T Nation

Chirac Reaffirms His Idiocy


Chirac vows to fight growing use of English

Nicholas Watt and David Gow in Brussels
Saturday March 25, 2006
The Guardian

Jacques Chirac pledged yesterday to fight the spread of the English language across the world as he defended his decision to walk out of an EU summit after a French business leader abandoned his mother tongue.
"We fight for our language," President Chirac said of the French walkout on Thursday when Ernest-Antoine Seilli?re, the French head of the European employers' group Unice, addressed the summit in "the language of business".

Mr Chirac added: "I was profoundly shocked to see a Frenchman express himself in English at the table."

The walkout provided a vivid illustration of French sensitivity about the decline of the language, which used to dominate the EU. English has overtaken French in Brussels after the arrival of Sweden and Finland in 1995 and the "big bang" expansion of the EU to eastern Europe in 2004. With the internet fast turning English into the world's first language, Mr Chirac insisted that he would continue to promote French, which is spoken as a mother tongue by 100 million people, a relatively small number.
"You cannot base a future world on just one language, just one culture," he said. "It would be a dramatic decline."

The French protest set the mood for the EU summit, which was overshadowed by unease at a growing tide of protectionism. Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, believes France is engineering a merger of Gaz de France and Suez, the Franco-Belgian energy giant, to undermine a bid for Suez by its Italian rival. Tony Blair and other leaders insisted that the summit had made progress in laying the foundations of a common energy policy. Launched last October, the initiative gained urgency in January when Russia reduced gas supplies to the EU in a row with Ukraine over prices.


I'm not really interested in the semantics of the situation, so you guys can go ahead and talk about that, what struck me is his comment about one language, one culture.

English is essentially that language of the world now, and obviously still spreading. It makes me wonder if historically this has been the case, that there was one language spoken by many across many cultures, but I highly doubt it.

Personally, I think it's great to have one language in which we can all understand each other, but I also think it could get out of hand. If we all become one homogenous culture, well, I would frankly call that boring. Sure, this won't happen overnight, but perhaps English dominating the world as a language is an indication of things to come.


I think people are afraid of diversity...especially old people. They hate change. I have nothing against French. I speak it enough to get by. I have no desire anywhere in me to force the entire world to change and be more like whatever I speak the most. I don't even understand why that level of control is even wanted. the only people I feel have a point are Americans as far as English being expected HERE in this country. I just don't understand people who live here for years and STILL don't know the language.


I agree with the Prof here (believe it or not!).

Simply put, the U.S. should adopt a law or an admendement making English the "official language" of the U.S. Can anyone understand why this is resisted?


English is the lingua franca of today as was Latin from the days of the Roman Empire until the 15th century or so, then it was French...

This is not new...


never has it been globalized. French/Latin/Greek were only around the Med. The Chinese weren't speaking Latin/French. They are speaking English, though.


I'm just glad it is english that is dominant, and not some language that I don't know...


Me, too. I was too dumb to learn Spanish beyond "Una mas cerveza," and "Donde es el bano, por favor."

(Although, those two sentences do go together.)


Spanish is the only class I ever sat in and felt stupid. Two years of high school, two semesters of college (got As in each class) and still can't make a sentence to save my life.


The reason this is resisted is because, to some people, the American ideal is to be a country for everyone. No matter where one is from or what one's background is, a person can come here and through hard work and determination become every bit a citizen as someone born here...a meritocracy if you will. That is a beautiful concept, and really what I love about America the most. Now, obviously that has limits and not just anyone can come here at any time, but that is a very powerful concept: that every man/woman's citizenship will be just as valued as the next regardless of country of origin, race, sex, or religion.

Now, not having an "official" language is symbolic of that ideal to many people. This being a free market of ideas and cultures, and being a place of and for all people, there is no one langauge that defines us all. If this were truly a free market, people would be compelled to learn English by market forces, not forced to by doctrine. If a person can be successful and live the life they want within our system of law without ever learning English, more power to them.

And I do agree with that in prinicipal, however in my opinion basic communication is so very essential that I believe having a standardized form of language far outweighs the value of a mostly symbolic gesture. I do however respect and understand the other viewpoint on this issue, and it honestly would leave a bad taste in my mouth to define English as an "official" language because it sends a message to our citizens of foriegn origin (whose citizenship has every ounce of value that yours and mine has) that their language has less worth than ours.


Just imagine the uproar if any major American politician walked out of a meeting because an American dared speak Spanish in his presence.


why should it leave a bad taste? My grandparents got off the boat and learned English. They came here TO BE AMERICAN. Not to be Italians who just so happened to make a living in America. We need people who WANT to be an american. I do not see it as wrong to expect people who come to this country to make a sacrifice and learn english.

