France stages summit to resist rise of English language on TV
France has stepped up resistance to the invasion of the English language with a conference on how to stem the rise of Anglicisms in broadcast media from “Morning Live” to “The Voice”.
The advent of reality TV, American series and foreign-designed formats has seen a dramatic rise in English terms like prime time and titles like Secret Story, Masterchef or Ice Show. Canal Plus TV offers currently viewers two slots called Before and After either side of its flagship show, Le Grand Journal.
The Voice, the singing talent show, may be translated as “La Voix” in Canada but the French version has stuck with the English title. Radio stations, meanwhile are awash with English slots like “Morning” or “Morning Live” for breakfast programmes.
To discuss how to get a grip on the rise of English, the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel, CSA, France’s broadcast watchdog, gathered on Monday linguists and TV and radio bosses at its first-ever summit on “the future of the French language in audiovisual media” at the College de France, one of France’s most hallowed academic institutions, in Paris.
“The idea is not to mete out punishment or play at being grumpy grots who hunt English words, but to take stock of the situation and help channels be aware of their obligations in defending and promoting the French language,” Patrice Gélinet, president of the CSA’s French language mission told Le Parisien.
France introduced the “Toubon” law in 1994 making the use of French obligatory in official government publications, in state-funded schools, in advertisements and French workplaces.
State channels are theoretically supposed to root out English terms and replace them with French equivalents, but France 2, the top public TV channel, for example, has a classical music programme called “la Grande Battle” – pure “franglais”.
Erik Orsenna of l’Académie Française, the official guardians of French, said: “I find putting Anglicisms everywhere, and often not the correct English terms, totally naff. People think it sounds trendy and international, but it’s just naff.”
He quoted his son who thought saying “c’est styly” meant “it’s stylish”. “That’s just ridiculous,” he said.
Using English words was often a ploy to hide “an absence (of thought) or a bad way (of saying something)”.
The best way to counter English was to make French “more beautiful, funny and insolent,” he said.
However, Mr Orsenna admitted that some terms simply worked better in English, like burn-out, whose French equivalent is “syndrome d’épuisement professionnel” (professional exhaustion syndrome).
“That’s really bad as an expression. When the French is that rubbish, you’re better off taking the English,” he said.
France is notoriously protective of its language.
In May, the French parliament approved a proposal to allow French universities to teach some classes in English, but only after weeks of heated debate in which detractors claimed the change could turn French into a “dead language”.
Posted on December 11, 2013