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blimey charlie the french are getting right hot
August 2, 2002 3:46 AM   Subscribe

blimey charlie the french are getting right hot under the collar. There is growing indignation in france at the creeping use of the english language. Well now it seems that the EU, with an impeccable track record of supporting the french is suddenly ruffling a few feathers.
posted by johnnyboy (47 comments total)

 
i love france and the french, but quite frankly they can be a bunch of wankers sometimes.

they still won't sell our beef, even though they have been told to by the EU.

Well Frenchy, you cannot have le cake and eat it you know.

we should go to war.
posted by Frasermoo at 4:28 AM on August 2, 2002


Pretty much every other EU country I've been to (and I've been to most, I work across the continent) speaks English+local language. Only France seems to be the only hold out. The problem is not that they are just against English; they are against bilingualism --they don't want to learn English. That's just wrong in a federation with more official languages than member-states.
posted by costas at 4:45 AM on August 2, 2002


What, this is news? I thought they'd been fighting a rearguard action against creeping Anglicisms for decades now. They have a minsterial-level institute of the French language, don't they?

Sounds like lese-majesté to me. Of course, I take a laissez-faire attitude toward language anyway.
posted by alumshubby at 5:25 AM on August 2, 2002


People who drop French phrases into conversations think they're so chic.
posted by RavinDave at 5:30 AM on August 2, 2002


Give them a few seconds, and they'll surrender.
posted by dagny at 5:34 AM on August 2, 2002


Supermarket chain Geant decided to act after it was fined £3,500 for selling 432 bottles of Coca-Cola, 47 bottles of cider and 22 bottles of ginger beer with English language labels.

The only time we get bottles of Coke is when we pig out on pizza and have it delivered. Every time we do this we seem to get a bottle with either arabic or or cyrillic characters. I have yet to mistake said bottle for a bottle of bleach.
posted by vbfg at 5:48 AM on August 2, 2002


Soon speakers of Klingon will outnumber speakers of French.
posted by RylandDotNet at 5:49 AM on August 2, 2002


Toute votre base sont appartient à nous.
posted by Tin Man at 6:23 AM on August 2, 2002


I'm down with Frasermoo. As a former student of the language for several years and someone who has lived in Paris, screw them. They really need to get over the fact that they haven't run the world in over a century.

What I'd like to see is a law here in the U.S. preventing snobs from using French phrases they can't pronounce correctly. Nothing gets me more irritated...
posted by mkultra at 6:26 AM on August 2, 2002


yeah you right alumshubby should have been categorised under how to bake a fucking cake. This is like deja vu all over again........
posted by johnnyboy at 6:38 AM on August 2, 2002


so what?

my best mate is french, and there is nothing better than taking the piss out of him, the garlic eating, onion wearing frog.

(he calls me 'Roastbeef'....how queer..)
posted by Frasermoo at 6:42 AM on August 2, 2002


Pretty much every other EU country I've been to (and I've been to most, I work across the continent) speaks English+local language. Only France seems to be the only hold out.

Ever been to Wales? The vast majority of people who move into Welsh speaking areas make no attempt to learn the local language. Very few of them come from France.

I love England and the English but quite frankly they can be a bunch of parochial wankers at times.
posted by ceiriog at 6:43 AM on August 2, 2002


what anne robinson said
posted by johnnyboy at 6:46 AM on August 2, 2002


Language skills in Europe: "People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal are least likely to speak another language, with less than a third of these population saying they can do this. "
posted by talos at 6:56 AM on August 2, 2002


Personally, I don't care if the lingua franca of the EU is English (the French language is English, isn't that delicious). I'd be more concerned about the English-izing of other languages via the Intreenet everybody's using these days.

As with any evolutionary system (and language *does* evolve, o ye proscriptive grammarians), variety is good - the more ideas you have, the better chances you have of finding a good one. As weird characters like the German 'ß' are more frequently transliterated to terminal-friendly things like 'ss', and eventually drop out of use, we get homogenized languages and life gets boring. Language and thought are so intimately entwined that weakening one probably has consequences for the other.
posted by bingbangbong at 6:58 AM on August 2, 2002


Strange, how Japanese products constantly have English writing on them, and every Japanese person has to study English in schools, but the Japanese are notoriously poor at learning English. I've read a few essays where Japanese business persons complain about the failure of so many Japanese to learn even rudimentary English.

It's as if when a government tries fighting English, the people start adopting it, and when a government tries encouraging English, the people do poorly at it.
posted by bobo123 at 7:05 AM on August 2, 2002


It's as if when a government tries fighting English, the people start adopting it, and when a government tries encouraging English, the people do poorly at it.

