Meet the Cultural Illuminati Guarding France’s Most Sacrosanct Asset: The French Language

When you’re known as “the immortals,” as are the 40 members of the Académie Française, it’s hard to take yourselves lightly. Over the course of five centuries, 732 of them have walked the earth and reigned as the guardians of France’s most sacrosanct asset: its language. A linguistic secret service, if you like, they project [...]

By |2018-10-01T00:13:45+00:00October 1st, 2018|Académie Française, France, French language|0 Comments

It’s Important to Know Your ‘False Friends’ in English and French

People learning a second language might have heard of the expression “false friend.” This term is used to describe words in different languages that look alike, but have different meanings. Last month, we looked at examples of false friends in two languages, English and Spanish. Today we will tell you about another language -- French [...]

The battle to make French a “gender-neutral language” is emphasizing the country’s inherent sexism

That the French language remains so central to the culture here wouldn’t surprise most people outside the country. Still, having two teenagers in French middle school has taught me to appreciate how profoundly important it remains for people not just to master their language skills, but to perfect them. Whereas the practice of teaching grammar [...]

By |2017-12-19T14:55:38+00:00December 19th, 2017|French language, Gender|0 Comments

On Living, and Thinking, in Two Languages at Once

People ask me whether I think in French or in English now that I’ve lived in the US a while. I lie when I answer this. I say it depends on what I’m thinking about—English for work, French for family and curse words. This answer is usually welcomed as logical: a language for the intellect, [...]

This Language Will Dominate the World in 2050; No, It’s Not Mandarin

For the past decade, the United States has long been threatened by the massiveness of China. It has also reported before that China could take over the U.S. as being the main super power in the world, in terms of economics and finance. With the big shift of investments in China, Mandarin has become one [...]

By |2016-06-23T15:11:56+00:00June 23rd, 2016|French language, Language|0 Comments

French furore over spelling continues

Maurice Druon was the writer and wartime resistant who, as perpetual secretary of the Academie Francaise, lit the linguistic time bomb that is now combusting over Paris. In 1990, responding to a request from then Prime Minister Michel Rocard, he compiled a detailed series of "rectifications" for the French language. Around 2,400 words were affected. [...]

By |2016-02-20T18:58:52+00:00February 20th, 2016|France, French language, Language, Language reforms|0 Comments

Not the oignon: fury as France changes 2,000 spellings and drops some accents

French linguistic purists have voiced online anger at the removal from many words of one of their favourite accents – the pointy little circumflex hat (ˆ) that sits on top of certain vowels. Changes to around 2,400 French words to simplify them for schoolchildren, such as allowing the word for onion to be spelled ognon [...]

By |2016-02-05T23:14:48+00:00February 5th, 2016|France, French language, Language|1 Comment

How One Translator Unlocks Arabic Books for French Readers

Arabic literature is notoriously difficult to translate — not only for the complexity of the language but also for the variety of dialects and the challenge of making the prose accessible to Western readers. Arabic literary translators are few and far between, and the Arabic-to-English translators have become, in their world, akin to rock stars, [...]

C’est impossible! French set to be the world’s most commonly spoken language by 2050

They've been defensive for decades in preserving the purity of the language of love from the threat of globalisation. But now it seems all will have paid off for the French, whose language is set to become the world's most spoken language by 2050, thanks to growing francophone populations in sub-Saharan Africa. While most eager [...]

By |2015-12-22T19:30:27+00:00December 22nd, 2015|Africa, French language, Language, sub-Saharan Africa|0 Comments

Is Beirut the codeswitching capital of the world?

At this high-end organic farmer’s market in downtown Beirut, buyers and sellers speak a mishmash of languages, usually Arabic and English or French. Pia Bou Khater is at the market with me. At the juice stand, she switches too. “Oh, I think I have change,” she says in English, before she continues in Arabic, “3000.” [...]