Just Above Sunset
October 24, 2004 - Le 'Must' Globish

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Late in the week you find this in the International Herald Tribune from l'Agence France-Presse (AFP) -


English a must in France?

International Herald Tribune, Friday, October 22, 2004


A new report recommending that English become a compulsory subject in all schools in France has stirred heated debate in the country, with teachers' unions and proponents of linguistic diversity staunchly opposing the idea.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin is said to back the proposal, which was advanced a week ago by a commission looking into the future of France's education system, according to the Friday edition of Le Monde.

Such a move would help French pupils catch up with their counterparts in other EU countries who enjoy a big lead in using what the commission's report called the language of "international communication." Currently, 97 percent of French students opt to study English to some extent, often as their required first foreign language. Overall results, though, are "relatively mediocre," Le Monde noted.

But some politicians who want to see English usage diminished until it is only one of several widely accepted languages - among which French would figure, of course - have rallied against the idea of making English compulsory.

"English is the most-spoken language today, but that won't last," a deputy from the governing Union for a Popular Movement party, Jacques Myard, told Le Monde. He predicted that Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Spanish would all become increasingly important in the future.

Teachers' unions, too, are against the idea, fearing that existing classes in German, Italian or regional French languages such as Breton would dwindle, and even regular French courses could suffer. The final decision could come down to President Jacques Chirac, Le Monde said.

The French leader, who speaks fluent English from his time working as a youth in the United States, has stayed out of the debate so far. …


Joseph, our expatriate American friend in Paris, comments –


They can do what they like, but speaking English (or at least pretending to) is cool again.  For hip young Parisians, "ciao" is out, and "bye bye" is in.  This is recent, and for a while I thought I was being subjected to some new mockery, based on some cultural event or other that I had completely missed.


Yep, Arabic and Chinese may be on the rise, but English is the language of business, and will be for the foreseeable future.  As my own research bears out, full-time MBA programs round the world are taught in English.


But Rick Erickson of MetropoleParis has the real story in another exclusive to Just Above Sunset -


23.10 - Le 'Must' Globish


Globish a Must in France


Paris, Saturday: This 'new' news about English being compulsory in French education is obviously too new to be widely known, much less being 'staunchly opposed' by anyone. There was a recent report on TV news about a tentative plan to introduce English lessons earlier in the school cycle, possibly in grade two.


This is a bit like the plan, repeated about every five years, to make everybody in France computer literate.  Aside from 'computer-literate' being an oxymoron, the various plans never get further than the previews of their proponents.  It now looks like the combination of video games and being able to copy movies on DVDs may be the honey that attracts computers to households.


Jean-Paul Nerrière, former Vice-President of IBM Europe, writing in Le Monde on Friday, suggested that the language that should be taught might be 'globish.'


In case you are unfamiliar with this, 'globish' consists of 1500 words, mostly simple to pronounce somewhat more approximately than the language of 'Somerset Maugham, Mark Twain and Donald Rumsfeld' combined.  Happy enough with it are Jacques Chirac, José Bové - and - CNN Paris.


About 300,000 students in prestige schools will be asked to take English exams this year, but without an oral test.  If they opt for the oral exams they will pick up a couple of extra points, worth no more than for regional languages.  For the national education system, to progress professionally, speaking Basque or Breton is considered equally useful for communicating in 'Ulan Bator, Buenos Aires, Osaka or Chicago.'


Monsieur Nerrière calls for the education minister to give teachers the means to teach English, because, in the 'global village' fluent English or bilingualism is in demand.


Then he notes that, really, the only French that are liable to learn English are those with parents that can afford to send them abroad to learn English in countries where it is spoken.  He adds that getting the French to speak a 'planetary dialect' - like 'globish' - would be useful for France.


Today's Le Parisien seems to be unaware of this 'great debate.'  The Paris daily devotes two pages to lamenting that spoken French is in danger in French companies.


Apparently it has become a major mode to speak 'globish' in certain companies; some of which are entirely French, not foreign subsidiaries.  One mentioned is the insurance giant Axa, where a manager was reprimanded for substituting English for German, in a letter addressed to an Austrian.


Some unions see the trend as amounting to harassment for employees who haven't mastered 'globish.'  They feel foreign in their own country.  This is followed by a list of major companies in France that have adopted 'globish' wholly, partially, or not at all.


One airline pilot who flies routes to West Africa is quoted as complaining about having to speak English with other French speakers, while landing at airports.  Apparently Le Parisien is unaware that English was selected as the worldwide language of air control after WWII.


A special sidebar is given to General Electric Medical Systems, located just outside Paris.  This company has so 'globished' its communications that its unions are going to take it to court on behalf of employees who feel that they are being discriminated against.  Le Parisien writes that GE is pronounced 'gihi,' and asks, 'Do you speak Franglish?'


The French law in question, 'la Loi Toubon,' affects the Code du Travail, which is a very large set of work rules in France.  The purpose of the law is to ensure that French speakers will be allowed to speak French in the workplace.  Basically it stipulates that the language of companies operating in France is French.


GE sells its medical equipment in 150 countries worldwide, and all of its service manuals are in English - even for equipment sold to French health services.  Not having these user manuals in the language of the country could be risky, but GE would rather be profitable - since 149 of these countries aren't full of hungry lawyers.


Judging from Le Parisien's report, much of this penetration of 'globish' has no business purpose.  It is simply a fad, forced on employees by megalomaniacs - who themselves speak English no better than Jacques Chirac or José Bové - or George W Bush.


One personal observation - when my boys were studying English in their French schools, I often had to tell them that correcting - no matter how politely - their teachers was futile.  In France, like many other countries, getting good grades is better than getting it right.


On the street the 'rule' now is, if somebody wants to talk to you in 'globish,' it is polite to let them rattle on.  They have gone to a great effort to learn it - perhaps more than you have done to learn French - and if you haven't, at least you know some of the elementary terms of 'globish' and you may end up finding a friend for life.


But if, like me, you merely speak cracked Franglish, you will be amazed how acceptable lots Parisians find this, if you actually know the way to the street they are seeking.  Or seem as if you do.  The world is just a big language sandwich.  Bon weekend!







Ric refers to this:

L'enseignement de l'anglais aggrave les inégalités, par Jean-Paul Nerrière

LE MONDE | 21.10.04


The items Ric mentions from Le Parisien are not available on line.  Or maybe I cannot find them, as my French is weak now from being away for three years.  But I did find this:


Halloween : l'Eglise contre-attaque

Géraldine Doutriaux

Le Parisien , samedi 23 octobre 2004


Alors que la mode de Halloween a du plomb dans l'aile, l'Eglise mène une offensive d'une ampleur inédite, notamment à Paris, pour se réapproprier la Toussaint. Dès aujourd'hui, près de 500 manifestations, principalement destinées aux jeunes. 




Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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