Monday, April 3, 2017

Hypocrisie: La Nouvelle Belle Langue?

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Hypocrisie: La Nouvelle Belle Langue?

By Kevin O’Keefe

Kevin O’Keefe is a senior at the University of Illinois majoring in French Studies, with a double minor in Political Science and Global Studies. He took French 418 in the spring of his junior year in 2016, after returning home from a semester abroad in Paris, France in the Fall of 2015, where he studies French politics and the European Union at Sciences Po.

For centuries, people across the globe have spent years of dedication working to master of the French language and reach its “refined nature”. To these people, there is a simple je ne sais quoi that makes French seemingly drip with culture and sophistication. The efforts of the French to maintain this level of linguistic refinement have been unparalleled through the ages, as French became the single and only official language of the French state through numerous processes and pushes for monlinugality and purification of the French language. (Radford, 1).

However, in recent times, the beauty and grace of the French language has begun to be described in quite a different way- hypocritical. As France’s language policies modernize and seek to embrace the teaching of prominent foreign languages, many have begun to ask how the French nation can condone this behavior while at the same time continuing to undermine and suppress regional minority languages within its own borders.

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France’s national linguistic policy rests on one specific goal meant to safeguard against the domination of foreign languages over French ways of living, which states the importance of the notion of "one country, one language" (Melvin, 2). In order to maintain this ideology, which has roots dating all the way back to the French Revolution when leaders hoped to unify the broken French state under a shared linguistic structure, France has taken incredibly bold steps to downplay the influence of minority languages not only in France’s Parisian capital, but in territories and regions throughout the nation and the Francophonie. For example, France has refused to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, and thus little can be done to help spread, maintain, or fortify the presence of minority languages throughout the nation (Radford, 1). Languages such as Breton, Basque, Corsican, and Occitan have become relegated to strictly cultural use with limited regional sponsorship and infrequent educational usage, while also being listed as only unofficial languages of the state (Costa and Lambert, 3). These languages all have extremely deep roots in French history, yet the French state has done everything in its power to eradicate these languages in accordance with its monolingual policy aims.

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It would seem that France’s monolingual goals of promoting French as the official language of the nation would also apply to limiting the influence of other major Western languages in the same way they have nearly stomped out regional minority languages. However, quite the opposite has occurred, particularly in the field of education. As times have changed and western nations like the United States have come to prominence, France has doubled its efforts to stress the importance of learning a foreign language in its educational framework. According to the French Diplomatie, “France promotes linguistic diversity by encouraging the teaching of a wide range of foreign languages, in both the national education system and through certified language centers,” (France Diplomatie, 1). The educational system has installed the teaching of English and other foreign languages at every level (elementary, secondary, and high school level) and has done so with the goal of being able to “reinforce the learning of foreign languages to ensure that every student leaving high school is proficient in at least two modern languages in order to succeed in the professional world,” (France Diplomatie, 1).

The increased presence of foreign language in French schools demonstrates the hypocritical dimensions of the language discourses in France: on one side the French’s own goal of achieving monolingual supremacy within their own borders, at the expense of what has already been done to the nation’s regional languages, but also an increasing desire to not be left behind the rest of Europe with regard to other powerful languages of the world, especially English. In pursuing education in foreign languages, the French are allowing the influence of French to be pushed aside and another language to be used and communicated with, thus undermining the work so many generations of French politicians and linguists have done in promoting the French language to superiority. The French face a serious challenge as English and other languages enter the classroom, as future generations will have multilingual skills from a young age, and their entry into the work force will potentially have massive effects on the idea of French supremacy in a world in which English, Spanish, and Chinese have already begun to take a more prominent role on the world stage.

Works Cited

Costa, James, and Patricia Lambert. "France and Language(s): Old Policies and New Challenges in Education. Towards a Renewed Framework?" France and Language(s): Old Policies and New Challenges in Education. Towards a Renewed Framework? N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00439199

France 24. "French Schools to Boost Foreign Language Learning." France 24. N.p., 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www.france24.com/en/20150311-france-education-boost-foreign-language-learning-middle-schools-english

Melvin, Joshua. "Hypocrisy? France and Its Regional Languages." - The Local. N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://www.thelocal.fr/20140123/in-france-there-is-only-one-language

"Multilingualism in France." France Diplomatie. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 May 2016. http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/en/french-foreign-policy/francophony/promoting-multilingualism/article/multilingualism-in-france

Radford, Gavin. "French Language Law: The Attempted Ruination of France's Linguistic Diversity. | Trinity College Law Review (TCLR) | Trinity College Dublin." Trinity College Law Review TCLR Trinity College Dublin. N.p., 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Apr. 2016. http://trinitycollegelawreview.org/french-language-law-the-attempted-ruination-of-frances-linguistic-diversity/

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