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  • French Academy sees linguistic diversity endangering national identity

Comments Jun 21, 2008 2:46 am

while I agree with you that language and law should be kept separated, I don't think

shoddy fact-checking is a good blogging practice, especially when criticizing

a body of dumb old men (the academy) as if they were representative of all

of French people.


among others:

- the baccalaureat is taken in french by every french student.  there are  optional

subjects, including regional language exams, but all others are in French only (except

foreign languages obviously).

- not to deny the importance of anti-semitism in France in the end of the XIXth century (or after),

but I'd like to see some evidence that at the time yiddish speakers were deported while breton-speaking children were just slapped on the wrist.

Reply to at 2:46 am Jun 22, 2008 1:33 am

Was there any mention of major immigrant languages in any of this? The Ethnologue page cited has in the opening paragraph a list - notable among them are over a million speakers of various forms of Arabic, and half million speakers of Kabyle (the latter being a large percentage of the total speakers of that Berber language worldwide).

Also, it is interesting to note that this turn of events comes in the middle of the International Year of Languages, an observance declared by the UN General Assembly last year with French sponsorship.

Reply to at 1:33 am Jun 22, 2008 12:04 pm

Doug Kibbee sends this correction: "the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is not an EU document, but rather a Council of Europe document. The Council of Europe is much larger [than the EU]. To date 23 governments in the CoE have put the treaty into effect, but 24 have not." While France is not a signatory, many of the Charter's goals have been put into practice in France.


Kibbee notes as well that Ethnologue seriously overestimates the number of speakers of regional languages in France, and reminds us that most of these speakers are bilingual. He reminds us as well that French remains international in many contexts.


Nonetheless, as the editorial in Le Monde inadvertently reminds us, propping up a language constitutionally, whether that language is English, French, or a local or immigrant tongue, won't really protect a language.


What keeps a language going, or contributes to its loss, are the attitudes of those who use it or abandon it. These attitudes may be influenced by legislation, but in the end it's the motive and opportunity of its speakers, not the law, which determines the fate of a language.

Reply to at 12:04 pm