The French President announced in 2014 that he wanted to turn France into “La Start-up Nation”, using Franglais to appeal more young voters. The then-finance minister did not know he would be starting a war between French-language academics and the use of English words in everyday politics a few years later.
Earlier this year, President Macron was lambasted by the French Academy, the custodians of the French language, over the use of English on French ID cards issued since August 2021.
Now the Academy is blasting the French leader, and those like him, for the persistent use of English “gibberish” in politics.
Hélène Carrère d’Encausse, the grand 92-year-old aristocrat who has been the Academie’s Perpetual Secretary for three decades, said: “People do not understand why they must be subjected to this gibberish instead of French.
“This is evidence of a divide between an elitist fringe that claims to represent the ‘start-up nation’, and the rest of society.”
The biometric ID card, introduced in August 2021, contains a microchip and a QR code. But what’s really got the venerable academy’s back up is that every category has been translated in English, so it’s awash with words like “name”, “given name”, “date of birth”, “nationality”, “place of birth” “date of issue” and so on.
The Academy is denouncing a violation of the 1994 Toubon law, which made French the language of administrative documents, along with Article 2 of the French Constitution, which stipulates that “French is the language of the Republic”.
For the first time in its 400-year history, the academy has asked the Prime Minister to intervene, also threatening to take the matter to France’s Council of State, which deals with constitutional matters.
Ms Carrère d’Encausse told Le Figaro in January that normally the body would issue a simple statement on the matter.
But she added: “Nowadays, however, everyone’s comments are on the same footing, so a different approach is needed.”
The far-right in the country is also accusing the French government of “erasing” French identity.
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The European regulation of June 20, 2019, states: “The document title should also appear in at least one additional official language of the institutions of the union,” so only the words “identity card” have to be translated.
But the regulation allows for all “well-established designations” to be translated into another EU language, if desired.
France opted for the fully bilingual version – a move the academy described in an open letter last year as “overzealous”.
Ms Carrère d’Encausse, a historian and former MEP, said: “Under the pretext the EU is advocating an ID document in two languages, an essential principle is being undermined, namely that French is the language of the French republic.”