Not Dubbing the Simpsons
January 5, 2001 7:38 PM   Subscribe

Not Dubbing the Simpsons The Office de la langue française and others are up in arms (ils capotent) about anglicisms in Internet discourse. Business 2.0 talked about it. Branchez-Vous writes a short, cutting article, giving those who pepper their French with English enough rope to hang themselves. («Dans la catégorie "Un mot français, un mot anglais et hop!," le prix revient à Rational Software France, the e-development company, qui a annoncé la nomination d'André Arich au poste de Partner Manager pour sa filiale française, ainsi que le lancement en France du programme de partenariat Rational Unified Partner Program (RUPP).») ¶ Strangely, French has a nicer word for E-mail than English does: courriel. (Grand Dictionnaire is the OLF's official bilingual tech dictionary.)
posted by joeclark (14 comments total)
That whole business is a lost cause. I used to work with a Frenchman who lived in France until after he graduated from college. His degree is in computer science, and all his CS courses were taught in English.

Franglais is a reality, and a bunch of old withered reactionaries aren't going to turn back the clock. English borrows words from every language it encounters (including French) with no shame whatever. Why the heck are these Frenchmen so damned worried about it?

Are you serious that there's actually a government agency in France whose assignment is to keep the French language pure? And I thought the US government wasted money.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:10 PM on January 5, 2001

I thought the French for "e-mail" was "Couriere Electonique". Non?
posted by pnevares at 8:48 PM on January 5, 2001

As the world gets smaller technologically and people find more reasons to need to communicate despite borders or cultural differences, we're going to see this happen more and more. I wouldn't be surprised if within this century we find linguistics and vocabularies distort and blur to the point where english itself loses shape. Odds are english will be the backbone of a new form of language, that could become as different to our descendants minds as Shakespearean Middle english is to us. Remember that less than two or three hundred years ago people were still using thee and thine and words like that. I think it's going to be quite fascinating.

The closer to the Mexico border one gets here in the south, the more one hears "texmex" or "spanglish" which evolves from individuals being exposed to both languages, seeking commonalities and pulling from both languages the best of what works in common everyday vernacular. I don't hear anyone down here in Texas complaining about losing one culture over another. I'm sure there are such individuals but I guess they're largely ignored, or they don't whine enough to register. The mexican culture has gotten used to external cultures affecting their own. They're quite a hodge-podge mish-mash of many cultural influences, and this has been for both good and ill depending on what part of their history and culture you're looking at. Some could argue that it is external cultural indoctrinization which has weakened Mexico in many ways. There is a national pride among some of its people, but some believe it to be distorted and at times even incoherent. I believe there are many other factors contributing to Mexico's cultural decline, and its external influence which helps to keep it as viable as it is. What's happening to Mexican spanish is actually just a symptom and perhaps a metaphorical example of a greater change occuring to that nation and her people.

French and Quebequoix (sp?) cultures are much more ethno-centric than Spanish and Mexican cultures, and have fought such cultural interference, believing it a form of almost psychological invasion on their pride and history. They resist change. Quebec has tried more than once to disconnect itself from the rest of Canada, believing an english-based culture doesn't understand the needs of those living inside Quebec's borders. If they could erect a wall around themselves and take down all bilingual signs, they would. That's not the way to face the future however.

Many in Quebec feel it is money not wasted however, to defend their cultural differences and insist on keeping french, and their present lifestyle, from going the way of Latin.
posted by ZachsMind at 10:00 PM on January 5, 2001

(It's Quebecois, if it matters.)

I understand their point, too, but I don't think it's going to stop the onward steamroll of the American Empire, such as it is.

(Is it just me, or has there been a lot of Simpsons-related posts recently? Am I missing something out there?)
posted by chicobangs at 10:34 PM on January 5, 2001

Hint to France: When you have to start legislating your language's existence, that's a sign you're doing something wrong.
posted by aaron at 12:17 AM on January 6, 2001

Idle chatter about odd anecdotes on the subject of quebec or France and language doesn't do anyone much good. Both France and Quebec are more multicultural, and proud of it, than anywhere in the US but New York and maybe the next 5 top cities.

No one here in Quebec wants a wall around them - though there are a tiny minority of cranks who might say they do. Legislating French in public in quebec did in fact make a huge difference, and in my opinion (as an anglo through and through) a positive one. But the French here is highly conditioned by English, and people understand that. The politicians are the first ones to educate their kids in English - no one is turning their back on the English fact in North America.

