Since a few decades, anglicisms in French have become more and more used. As a French teacher, specializing in teaching my mother tongue to foreigners, I am obviously supposed to follow the French Academy’s approach of the French language (which I usually do during my lessons!) by teaching the most acceptable French grammar and vocabulary.
However, there is a reality that nobody can deny despite the fact that purists hardly recognize it : those last decades, anglicisms have invaded the French language (6% of the total common words according to the French Academy in 1998). Words such as : corporate, impacter briefer, buzz, geek, burn-out, challenge, cash, prime-time, casting…have become more and more commonly used by the medias and the citizens. With the explosion of new technologies during the past years including social networks such as Facebook, Tweeter…we started to employ :
“ tweeter “ (to send a tweet)
“ liker ” (to like on Facebook)
“ poster ” (to post a text on a network)
“ faire le buzz ” (to do a buzz)
“ un geek ” (someone who is a compulsive user of the latest technologies)
“ un follower ” (someone who is connected to your account on Tweeter)
Most commonly used anglicisms in French
Baby-sitter – blackout – boom – boss – brainstorming – break – briefing – business – camping – casting – checkup – clash – coach – comeback – cool – crash – design – duty free – escalator – fair play – fastfood – hobby – holdup – interview – kidnapping – leader – lifting – look – overdose – pacemaker – package – parking – planning – pool – punk – racket – remake – rock – royalties – rush – scoop – self control – sexy – shopping – show – skate board – sponsor – stress – striptease – talk show – week-end
English influence on the French language has also resulted in the creation of words that have English features, either with the addition of the gerund -ing ending or the use of all or part of an English noun, with words such as ‘le footing’, ‘un brushing’ and ‘le cocooning’.
Leafing through the French version of Elle magazine this week, I read as a title of a column : “tout ce que vous avez liké, tweeté, forwardé cette semaine” (everything you liked, tweeted and forwarded this week). Indeed, not that far from the English translation. As I was reading that, I could imagine the lightening in the eyes of the members of the French Academy (knowned as Les immortels the immortals) even if it is hardly likely that these dignified defenders of the French language ever flip one day the pages of Elle magazine.
To say or not to say
As a quick reminder, The French Academy, officially established in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, whose mission among various others is the battle to protect French from English, has published on his website a list of neologisms and anglicisms with precise instructions “ to say “ and “not to say”. The “not to say” column in addition to mention the banished word, offers alternative sentences or words to get round it. Unfortunatly, they are usually replaced by outdated words or very long sentences which have the inconvenient of being obsolete and rarely employed in everyday conversation.
A French philosopher and member of the French Academy has launched in March 2013 a fresh campaign against the use of English in France, making particular reference to advertising campaigns. Michel Serres has appealed for French citizens to boycott products that are advertised in English and films which do not have translated titles.
How not to see in the philosopher’s forceful approach a point of view which restricts freedom in the language. The latter is in constant evolution and should never be set forever. People are inventing new words and expressions everyday. Twenty years ago, it was the Verlan an argot in the French language, featuring inversion of syllables in a word. The name verlan is an example: it is derived from inverting the sounds of the syllables in l’envers (“the inverse,” pronounced lan-ver).
People are inventing new phrases and new words every day. Language should be a personal affair, and not a government policy…This is the key point, the ideal solution to language issues is not to have things banned by the French Academy.
Mastering a language well is not just a question of using the right words, expressions or correct grammatical structures approved by a high authority. It also has something to do with the richness, the complexity, the diversity, the creativity of the language beyond the established linguistic norms.
It is also a source of constant invention that reflects the complexity of the moment and allows us to find Le mot juste in any occasion. Anglicisms in French are finally just a reflect of our civilization.