The extent that other languages are permeated by English is in the news again, with an interesting article in yesterday’s Independent: “France tries to halt march of English”.
The French government is keen to replace currently used anglicisms for 21st century phenomena with French-sounding words. This week saw the results of a competition open to schoolchildren and students to do just that.
Up for grabs was finding a French phrase for “le buzz”, “le tuning”, “le newsletter”, “le talk” as in “talk radio” and “le chat” as in an internet chatroom.
In a previous blog article, I wondered how far we should “defend” a language, commenting “language is a living thing, it grows and borrows quite naturally. English itself is littered with words borrowed from other languages and continues to adopt them.”
Equally, one can understand some people’s aversion to such linguistic “anglophone imperialism”. Certainly it would be wrong to see this as an attempt by a stuffy establishment to stiffle naturally development of language. Afterall one of the competition’s judges is MC Solaar, the internationally renown rapper and creator of the important mid-90s album “Prose Combat”. Ironically this brought francophone rap to the attention of many in the English-speaking world for the first time.
The Independent also points out the judges decided that “buzz” should be “ramdam”, an Arab term for the cacophony when fasting ends at nightfall during the Ramadam religious festival. Talk radio got given the phrase “débat” while the winning replacement for newsletter was “infolettre”.
It will be interesting to see which of the new phrases catch on. Whatever their fate, it is clear that this is a debate that will continue to effect languages in this globalised world.