Society

Franglais: How English Is Ruining The French Of The French

Essay: Purists of the French language have long derided the slipping of English words into daily conversations. But now, even a reasoned observer who acknowledges the importance of English, says it has all gone too far.

Bad cheveux day? (rhian)
Bad cheveux day? (rhian)
Philippe Bertrand

PARIS - Feelings of displacement, vanishing sense of identity, loss of bearings: there's no dearth of reasons to explain the French attraction to extremes -- whether on the right or left -- during the last presidential election. Of course, the economic crisis, unemployment and globalization are the main reasons why many French people feel they are not doing so well. But one could add something else – far less important, indeed perhaps only symbolic, but that has an impact that may be far greater than we can imagine: poor usage of the French language and over-use of English.

From this point of view, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault's appointment of a junior minister -- Algerian film director and writer Yamina Benguigui --whose work includes La Francophonie (French-speaking countries) is a sign. But that sign should not be confused with taking up where Maurice Druon (1918 - 2009) left off. Druon was a longstanding member of the Académie Française who became famous for his fight against "franglais' which to the French means the importation of English words into their language.

And it must be said that English is a beautiful language – and incidentally not without French influence dating back to the days of William the Conqueror (1028 - 1087), the first Norman King of England. In its near-universality today, it is the language of development on our planet, particularly as regards matters economic, and it would be wrong to complain about that out of pure chauvinism.

Nor is there any question of reproaching French business leaders for being – more or less, it must be said – bilingual, or even to wag an admonishing finger at French companies like international hypermarket chain Carrefour for presenting an annual report in Paris in English.

What one can question, however, is the over-use of English by companies in their business strategies and marketing in France. There are plenty of examples. Let's start with American movie producers who don't bother to have the titles of their big hits translated. The newly-released feature film "The Avengers' is a case in point. How many people in France, particularly children and adolescents, understand that the superheroes invented by Marvel Comics are out to right wrongs by retaliating? The English word "avenge" may stem from the Old French word avengier but that doesn't ring any bells in modern-day French. "Les Vengeurs' is the name that would do that. So here you have French people talking about avengers without a clue as to the meaning of the word, so it becomes a kind of "magic word" ... or merely a brand.

Je ne sais what?

How about a "margin call"? Even in French, the term appel de marge has many people scratching their heads. So use the English term and you just have that many more who don't understand what you're talking about. Other examples include French TV channel TF1 (re)baptizing itself "MyTF1.fr," or – still with television here – French reality shows called "The Voice," "Star Academy," "Loft Story," and "Masterchef." Here again: the meaning of these titles is far from clear to a typical native French-speaker -- and translating them would have been so easy.

The sum-total of all this can quickly start to seem like some sort of joke -- because there is no area of French life where the phenomenon doesn't make itself felt. Thus does Carrefour provide French cities, towns and villages with a Carrefour Market or a Carrefour City. Its competitor, Auchan, has christened its supermarkets Simply Market. What does that mean to a consumer in the small towns of Lower Normandy? And even if she or he gets it, doesn't it seem a little odd? Why does the Pimkie store in Boulogne-Billancourt stick posters in its windows advertising "Good prices'? Why did the Casino chain of retailers rename its Petit Casino stores Casino Shops? To appear chic..."in"?

It is perfectly understandable that a company doing business all over Europe or around the world would try and stretch their marketing budget by using uniform concepts and language. But what about the general run of local French companies? Wouldn't they be better off sticking to French? A recent survey on spelling published by the French Ministry of National Education indicated that the level of spelling skills among high school students was falling, and that 10 and 11-year olds were making an average of 15 mistakes per dictation as opposed to ten 20 years ago.

But there are other good reasons to worry about the country's increasingly iffy sense of its own language. Could the massive use of English in marketing and communication in France be down to the "Erasmus effect" -- that many of the people working in these areas were schooled in both languages, went to English-language business schools, use English every day at the office?

The result is a kind of "Franglo-Saxon" which has French people talking about "addressing" problems, "delivering" solutions, attending "meetings' and "workshops' and "conf calls' during which "best practices' are presented by means of "slide shows." But it has all brought us to the point where more and more companies are hiring university graduates in French language and literature to edit the written communications their staff is no longer capable of producing correctly.

Read the original article in French.

Photo - rhian

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Green

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.


It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park

Xinhua/ZUMA

Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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