Emmanuel Macron launched a drive this week to give the French language a boost. That’s all well and good – but someone should tell the French.
Here, speaking English is cool. I use the word deliberately, as you hear it everywhere.
Macron wants French to have a greater presence online, to become the dominant language in Africa and to be used more in the EU institutions. He also plans to refurbish a château in Villers-Cotterêts, north-east of Paris, and make it a global centre for the promotion and study of French.
All of this could help French rise from its rank as the world’s 6th most spoken language, he estimates.
His hopes are quite different from the reality on the streets of France, however. I’m astounded how much English I hear used casually in everyday speech.
“If I were lost for a word, I reckon I could throw in the English one and people would understand, provided I used a thick French accent”
It wasn’t like this when I was studying at university in Rennes in the 1980s.
Back then, le weekend and le shampooing were all the English that anyone knew. Now, if I were lost for a word, I reckon I could throw in the English one and people would understand, provided I used a thick French accent.
French daily life is full of English words. No comment, has been and win-win are just some of the common ones that have made a direct transfer.
Other English terms have been adapted for French. They include overbooké (yes, it means overbooked), les people (celebrities) and le relooking (makeover).
I even heard le standing ovation on TV last week.
Using English names for shops and bars is also popular. When I popped out to pick up some lunch yesterday, I came across the following within 100m of my front door: FreshWay, Cocoon’s Beauty, Canard Street, Koul & Go, Planet Sushi and Five Guys.
I also spotted HoZone. I’m just hoping that wasn’t meant to be English…