in Texas, where Spanish is practically a second language already. But yeah.. "when in Rome". Its for the best to be able to speak to the people in your own environment. Without it, immigrants will remain isolated, uninvolved and seperated from the community as a whole and that is unfortunate.
bluesarahlou bluesarahlou 9 years
"I know I'm a bit of a grammar and spelling fanatic, but I can't be the only one who finds it painfully embarrassing to see people online who are grown (and, one assumes, at least minimally educated) Americans, yet can't construct a simple sentence properly in their own native language." Trust me Jude, you're not the only one ;)
Berlin Berlin 9 years
I also would just like to toss out into the discussion...when I am traveling abroad, I do not expect the countries that I frequent to speak to me in English. I fully expect to be able to do my best to communicate to them in their own native languages. I am not arrogant enough to be in Dublin or Paris or Moscow and believe that I will be able to easily communicate in English, I fully expect their response to be an assuming 'why are you not speaking my language in my country?' Saying Speak English is a crude way to put it, but I do somewhat agree. That is not to say that I feel that you should speak only English here in America:) I think second and third languages should be brought more into our culture! Especially as young children when you are more adaptable and pick up on other languages easier.
ilanac13 ilanac13 9 years
there are times that i really wish that i grew up in another country for the language factor. while i studied abroad, i realized that a lot of my eurpean friends spoke more than 3 languages even - and i felt like i was inferior to them. i speak 2 fluently and 1 semi - and well - it's hard to think that there are countries that are taking the steps to make sure that people are able to converse where ever they go. i was watching a new show on MTV last night - exile - and i was really impressed that english is so widespread that even in small villages there are people that can communicate WELL in english - yet we can't seem to do the same. i'm proud of what france is's a step in the right direction to make sure that evreyone can be as global as possible.
letsgetloud21 letsgetloud21 9 years
Least you put them in their place ..
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Totally. When I used to live in L.A., where there are a lot of Israelis, that used to happen to me quite a bit in Hebrew. And you can imagine how shocking it is for people when an Asian woman they've been talking about opens her mouth and starts speaking Hebrew to them. Once again... :sneaky-evil:
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I think it's great! Although, you have to be careful (as I'm sure you know). My friend Ryan grew up in Ohio and is this totally American/Irish looking kid and he has lived in Taiwan for 6 years now and is close to fluent in Mandarin (he learned Mandarin for business purposes). He likes to have people talk about him and them chime in in Mandarin. He says they always look shocked! (Not that people are generally going around talking about people in other languages, just that he responded in Mandarin the few times it did happen.)
letsgetloud21 letsgetloud21 9 years
ahhh Jude that isn't nice. :D
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
:sneaky-evil: We do that! Funny/sad thing is, I don't really look Chinese or Taiwanese, so I've encountered other Chinese who'll talk about me right in front of my face, so sure that I wouldn't understand... :ROTFL:
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I agree, Jude. In fact, you gained a lot, like the ability to talk about people in public without them knowing what you're saying!
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
I agree with you completely, lil. I never really thought of the "Speak English" thing as meaning "Speak English and No Other Language." I do think that it's important, particularly for customer service and food service jobs, to actually be able to communicate with the customers. All that stuff you mentioned drives me insane as well. I do think a balance should be struck between having a national language and still remaining diverse. As an example, I and the rest of my family are all fluent in English, but we also all speak Chinese and Taiwanese at home and to each other. I don't think we lost anything by knowing both instead of just one and not the other.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 9 years
I can't disagree, stiletta. I understand why English has never been made the national language; it's in the vein of the U.S. to be inclusive. But, it irks me when I am somewhere and not one of the employees speaks English. Speaking two languages is one thing, not speaking the language that most of your customers use is quite another. And, I disagree with your assessment that people who say, "This is America, speak English," mean, "This is America, speak ONLY English," Heidi. I think a lot of people understand the importance of learning a second language in the global economy and with the ever-changing cultural make-up of the U.S., but that doesn't mean that the same people don't get frustrated when they are trying to receive customer service and the people offering it don't speak any English whatsoever. It is even more frustrating to me when the people offering customer service don't speak English but act like they do and wind up giving you something you didn't order! (OK, I went off on a tangent there, but this has been happening to me a lot lately and it is annoying. And the thing is, I speak a little bit of Spanish, so if these people tried to communicate with me in Spanish instead of assuming they knew what I wanted, I may have gotten the food I actually ordered!)
stiletta stiletta 9 years
I do think you have to have a "national language" just for the sake of governance. I too dislike ignorance and think that it's good to learn a second language, wherever you may reside. I also think that, merely for practicality, you must have an agreed upon language that is "official" or it can be problematic. Take for instance in a court of law. If English weren't our national language, you'd have to have translators for judges, stenographers, juries, etc. It would be a nightmare. Saying "This is America - SPEAK ENGLISH" while crudely stated, is also good advice.
HeidiMD HeidiMD 9 years
I despise the typical American arrogance that one doesn't "need" to know another language. There is nothing that makes me cringe more than the phrase: "This is America -- SPEAK ENGLISH." I know that it has some validity and that there are situations where it might not be important, but it usually smacks of some kind of superiority to me. Since when was knowing a second language ever considered a bad thing? I guarantee you won't be "less" American if you learn basic conversational Spanish (since that would be the most realistic option for the US). I know that's not what the article was about at all, but I felt it needed to be mentioned anyways.
dreamsugar dreamsugar 9 years
I think English is pretty important. Speaking it well is equally important (IE: like calling tech support or trying to contact your bank). Most countries teach it - France should jump on board. However here in the US -- Spanish is equally important to learn. My Nephew was taking a course in school at 6 yrs of age. They started off with English speaking students as 1st language - teaching Spanish only. By the time they get to 6th grade they slowly filter in English. But this is all in order to teach the kids at a young age Spanish. I applaud the effort and this program because that's the future they will be leaving it.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
Ha. Absolutely, stiletta. Or writing it well... I know I'm a bit of a grammar and spelling fanatic, but I can't be the only one who finds it painfully embarrassing to see people online who are grown (and, one assumes, at least minimally educated) Americans, yet can't construct a simple sentence properly in their own native language.
stiletta stiletta 9 years
I know in many other countries learning English is mandatory. Sadly in this one, speaking it well is not.
Jude-C Jude-C 9 years
I don't know how it is in France, but I know that in many other countries, English is an extremely important subject that plays a major factor in determining university acceptance (and then, naturally, jobs later on). If that's the case in France as well, and I assume it is, then I applaud Darcos's decision.
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