Why the “elites” are abandoning French for English – L’Express

how to make all French people virtuosos in this field

We are in the 5th century AD. Politician, bishop and writer, the Lyonnais Sidoine Apollinaire masters Latin magnificently. And he doesn’t hide his satisfaction. It took centuries of Roman occupation, but the result is there, he congratulates himself: the Arvernian nobility has finally gotten rid of “the filth of the Gauls”. “The filth of the Gaul”! That in elegant terms these things are said… (1).


This is what we call an invariant of History. When a people changes their language after being conquered by someone more powerful than them, it is generally the local elites who are the first to abandon their old culture and adopt that of the new power. “Logical” behavior, if not moral: its members generally understand before others that it is in their interest. France offers an excellent illustration of this.

The day before yesterday, Gaulish versus Latin. Did our “ancestors” convert to the language of Cicero because the Romans would have prevented them from speaking Gallic under penalty of a fine or prison? No way. The latter employed a method that was apparently gentler, but extremely effective, by making Latin the official language of the Empire. That’s all ? That’s all, but it was enough because, ipso facto, they established it as an idiom of social advancement. Like our Sidoine Apollinaire, the most ambitious Gauls were quick to grasp this new reality. Very quickly, they learned the language of the winner and passed it on to their children, sending their offspring if necessary to the schools of Rome, Marseille or Autun, the royal roads to enter the administration and climb the ranks. of the scale of power.

The rest was written. Latin, which has become a marker of social distinction, has spread over time to the middle classes, as was not yet known, then to rural dwellers. As for the unfortunate Gaul, now negatively connoted, he would have completely disappeared in the 5th century AD.

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Yesterday, so-called regional languages ​​faced French. The so-called regional languages ​​suffered the same downgrading from the moment the State made French the only language of diplomas and access to the best jobs. Except that, here again, the provincial “elites” had been the quickest to “betray”.

Do we want examples? From the end of the Middle Ages, the members of the parliaments of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Aix decided for themselves to keep their registers in French. Yet the langue d’oc is rich in prestigious literature and a solid administrative tradition? No matter: these gentlemen are primarily concerned with pleasing the sovereign and distinguishing themselves from the people.

In Brittany, too, the nobility switched to French very early. Duke Alain IV of Brittany (1060-1119) is reputed to be the last to have spoken Breton, indicates historian Rozenn Milin (2). Following the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, traders and then wealthy farmers adopted the language of Paris in turn. Everyone understands: social advancement comes at this price.

A similar process could have taken place in the colonies, continues Rozenn Milin. In sub-Saharan Africa, “schools for the sons of chiefs” taught their students – in French – to become valuable intermediaries between those in power and local communities. Good command of the language of the dominant power granted them both “prestige and material advantages.”

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Tomorrow, French versus English? It is probably not with this information that I will win the Albert-Londres prize, but let us remember nevertheless: Anglicisms have been multiplying in France for several decades. And of course, advertisers, communicators, journalists and businessmen are the first to promote this globish, with great recourse to fashion weeksof live and of benchmark. It is true that the (bad) example comes from above, when Emmanuel Macron believes in the latest chic of presenting our country as a start-up nation, to praise the French Tech and to promote a Culture pass taking care to write pass in the Anglo-Saxon way…

Note, however, that here, this behavior takes place without there having been any military conquest. The “elites” convert to English of their own free will. This means that they have fallen into a form of linguistic hegemony which leads them to fall into self-denigration and to judge the French-speaking lexicon as out of date.

The parallel is obvious. As the Gallic leaders hastened to switch to Latin and, later, the provincial notables to French, the upper classes today embrace English for the same reasons: to appear “modern”, to occupy the best places, to distinguish themselves from the people. In linguistics, this behavior has a name: “self-shame”. An attitude typical of culturally dominated groups.


(1) Anecdote reported by Claude Duneton in Talk crunchy, Editions Lo Chamin de Sent Jaume.