French for electronic mail is courrier electronique. French (in Quebec; it's not clearly so in France yet) for email is courriel. Or email, no problem, no misunderstanding, no political issue except for some petty bureaucrats, the same as exist everywhere.

the Quebec political situation is much too complex to be boiled down just to language. And doing so might be fun, but it's extremely misleading in its over-simplicity.
posted by mikel at 1:47 AM on January 6, 2001


since i think i'm the only french here, i think it's up to me...

french are mouthes.

all palate, throat, tong and vocal cords.

our language is quite a nice one, with a beautiful complexity and is all nuances, and we are proud of it.
but we love the other languages too.
we are even fond of the mere concept of language.

any french is taught at least one foreign language, but anyone can learn at any public school a second foreign language, plus latin, greek, regional dialects...

we protect regional dialects now [ after having persecuted people for centuries, to keep them from teaching their mother tongue to their children ].

in the region [ state ] of Bretagne [ "Breizh" in their dialect, the Breton / "Brezhoneg" ], every school teach french AND brezhoneg [ even road signs and street names are in french and brezhoneg ]
people have died for.
100 words for the internet [ english / brezhoneg / french ]

the Cht'imi is taught in the north.
the Catalan is taught in the south.
the català is special, because the land of the cultural group [ Catalogne / Cataluyna ] has not been absorbed by one country, but two ate half of it [ France / Spain ].
and as a lot of catalan say [ "i'm first catalan, second french/spanish" ]

Occitan, Créole, Flamand, Euskara...all these are spoken dialects.
not spread, but still heartingly spoken, in deep frightening places filled with wine-blooded faces and a lot of cholesterol fat.

A lot of bitter right-wing pseudo litterary intelletuals [ called 'Immortels' / immortals .. ARGHHHH! ] keep a vengeful eye on the "official" French.
they have the power to add/remove words from the official list of french words.
[that now one knows]

they fear english/american for the reason that your structure has for them some kind of fear-inducing flexibility and freedom.
they fear move, they fear the coming of several new dialects from the townships.

the high concentration of immigrants in remote low-life residential areas has created a large incorporation of Romani and Arabic terms in usual language.

As we have no way [ excluding a revolution ] of stopping them spending our money that way...
i hope they'll die of apoplexy the day they come in the street and hear normal people speak.

let us be old nutties with our languages and moisted cheese, please.
we'll do yo real McDonald French Fries, as you can no longuer have the real McCoy now.
[ but to my mind, that's a bit TOO fat no ? ]
posted by deboute at 8:21 AM on January 6, 2001

Steven, I think the Office de la langue française pointed out here is Quebec's, not France's, though I may be mistaken.

As an Ontarian, I can say that every time I've gone into Quebec and said "Je suis desole, mais mon francais nes pas bein. Parlez-vous anglais?" (sorry for any mispelling and lack of accenting, it's been a very long time since I've written french) everyone I've met either laughs and says "Sure, no problem." or laughs and says "I am sorry, but my english is not so good."

That second situation brings around the most interesting conversations, as we pepper our words with franglais and englench eventually stumbling across what we're trying to say.

In my experience, the language issue is much more on a political level than it is a personal one. Other people want to communicate just as much as you or I do, and we do it however we can.
posted by cCranium at 8:25 AM on January 6, 2001

I thought the French for "e-mail" was "Couriere Electonique".

Nobody I know uses it, although it's in all the dictionaries. In fact, email has a lot of French equivalents:

courrier électronique

I have never heard of "courriel" before, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist in Canada.
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:37 AM on January 6, 2001

Where the French language is really growing is in Africa. This has recently be recognized by the French government which is now actively embracing the African varieties of French. I wrote a paper on it last semester; the bibliography (with links) is on my site. (I hesitate to provide the link here. If you want it, I'm sure you can find it).
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:42 AM on January 6, 2001

Deboute, fair enough. There are reactionaries everywhere; God knows the US has enough of them. It is certainly not fair to characterize a country by its extremists, especially if they're as impotent as you make them sound.

You've made an excellent case. Thank you.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:22 AM on January 6, 2001

In any case, legislation to protect culture and language is an act towards stagnation, and it can't stop progress. All it can do is slow it down. By this time next century the question will be moot.

There are people in America who want to force spanish-speaking people into learning english, and sometimes they do a good job of it. Already though there's more young people who can understand both english and spanish, and that will become the norm more in the next fifty to a hundred years -- but it'll take another generation or two. Instead of fighting it, we should more actively encourage it in America. We look stupid. Look? Hell, compared to many other countries, our education system IS stupid, but that's going off topic too much I guess so I'll shut up.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:42 PM on January 6, 2001

Hint to France: When you have to start legislating your language's existence, that's a sign you're doing something wrong.

Well, since the Académie has been in place for 365 years, that's a long fucking mistake. And what was that proposition in California which forced lessons to be taught in English? Sounds like state control to me.

Yeah, French is "suffering" from the impact of English, just as British usage is "suffering" from the impact of AmerEnglish. And languages change, and regret runs through history. But. One of the defining features of French culture (perhaps the distinguishing one) is the language. As deboute said, the French are mouths (or perhaps the tongue, la langue), and preserving the language, or at least conserving it, is no different from setting up a nature reserve for an endangered species.

It was a Frenchman, though, (Ferdinand de Saussure) who made the distinction between langue and parole: the mental and cultural rules which hold together a language, and the dynamic, evolving stuff of speech, of language in use. No academy can ever hope to regulate parole: it can simply acknowledge the transformation of parole into langue.

But what Zach said: let multilingualism reign, because it can only encourage dynamism and understanding.
posted by holgate at 1:41 PM on January 6, 2001

I thought the French for "e-mail" was "Couriere Electonique".

Cour[r]i... + El... = courriel?

Much like the English for "email" is "electronic mail"?
posted by daveadams at 3:14 PM on January 6, 2001

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