Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Pardon My French

Worthwhile NYT article on the changing position of the French language as a cultural connector:

French is now spoken mostly by people who aren’t French. More than 50 percent of them are African. French speakers are more likely to be Haitians and Canadians, Algerians and Senegalese, immigrants from Africa and Southeast Asia and the Caribbean who have settled in France, bringing their native cultures with them.

Which raises the question: So what does French culture signify these days when there are some 200 million French speakers in the world but only 65 million are actually French? Culture in general — and not just French culture — has become increasingly unfixed, unstable, fragmentary and elective.


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  1. Interesting to someone who misspent his youth taking French (Spanish obviously would have been more useful). Certainly makes one wonder about the efficacy of efforts in France jealously to guard “French culture.”

  2. MB

    I failed on any number of language efforts – casual Japanese among friends in Hawaii, German in school and friends Germany, French in high school, and Spanish in college.* But among the many things I learned from this tourism was much is always lost in translation.

    While I benefit greatly from the (practically, in my world) universal adoption of English, I still think something valuable is lost as more opt for English over other languages. The precise nature of that loss is the subject of the article, and is what I find so fascinating.

    *Of all these, I’ve only managed to keep the basics Spanish – improvement is a much desired long term project.

  3. My French prof was so hardcore he learned Greek so he could read Homer in the original. He often noted that the precision of French and other languages is frequently lacking in English. Sadly, I have no such skills, and — lacking practice — about the only French I remember is a phrase in appropriate for a family website, but useful should I ever find myself (as an American) in Paris.

    You may discern the flavor of it from the fact that my prof was in Special Forces.

  4. anonymous

    That sounds really dumb and ignorant whoever said taht spanish will be more usefull. Millions of people speak spanish in the worl as well. Besides, they are losing their culture just like the French so keep that thought to yourself.

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