(2) From the hoof to the monkey skull. History, modalities and consequences of the imposition of a dominant language. Brittany, Senegal and other territories, by Rozenn Milin. Doctoral thesis in sociology (University Rennes 2), directed by Ronan Le Coadic and Ibrahima Thioub.


And yet, the French language seduces Americans…

From “rendez-vous” to “déjà-vu”, including gastronomic and sports lexicons, our language exerts a real influence in the United States, where it is associated with notions of elegance and subtlety.

Europeans: candidates questioned about “the English that colonizes the EU”

“What do you plan to do against the all-English policy currently being pursued in the European Union?” This is the question that a group of associations defending the French language asks in an open letter to French candidates in the next elections.

Avoiding anglicisms when you are a journalist is possible!

Say “infox” rather than fake news ; “shock sentence” rather than punchline ; “fact-checking” rather than fact checking… These are some of the recommendations issued by the Commission for the Enrichment of the French Language, brought together in a collection bringing together 60 terms from the field of information.

Should Arabic be taught in France?

According to the Arab World Institute, Arabic is “the second language spoken in France”. An assertion which sometimes leads to errors in reasoning, as Yves Montenay explains here in an article as dispassionate as possible.

The municipality of Auray wants to recognize the first name Fañch

After Lorient, Paimpol and Guingamp, the municipal council of Auray (Morbihan) wishes to recognize the “n tildé” in civil status. An approach intended to support families who wish to name their child Fañch, after the ñ was deemed contrary to the fundamental law by the Constitutional Council.

AI, a threat to regional languages?

Artificial intelligence would favor widespread languages ​​such as English and French, as well as American cultural references, this article from the Rennes Monthly. At the risk of excluding minority cultures.

500 mistakes to easily circumvent

Sometimes it’s easier to resort to a trick than to remember all the rules of French spelling – and its countless exceptions. Based on this idea, Julien Soulié, an excellent connoisseur of the language, offers here 500 “alternative itineraries” to avoid pitfalls and limit mistakes.

500 mistakes to easily circumvent, by Julien Soulié. L’Etudiant Editions.

Gilbert Narioo is dead

Gascon has just lost one of its most eminent representatives with the death of Gilbert Narioo, at the age of 95. Former president of the publishing house Per Noste, he was responsible for revising the magazine for a long time. Pais Gascon, in which he published a column, entitled “Parlar plân”, which has become a real bedside book for those who want to learn this language. A lexicographer, he also devoted part of his life to writing a French-Gascon dictionary in three volumes. Finally, he was the father of the poet and singer Marilis Orionaa.

Two meetings with readers in Paris

What if we met? I will present my latest works, Let’s save regional languages And Let’s cultivate the French language, twice in the coming days in the capital. Meet on Friday April 12 at 9 a.m. at the Corsican Village, 8 allée Vivaldi (12th arrondissement), and/or on Saturday 13 between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., at the Grand Palais Ephémère, on the Champ de Mars (stand B 26) , as part of the Paris book festival. Note that another author, Juan Milhau-Blay, will present his own work I’m Catalan, but I take care of myself at the Corsican Village, from 7 a.m. and at the temporary Grand Palais on April 3 from 4 to 6 a.m., also at stand B26.

Let’s save regional languagesby Michel Feltin-Palas, Editions Héliopoles

Let’s cultivate the French language, by Michel Feltin-Palas, Editions Héliopoles

I’m Catalan, but I take care of myselfby Juan Milhau-Blay, Editions Héliopoles


When Wolof coexists with French

In Senegal, Wolof dominates daily life, even if French remains the only official language, underlines the RFI program In loud voice(s), presented by Pascal Paradou.


How many words are there in the French language?

60,000, according to the French Academy, which is based on the number of entries in current language dictionaries. If we add technical vocabulary, foreign borrowings or regionalisms, there are in reality many more. On the other hand, in daily life, we use much less, as Linda Giguère points out in her TV5 monde column.

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