Friday, March 24, 2006

Chirac : Storming out of the tEa-cUp

Apparently Jacques walked out of an EU gathering because one of his pals was using, god forbid, English instead of French. You can read about it here and here. You'd think with everything going on at the moment that petulant displays of arrogance would best be avoided, especially when protectionism is so high on the issue list.

The protectionist attitude towards the French language is really hard to comprehend for two reasons. Firstly, all languages are dynamic and are constantly changing. Trying to set strict limits on how language can and can't be used just leads to ossification and is anachronistic. French is not an easy language to learn and get right - I find it inflexible and difficult to learn. Despite my best efforts I know I will never be able to match a mother-tongue speaker. There are so many nuances that I'm just not going to get. It is also depressing to see how pureblood Gauls deride the Belgians, Africans and Quebecois for their use of French.

Secondly, English didn't get to where it is as an international language by the English insisting that we all speak the queen's English. By being flexible and accommodating, English has grown as the world's second language, not solely because of the original Imperial project, but because people find that they can communicate comfortably in the language. To me the issue seems to be that a lot of French people have been taught to fear speaking English and for the most part they are not encouraged to do so. So much so, that a Norwegian once told me "that there is nothing more desperate than a Frenchman trying to speak English".

I beg to differ and when in conversation I always try to speak French. If it does end up that we converse in English, I always try to compliment them on their use of English, because even trying deserves positive reinforcement. I have studied Afrikaans, Modern Greek, Latin, French, Xhosa and Zulu and although I am by no means fluent in any of those, I do feel richer for being able to communicate with a wider range of people.


Opinon said...

its the usual Jaques Shit you can expect from Crap Chirac who can't speak English very well and therefore has an arrogant machoistic attitude. A petulant pre-teen.

jayzerz said...

Old Jakes is so far out of touch he night as well be on another planet.

qrswave said...

you make a very good point. Communicating with people who speak different languages is so enriching.

I wish I knew more languages than I do.

Astral said...

Hi, Chirac did not walked away because M.Seilliere spoke english (Chirac is fluent in english and has certainly no problem with the language!), but because M.Seilliere, who started his speech in french, suddendly turned to english because he said "english is the language for business". English is no more the language of business than french is the language of poetry, or italian the language of arts. Any speech can be given in any language, in other words, a language is not used according to the content of a speech but according to your audience. In this case, the audience was the european council and as far as I know, the very vast majority of attendants don't have english as their mother tongue. All speeches are translated anyway and english was absolutely not necessary. M. Chirac was right to point out this anomaly, but wrong to walk out, he should have said to the audience "Et maintenant, mesdames et messieurs, we are going to hear M.Seilliere speech". That would have had much more impact...

jayzerz said...

Hi astral
I appreciate your comments and I think you agree that Chirac was out of line. It is M. Selliere's choice as to what language he preferred to use for his address. The AP article notes that:

"[T]he EU has bulged from six members, of which three spoke French, to 25 now, many of whom increasingly use English. Questions at the EU press briefings used to be exclusively French, now English dominates."

It is also a fact of life that English is now the World's second language and it dominates in global business transactions. It is in that sense that I presume we refer to English as the language of business. I am all for a world in which all languages are treated with respect. Perhaps the reason why Chirac is catching so much flak at the moment is that his walk out was unecessary.