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)
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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Economy

European Debt? The First Question For Merkel's Successor

Across southern Europe, all eyes are on the German elections, as they hope a change of government might bring about reforms to the EU Stability Pact.

Angela Merkel at a campaign event of CDU party, Stralsund, Sep 2021

Tobias Kaiser, Virginia Kirst, Martina Meister


-Analysis-

BERLIN — Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) is the front-runner, according to recent polls, to become Germany's next chancellor. Little wonder then that he's attracting attention not just within the country, but from neighbors across Europe who are watching and listening to his every word.

That was certainly the case this past weekend in Brdo, Slovenia, where the minister met with his European counterparts. And of particular interest for those in attendance is where Scholz stands on the issue of debt-rule reform for the eurozone, a subject that is expected to be hotly debated among EU members in the coming months.

France, which holds its own elections early next year, has already made its position clear. "When it comes to the Stability and Growth Pact, we need new rules," said Bruno Le Maire, France's minister of the economy and finance, at the meeting in Slovenia. "We need simpler rules that take the economic reality into account. That is what France will be arguing for in the coming weeks."

The economic reality for eurozone countries is an average national debt of 100% of GDP. Only Luxemburg is currently meeting the two central requirements of the Maastricht Treaty: That national debt must be less than 60% of GDP and the deficit should be no more than 3%. For the moment, these rules have been set aside due to the coronavirus crisis, but next year national leaders must decide how to go forward and whether the rules should be reinstated in 2023.

Europe's north-south divide lives on

The debate looks set to be intense. Fiscally conservative countries, above all Austria and the Netherlands, are against relaxing the rules as they recently made very clear in a joint position paper on the subject. In contrast, southern European countries that are dealing with high levels of national debt believe that now is the moment to relax the rules.

Those governments are calling for countries to be given more freedom over their levels of national debt so that the economy, which is recovering remarkably quickly thanks to coronavirus spending and the European Central Bank's relaxation of its fiscal policy, can continue to grow.

Despite its clear stance on the issue, Paris hasn't yet gone on the offensive.

The rules must be "adapted to fit the new reality," said Spanish Finance Minister Nadia Calviño in Brdo. She says the eurozone needs "new rules that work." Her Belgian counterpart agreed. The national debts in both countries currently stand at over 100% of GDP. The same is true of France, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus.

Officials there will be keeping a close eye on the German elections — and the subsequent coalition negotiations. Along with France, Germany still sets the tone in the EU, and Berlin's stance on the brewing conflict will depend largely on what the coalition government looks like.

A key question is which party Germany's next finance minister comes from. In their election campaign, the Greens have called for the debt rules to be revised so that in the future they support rather than hinder public investment. The FDP, however, wants to reinstate the Maastricht Treaty rules exactly as they were and ensure they are more strictly enforced than before.

This demand is unlikely to gain traction at the EU level because too many countries would still be breaking the rules for years to come. There is already a consensus that they should be reformed; what is still at stake is how far these reforms should go.

Mario Draghi on stage in Bologna

Prime Minister Mario Draghi at an event in Bologna, Italy — Photo: Brancolini/ROPI/ZUMA

Time for Draghi to step up?

Despite its clear stance on the issue, Paris hasn't yet gone on the offensive. That having been said, starting in January, France will take over the presidency of the EU Council for a period that will coincide with its presidential election campaign. And it's likely that Macron's main rival, right-wing populist Marine Le Pen, will put the reforms front and center, especially since she has long argued against Germany and in favor of more freedom.

Rome is putting its faith in the negotiating skills of Prime Minister Mario Draghi, a former head of the European Central Bank. Draghi is a respected EU finance expert at the debating table and can be of great service to Italy precisely at a moment when Merkel's departure may see Germany represented by a politician with less experience at these kinds of drawn-out summits, where discussions go on long into the night.

The Stability and Growth pact may survive unscathed.

Regardless of how heated the debates turn out to be, the Stability and Growth Pact may well survive the conflict unscathed, as its symbolic value may make revising the agreement itself practically impossible. Instead, the aim will be to rewrite the rules that govern how the Pact should be interpreted: regulations, in other words, about how the deficit and national debt should be calculated.

One possible change would be to allow future borrowing for environmental investments to be discounted. France is not alone in calling for that. European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni has also added his voice.

The European Commission is assuming that the debate may drag on for some time. The rules — set aside during the pandemic — are supposed to come into force again at the start of 2023.

The Commission is already preparing for the possibility that they could be reactivated without any reforms. They are investigating how the flexibility that has already been built into the debt laws could be used to ensure that a large swathe of eurozone countries don't automatically find themselves contravening them, representatives explained.

The Commission will present its recommendations for reforms, which will serve as a basis for the countries' negotiations, in December. By that point, the results of the German elections will be known, as well as possibly the coalition negotiations. And we might have a clearer idea of how intense the fight over Europe's debt rules could become — and whether the hopes of the southern countries could become reality.

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