In the case of Japan, I suspect the dilemma is caused more by the radical difference between Japanese and English than any conscious choice by citizens to refuse or embrace another language. Europeans generally have a much easier time learning English than do their Asian counterparts. Trust me, I know.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:14 AM on August 2, 2002


"Eurolang - la lang qui tu pos lernar in week-fini."
(Google cache the Eurolang server is down it seems).
posted by talos at 7:28 AM on August 2, 2002


"In a ruling which had French academics choking on their croissants it said that as long as food packaging carried a picture of the product inside or was labelled in a language which was 'easily understood' there was absolutely no reason to print a single word in French."

I know for a fact that this isn't true since the EU demands that ingredients have to be printed "in a language easily understood by consumers" (this is in practice the official language of the member state). This is why many packages in Europe are multilingual. Yes, English is usually the most prominent language on the front of a multilingual package, but if the French can't accept that then they're sillier than I initially thought.

Also, they don't seem to realise that they can in turn sell products with prominent French labels to other Europeans; like the Italian pasta giant Barilla does when they sell their foodstuffs to the rest of Europe. How could that be "an attack on cultural diversity"?
posted by livingdots at 7:31 AM on August 2, 2002


Don't just beat up the French on this: the Germans tried to prevent using English only on billboards and advertising.

Germany is by far the most populous nation, and they've had their gripes about using English for EU meetings.

Or maybe it's that The British are reluctant to learn new languages
posted by panopticon at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2002


bobo: much of the ridiculous Engrish you see coming out of Japan on products is deliberate, not accidental. Oftentimes, companies will produce phrases based on how appealing the western characters look, not on the legibility of the phrase. This isn't so different from people in western countries who wear kimonos with random Kanji characters on them. Nobody cares what the characters mean, we just like them because they look cool. For all we know, they probably say "KICK ME!"

monju: In my experience, the Japanese struggle also has a lot to do with the failure of their education system to stress spoken English over written. Most Japanese do a reasonable job with reading or writing English, but are atrocious when attempting a conversation.
posted by MrBaliHai at 7:39 AM on August 2, 2002


"This is an attack on cultural diversity"...Isn't that the idea of the EU?
posted by Mack Twain at 7:40 AM on August 2, 2002


In my experience, the Japanese struggle also has a lot to do with the failure of their education system to stress spoken English over written. Most Japanese do a reasonable job with reading or writing English, but are atrocious when attempting a conversation.

I agree. I was fortunate enough to learn English at a relatively young age right here in the good ol' U.S. of A., and I was obviously forced to use English in everyday conversation. The best way to learn a language is to speak it.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2002


"This is an attack on cultural diversity"...Isn't that the idea of the E.U.S.A
posted by johnnyboy at 8:17 AM on August 2, 2002


The French as individual people I tend to like a lot: they are almost always very funny and warm. As a culture, however, the French are ludicrous and irritating. They're also pretty stuck-up for a country that has a history of getting their asses kicked in major wars.

Just my opinion, though.
posted by mrmanley at 8:27 AM on August 2, 2002


Whilst the French are perhaps taking this a little far, using this as an excuse for fervent froggie-bashing gets to me.

The levels of fluency in foreign languages in the UK, and the attitudes towards learning them, make me ashamed to live here. Effort at any level to encourage the take-up foreign languages is cursory, and the steady Anglicization of Europe is in no small part a symptom of this. I've known of many modern languages teachers who weren't fluent in the language they teach, and some who didn't speak it at all. Modern languages are seen in many schools as a joke, and it simply isn't stressed that learning French, German, Spanish, Italian etc. is necessary or even relevant.

Labels on food might be a silly example, but it's the tip of a big iceberg. And to claim that the French won't learn English is a fallacy - by 16 most French schoolchildren are approaching fluency in English, whilst their English counterparts still struggle to order a citron pressé. In France, English tuition often starts at age 5 or 6. The norm in Britain is age 9 or 10. Why should the French see their language marginalised due to English complacency and downright laziness? You can bet that there'd be an outcry if the trend was reversed and Britain was flooded by French advertising.
posted by zygoticmynci at 8:40 AM on August 2, 2002


This is good. When I lived in France, everyone used the terms "chewing gum" and (the admittedly stupid) "jogging", i.e. a jogging suit.

While I don't think that French is that great of a language (too much phlegm), I think it's dumb to try to get kids to call it "gomme a mastiquer" to preserve your already dead culture.
posted by interrobang at 8:41 AM on August 2, 2002


...using this as an excuse for fervent froggie-bashing gets to me.

