French upset that English is en vogue

July 20, 2001

Although legal sanctions exist to safeguard the purity of French, the country's academic community is increasingly turning to English.

Every year, the Délégation Générale à la Langue Française reports to parliament offences companies have committed under the 1994 Toubon law, which forbids use of foreign words without French translation in such areas as advertising.

The Académie Francaise is concerned that foreign vocabulary does not infiltrate and corrupt the language of Molière.

Committees of experts devise French alternatives to foreign words and terms that threaten to take root in the national tongue. Proposals accepted by the Academie Francaise are published in an official journal.

In the field of economics and finance, policy mix, tax cut and home shopping have been banned in favour of dosage macroéconomique , détente fiscale and achat à domicile .

In e-business, toile d'araignée mondiale and page d'accueil should be used instead of worldwide web or homepage.

The only permissible exceptions are for students taking one of the growing number of courses in English.

Business schools such as EM Lyon, Essec and HEC started using English for courses years ago. Universities have been slower to introduce courses in English, but Edufrance, a government agency that promotes French higher education abroad, estimates an increase of about 30 per cent over the past five years.

Universities that have established English-language training include the Université de Technologie de Compiègne and Paris-Dauphine.

There are two reasons why French academe is turning to the language of Shakespeare. The first is to give French students language skills for a globalised job market in which English is dominant; the second is to encourage foreign students to study in France. The government is keen to attract more than the 130,000 a year who currently do so.

The Institut Français de Gestion, which specialises in continuing training for managers, and the John Molson Business School of Montreal's Concordia University are launching a joint executive MBA.

Pierre Pariente, IFG's director of programmes, said: "We are convinced the MBA must guarantee the person, and the business, an operational knowledge of English."

Compulsory foreign language lessons will start at nursery school in 2002.

Additional reporting by Miranda Jessel

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