Franglais, and the influence of English

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Franglais, and the influence of English

Nevertheless, though both the Academy and the French government have attempted on numerous occasions to preserve the perceived “purity” of French, modern French has been heavily influenced by English – or rather, by American – and thousands of English words have been brought into French by journalists, scientists, travellers, musicians, showbiz personalities, films, and street culture. Television chat-show hosts and their guests, businessmen and stars of all sorts pepper their French with words of English origin, which at first are quite incomprehensible to ordinary French speakers. This type of talk is known as “Franglais”. One recent example, heard in a business context, is “une to-do liste” , which appears to have entered the French language in around 2007. Words like “le shopping” or “un parking” or “le hard discount” are now so well established in modern French that many French speakers do not even realise that they are borrowed from English.
Anti “Franglais” measures have had a few successes or half successes. After “un pipeline” entered the French language in the 1960s, the Academy banished the word, decreeing that the French word for an oil pipeline was “un oléoduc”: and that is the word now used. But attempts to banish “email” have met with less success, and the purist’s alternative, “un courriel” has only managed to establish itself as an acceptable alternative to “email”, used notably in official communications.

Among the reasons that have helped English make inroads into many languages is the ease with which English forms new words or adapts existing words to create new ones. Although French is a “synthetic” language (i.e. a language that makes great use of inflections – prefixes and grammatical endings ) it does not adapt words to create new meanings with the ease that English does. Just look at the complexity of the expression required to render the English word “anticlockwise” in French… dans le sens inverse des aiguilles d’une montre. Surprisingly perhaps, the English word in this particular case has not entered the French language in spite of its relative simplicity. This is no doubt because it is not everyday vocabulary, not an erudite technical term.

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