Remember, we're supposed to be a melting pot. One Culture that everyone contributes to. One culture needs ONE language. Our country has succeeded largely because we have been ONE PEOPLE. Not Italians, Germans, French, English, Chinese, etc. Americans. If we allow our society to fracture then i think we will suffer for it.


Giving credit where due, TC's last article is about this. It is more on us to realize that other countries need their pride as well. We can be as big and bad as we want to be, but pretending as if no other countries need to feel significant will only lead to pure hatred of us across the globe which is NOT in our best interest.

You can't compare how they would react to America responding like that because America isn't considered on the same level as France. This is the exact same thing explained to people when they want to cry racism because a black man stated something that a white man couldn't in public.


As you can see from my post, I agree with you. The reason I say it would leave a "bad taste" is mainly because I know that many of our "foriegn" citizens would have the perception that we do not value their language and culture. I did not mean to imply that it would leave a "bad taste" because it was the wrong course to take. I agree with your post 100%.


Why has everyone gotten off the subject?

For the first time in history (again, correct me if I'm wrong on this, so far no one has), one language has been the "language of the world," that very many people speak, and that anyone with a job in politics or anything that requires interaction with other nations is almost required to speak.

Does anyone see this as a problem? I personally don't, but I'm much more interested in the opposite viewpoint.


You have a problem. That problem is that you don't realize that this isn't really about what you think. It isn't about what I think. It is about what those who feel they are being trampled on think and whether their opinion is valid. In between all of these cries for "spreading democracy", you would think that the values of others wouldn't be so readily trampled.


Most languages are dying out pretty rapidly, in a historical context. I'd guess that in a few hundred years, our decendents will speak some blend of English, Mandarin, and Spanish. Those that refuse due to 'cultural reasons' will find themselves marginalized and relegated to the 'backwaters' of whatever society then exists.


Prof, I'm Romanian. Nine people out of ten that I've met didn't know Romania existed. Of that remaining person, there is a 75% chance he or she can't even place it on a map. Our language is spoken practically only in our country, and it is one of those tongues that no one takes the time to learn. I am one of those people you're talking about.

Romanian is one of the most unique languages of all, because of its surroundings. The Roman conquest of the Dacians in present-day Romania and its surroundings made Romania one of the five Romance languages, along with Italian, French, Spanish, and Portugese. While Italian is the closest to Latin in sound, Romanian is perhaps the closest to Latin in grammar (this I know from my mom, who knows, in addition to Romanian, English and French fluently, can read and understand Italian, Spanish, German, and Latin). But Romanian is unique because it is surrounded by Slavik countries: Ukraine to the North, Hungary and Yugoslavia to the East, Bulgaria to the South, and we've had an interesting history with the Turks. Mix the beauty and grandeur of Latin with the often gritty sounds of Slavik languages and you have Romanian.

So let me tell you, I would fucking hate it if everyone in Romania had to suddenly speak English.

But the issue in today's world is communication between countries, in an era of multi-national relations, the UN, etc, etc. I can see some arguing there should be one language that all should speak, in addition to their native tongue. I can see some saying that everyone should be versed in the languages of the most prominent countries, English, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, etc.

I can't say which one is the best of the two. Of course it would be easier if there was only one language to learn, such as English, but this would go to the head of an already too proud, too naive country, and obviously it pissed off Chirac. But there aren't many alternatives here. Interpreters only go so far when representatives from practically all the world meet in one room.

So, I, for one, am saying to bite the bullet and learn English, for the sake of practicality (if that's a word). It doesn't mean that individual cultures have to die out. And I know this isn't a great solution, but I don't see many alternatives. If you find one, be sure to let me know.


Pride is the reason there is an issue...on both sides. I am not surprised they want to hold onto and express their own language. I am actually more surprised that the spread of English at present is still not enough for some people HERE as they jump on other countries for wanting to hold onto what they take pride in.

For the record, I know where Romania is and I knew it existed.


It's true that pride is the issue on both sides, but the pride that many Americans have when they jump on other countries for not adopting the English language is more than pride, it's nationalism, it's egotistical, perhaps narcissistic. I have nothing wrong with the pride smaller countries have for not wanting their language obliterated though...

But again, what alternative is there...? If more and more people adopt English as a second language, I only hope they will retain their native tongue with all their fucking heart. I love America, I think it's a great country, but I wouldn't want it to take over other cultures.

And of course you knew about Romania, you're intelligent, the rest of the population isn't. =P

I'm curious though, what do you know about Romania? Most people, if they know of it, think of orphans and our girl's gymnastics team.