French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warns government against using English language

Ayrault asks his ministers to stop using English words in their work

Paris

The president’s approval ratings are at an all-time low. Unemployment is at an all-time high. So you might think that the French prime minister has more pressing matters on his hands than regulating the use of English in official documents.

Prime MinisterJean-Marc Ayrault, a former German teacher, sprang into action after the industry minister launched a sector with the English title of “Silver Economy” to boost the economic role of the elderly in France.

The same day, Mr Ayrault fired off a memo warning the entire government against resorting to foreign terms. His note on “the use of the French language” dug back into history as far back as 1539 to explain that, as confirmed in the 1992 constitution, “the language of the Republic is French.”

He went on to say, according to the memo leaked to Le Figaro, that “our language is able to express every contemporary reality and describe innovations” in science and technology.

Official France is paranoid about English contaminating the language of Molière. Indeed the Académie Francaise is there to protect the purity of the French language. But more often than not, the Academy tries to slam the stable door shut long after the horse has bolted, particularly in the technological field. For example the Academy ruled in 2003 that “courriel” was the correct French word for email, whereas the emailing French population continues to use “mail” or “mel”.  Its ruling on “tweets” - which have slipped into the French language - is breathlessly awaited, after it tried to outlaw the use of the English word “hashtag”.

Meanwhile, the silver-haired Mr Ayrault doesn’t appear to be following his own instructions. Only two days after circulating his memo, his official Twitter account on Saturday sought to heal a rift with German Chancellor Angela Merkel after Socialist party heavyweights called for a “confrontation” with Germany. Immediately following the tweet in English, was a version in German.

Some observers have interpreted the alacrity with which Mr Ayrault reacted to the “Silver Economy” program as a further sign of his tense relationship with the maverick Industry Minister, Arnaud Montebourg, who yesterday called for “the opening of hostilities with the European Union”.  In an interview with Le Point news magazine, he also said he would advise President François Hollande to go on an “earth shattering European tour.”

Montebourg, who is on the left wing of the ruling Socialist party, has been in Mr Ayrault’s bad books since telling Indian steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal that he was “not welcome in France”. It is no secret that the prime minister wanted the ebullient minister fired.

Mr Hollande’s intentions about a government reshuffle remain unclear, and he has sought to calm rumours that he would replace Mr Ayrault. But the latest linguistic spat highlights another feature of the Socialist government: the prime minister is having difficulty controlling his unruly troops.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
From Mean Girls to Mamet: Lindsay Lohan
theatre
Sport
Nathaniel Clyne (No 2) drives home his side's second goal past Arsenal’s David Ospina at the Emirates
footballArsenal 1 Southampton 2: Arsène Wenger pays the price for picking reserve side in Capital One Cup
News
Mike Tyson has led an appalling and sad life, but are we not a country that gives second chances?
peopleFormer boxer 'watched over' crash victim until ambulance arrived
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
i100
Travel
travelGallery And yes, it is indoors
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Tiger Who Came To Tea
booksJudith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Account Executive/Sales Consultant – Permanent – Hertfordshire - £16-£20k

£16500 - £20000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

KS2 PPA Teacher needed (Mat Cover)- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: KS2 PPA Teacher currently nee...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Syria air strikes: ‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings

Robert Fisk on Syria air strikes

‘Peace President’ Obama had to take stronger action against Isis after beheadings
Will Lindsay Lohan's West End debut be a turnaround moment for her career?

Lindsay Lohan's West End debut

Will this be a turnaround moment for her career?
'The Crocodile Under the Bed': Judith Kerr's follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

The follow-up to 'The Tiger Who Came to Tea'

Judith Kerr on what inspired her latest animal intruder - 'The Crocodile Under the Bed' - which has taken 46 years to get into print
BBC Television Centre: A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past

BBC Television Centre

A nostalgic wander through the sets, studios and ghosts of programmes past
Lonesome George: Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains

My George!

Custody battle in Galapagos over tortoise remains
10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Pack up your troubles: 10 best rucksacks for backpackers

Off on an intrepid trip? Experts from student trip specialists Real Gap and Quest Overseas recommend luggage for travellers on the move
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world