Canard Street, Lille

Language matters: Macron’s big plans

Emmanuel Macron launched a drive this week to give the French language a boost. That’s all well and good – but someone should tell the French.

Here, speaking English is cool. I use the word deliberately, as you hear it everywhere.

Macron wants French to have a greater presence online, to become the dominant language in Africa and to be used more in the EU institutions. He also plans to refurbish a château in Villers-Cotterêts, north-east of Paris, and make it a global centre for the promotion and study of French.

All of this could help French rise from its rank as the world’s 6th most spoken language, he estimates.

His hopes are quite different from the reality on the streets of France, however. I’m astounded how much English I hear used casually in everyday speech.

“If I were lost for a word, I reckon I could throw in the English one and people would understand, provided I used a thick French accent”

It wasn’t like this when I was studying at university in Rennes in the 1980s.

Back then, le weekend and le shampooing were all the English that anyone knew. Now, if I were lost for a word, I reckon I could throw in the English one and people would understand, provided I used a thick French accent.

French daily life is full of English words. No comment, has been and win-win are just some of the common ones that have made a direct transfer.

Five Guys, Lille

Other English terms have been adapted for French. They include overbooké (yes, it means overbooked), les people (celebrities) and le relooking (makeover).

I even heard le standing ovation on TV last week.

Using English names for shops and bars is also popular. When I popped out to pick up some lunch yesterday, I came across the following within 100m of my front door: FreshWay, Cocoon’s Beauty, Canard Street, Koul & Go, Planet Sushi and Five Guys.

I also spotted HoZone. I’m just hoping that wasn’t meant to be English…

HoZone, Rue Gambetta, Lille

This entry was published on Sat, 24 Mar 2018 at 09:13. It’s filed under Language and culture, News and politics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

9 thoughts on “Language matters: Macron’s big plans

  1. Very often, if I don’t know a word in French I’ll say “Je ne sais pas le mot en français, mais en anglais on dit ——” and the word will be understood. And I’ll be told what it is “en français”. I’m not sure whether the other person has remembered their English vocab from school/ is a linguist/ the word is very similar in French/English. There are a very large number of cognates, I believe…mind you, there is a large number of “faux amis” also!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. With a French belle-fille we manage well on our rusty French when visiting extended family. Everyone speaks Franglais, us included, so we manage reasonable conversations and we all learn new vocab as everyone corrects everyone else. Very entendre cordiale, especially over a long family meal!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Predictive text trips me up again! Entente not entendre! Must be a joke in there somewhere!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Macron has a big battle before him. I am French-American, (and already French before coming permanently to France) and speak several languages. The only French we speak is with colleagues because all financial reporting is done in English here. The only good point is that my in laws were awesome to know I spoked French when I met my girlfriend now wife of 27 years!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sarkozy tried to outlaw English words and look where we are! The fact is that the American pop culture that is lapped up by the French (and pretty much every one else) and social media have dually sounded the death knell to pure languages, including French. For me? I study French daily, have reached fluency of sorts in four years with a year off in the US and like most expats into their chosen culture wish upon wish that the French would protect their own and leave well alone the drip drip erosion that is happening but the fact is that in 100 years all our languages will be different and I am certain sure I would find French easier to learn if I were an English speaker. Dommage.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reminds me of growing up in Wales and hearing the TV news in Welsh with English words popped in every so often because there wasn’t the equivalent in Welsh. Languages are constantly mutating, I suppose.

    Liked by 4 people

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: