This isn’t going to work, is it?

Native French speakers comprise little more than 1 per cent of the world’s population, leaving it 18th in the global league table beside Korean and the Indian language Marathi.

But President Macron, well known for his ceaseless political ambition, has turned his attention to making French the first language of Africa and even the most spoken tongue in the world.

As it happens a cousin is a translator at The Hague. French being one of his languages. And he will wax lyrical about exactly why this will not happen. Academie Francaise. For the French spoken not in France is, as with Singlish and all the rest, diverging from that on the Mainland. To the point that trials are translated by people who have proven competence in, say, Congolese French, or CAF etc, rather than “French.”

His point being that the AF is trying to nail the language to one version, something that just doesn’t happen with dispersed languages.

24 thoughts on “This isn’t going to work, is it?”

  1. Is that all Granny’s boy has to worry about?

    HTF is he going to do that anyway? Re-invade Africa? Pay Nigerians to e-mail scams in French?

    How does mankind end up plagued by such useless scum?

  2. Yes, I can see all of French Africa rushing to re-adopt the language of their former colonial masters rather than English…

  3. The tour of Parliament in Ottawa is done in both languages.

    The guide when I did the tour was a young student who was a native English speaker.

    At the end of the tour she got a bollocking from Quebeckers on the tour for speaking ‘French French’ (which she presumably learned at school) rather than ‘Quebec French’, which apparently is French from 200 years ago or something.

  4. Macron aims to be Jupiterian in his Presidential doings. Give him a year or two and he will have popularity ratings on a par with his old boss Hollande.

  5. This sounds like a truly worthwhile project and one can only hope that M Macron earmarks considerable resources to the international spread of Francophonia.

    No shanty between Capetown and Alexandria should be without its copy of Maurice Grevisse’s excellent Le Bon Usage.

  6. I remember one of the typically piqued edicts issued by the AF was that a “Walkman” (older readers will understand what this was – an early iPod) was to be called a “Baladeur” in France, at the time when the French PM was Edouard Balladur.

    Interestingly, my French colleagues had failed to make the connection until I pointed it out to them whereupon thereafter they would only call him Mr Sony Walkman.

  7. French Canadian films are shown with subtitles in France. So divergence is a thing. Funny doesn’t matter who the French President is, they always want to be Napoleon.

  8. By my reckoning, the AF is the cause of French’s demise. It strips all innovatory freedom from French speakers, so they tend to adopt English terms rather than inventing their own. ‘Cos while using English words is ‘wrong’, using ‘bad’ French is worse.

    For me useless gendered nouns and according adjectives and participles can’t die fast enough.

  9. Macron aims to be Jupiterian in his Presidential doings.

    Actually, he’s doing all the things you’d expect a man who doesn’t know what to do to do.

    (If that sentence doesn’t get me a paying gig at Vox, nothing will.)

  10. Nothing so clearly delineates the difference between the European “Code Napoleon” and British Common Law approaches to, well, everything.

  11. He’s following the successful strategy of the Mayor of London – announce absurd grandiose plans, no-one gives a shit of you deliver or not. For Progressives, only the Vision matters.

  12. @Rob

    I think Sad Dick’s grandiose plans to kill off all the young black males with knife crime has been a roaring success.

  13. France is delighted that the expected leap in the African population will bring a big boost for la Francophonie, the community of French-speaking nations that roughly equates with the Commonwealth. While French is the first language of only 75 million people worldwide, 153 million have it as their second language and it is spoken in total by 274 million. That makes it the fifth most-spoken language, after Mandarin, English, Spanish and Arabic, according to Paris.

    A 2014 study by Natixis bank forecast that French would overtake English and Mandarin by 2050, based on a jump in the African population from 800 million to 4.5 billion in 2100. Nearly 60 per cent of all Francophones live in Africa. Several French experts contested that language forecast, and predicted that English would retain its supremacy.

    Are Anglophone birthrates in Africa lower than Francophone birthrates?

    I met a Chinese translator once in Beijing in 2008. She said she had learned Spanish and English, so she could speak to “anyone in the world”. French?, I asked. No need, she said: Arabic was her next language to learn. German? Possibly, she said, some day, but not French…

  14. My ‘Merican son speaks Spanish quite well. He tells me that there is wide variability in Spanish, from Spain to Mexico to Central America to South America.

    He almost didn’t get a job once because the interviewer thought he had a Honduran accent.

  15. “. . . has turned his attention to making French the first language of Africa and even the most spoken tongue in the world.”

    He does know that there was a time when French *was* the lingua-fraca of a goodly portion of the world – back when France was an economic super-power.

    Somehow I don’t think repealing the 35 hour work week and eliminating the state’s willingness to kill on command for the unions is on the table though.

  16. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Gamecock: It’s mainly dialectal. All variants are mutually comprehensible, A lot of the differences are sufficiently salient to be given their own names (q.v. yeismo, seseo, voseo). There’s the Mexican x/j merger, phoneme-doubling of r, and so on. Everyone agrees Argentinian Spanish sounds weird. And of course there’s wide variation in slang, and even in the meanings of some perfectly ordinary words (for example, coger is absolutely fine here in CR, but woe betide you if you use it in polite company in Mexico).

  17. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Agammamon: you know of course that ‘lingua franca’ itself wasn’t French but a mixture of Occitan and Italian with lots of Arabic, Greek, Portuguese vocab thrown in.

  18. Bloke in North Dorset

    “Everyone agrees Argentinian Spanish sounds weird.”

    On my business travels I always tried to learn a few words of the local language, even a little bit of Korean. This wasn’t easy as all the other consultants spoke English and usually the clients did, so it was difficult to pick the language. Usually I didn’t get much beyond being able to say please and thank you to secretaries, bar staff, waiters etc, of maybe asking for a beer or two if we were there over weekends. It wasn’t easy as I’ve always struggled with languages, even when immersed.

    I found it really to pick up Spanish in Madrid, yet found it relatively simple in Buenos Aires.

  19. There’s a lot to be said for learning Spanish. But since no-one’s said anything worth listening to in it for several hundred years, one wonders why.

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