I wasn't aware anyone needed another excuse to bash the French.
posted by revbrian at 8:50 AM on August 2, 2002


Speaking of the French and their languages... I am traveling there next month. Does anyone know an online resource where I could print a good 'cheat sheet' to help me communicate in their language? I wouldn't want to offend any of them, and I certainly don't want to be an 'Ugly American'.
posted by eas98 at 8:53 AM on August 2, 2002


to preserve your already dead culture

BOK.
posted by Frasermoo at 8:53 AM on August 2, 2002


Talos said: Language skills in Europe: "People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal are least likely to speak another language, with less than a third of these population saying they can do this. "

One big reason for this: Portugal and England are the only two countries in Europe without a minority language.
posted by MarkC at 9:02 AM on August 2, 2002


Just as a This isn't just a European problem, of course.
posted by ceiriog at 9:09 AM on August 2, 2002


Oh great, blockquote doesn't work.

Click the links, if'n you're interested. This thread's giving me a headache.
posted by ceiriog at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2002


It would be nice if the French would stop trying to draw a Maginot Line around their language. When we borrows words from other languages, we give them a hearty welcome and full citizenship. "Hey there! Welcome to the language!" Yet when the French borrow words from English, the words seem to retain an alien status. Probably because we're a polyglot language and they're not.

Anyway, if you want to talk about cultural chauvinism, the Japanese language actually uses a separate written alphabet for its loan words.
posted by Tin Man at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2002


Looks like ceiriog's first link was supposed to be this.

(And great subject-verb agreement there, Tin Man. "When we borrows words"? Always remember to proofread. I originally wrote "When the English language borrows words," and forgot to fix the verb.)
posted by Tin Man at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2002


Does anyone know an online resource ...

Useful French phrases. ;)
posted by RavinDave at 9:17 AM on August 2, 2002


Thanks Tin Man. My fault, I messed up the tag.
posted by ceiriog at 9:18 AM on August 2, 2002


BOK.

Yes, have some.
posted by interrobang at 9:20 AM on August 2, 2002


Portugal and England are the only two countries in Europe without a minority language.
With the exception of Spain, Belgium, Luxemburg and to a lesser extent Finland (unless you believe the fiction that the scandinavian dialects-swedish, danish and norwegian- are separate languages ;-)), all the other EU countries have really numerically insignificant minority languages, at least as far as I know... Outside the EU there are more but I think the majority of European countries have few minority language speakers.
posted by talos at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2002


MarkC said:
Talos said: Language skills in Europe: "People in the UK, Ireland and Portugal are least likely to speak another language, with less than a third of these population saying they can do this. "
One big reason for this: Portugal and England are the only two countries in Europe without a minority language.


Well Talos said UK which includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland. Minority languages abound.

And what zygoticmynci said. The attitude in the UK to other languages is terrible. I didn't start learning French until I was 12 & the teaching was bloody hopeless. Now I get to skip all round the world & could really do with some French & Spanish at the very least.
posted by i_cola at 11:35 AM on August 2, 2002


Quel est prochain?

The next thing you know government of France will be insisting that McDonald's change the name of french fries to something else because they weren't invented in France and are an insult to French cooking.
posted by wiredgonzo at 11:42 AM on August 2, 2002


Haha, RavinDave. I got:

D'accord, tu peux rester près de moi tant que tu ne parles pas de la chaleur qu'il fait ici.

OK, you can stand next to me as long as you don't talk about the temperature.


Thank you. ;)
posted by eas98 at 11:44 AM on August 2, 2002


I wasn't aware anyone needed another excuse to bash the French.

I had, of course, forgotten about this. Deepest apologies.
posted by zygoticmynci at 12:17 PM on August 2, 2002


I'm with zygotic on this one. The French get far too rough a ride because they're not here to defend themselves. French culture isn't dead as long as there are 50m (?) French people still living it. And it is irritating when companies don't bother marketing their products to the native audience. It's insulting. I was downright furious when those sneaky continentals turned Jif to Cif and insisted we pronounce nugget 'nooogar' and Nessle 'nesslay'. And our foreign language record is appalling. I'd like kids to start learning French and German at age 5 but how many British infant-school teachers could handle that? I'd say none.
posted by Summer at 12:37 PM on August 2, 2002


I've always imagined that the reason English speakers don't learn second languages as much as speakers of other languages is that they don't have to.

You can go to almost all countries in the world and find English speakers.

In schools it's (or was, when I was there) a low priority, I learned to count + say hello in German, Spanish and French... in total I studied "modern languages" for a single school year, 45mins per week.

The USA has been very important in keeping English as the world's language, along with the colonial exploits of the Brits i suppose.
posted by selton at 1:04 PM on August 2, 2002


An attack on cultural diversity? Tough shit if you speak Basque, Catalan, Corsican or Breton within France, of course - the hypocrisy is breath-taking.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:22 PM on August 2, 2002


well said joe.
posted by johnnyboy at 9:14 AM on August 3, 2002


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