France “is not protecting its language” and la Francophonie is in a crisis: a report submitted Wednesday to the government calls for a broad and “uninhibited” francophone campaign against English-language dominance, and especially for giving more importance to Southern countries.
“La Francophonie is little known. It gets little notice because in France we do not believe in la Francophonie, and the country does not protect its language”, explained Herve Bourges, author of the report submitted to Secretary of State for Co-operation and Francophonie Alain Joyandet.
“In France Francophonie appears dated, obsolete, out of touch with the young”, this one-time high ranking official for audio-visual affairs wrote, now a left-wing public figure and a Third-World activist.
According to him, France bears her share of the blame for this “unease” within the French-speaking community, one that claims more than 200 million from Haiti to Vietnam.
France is “too self-centered”, especially due to the “burden of its colonizing past” it “is perceived more and more as hostile by the French-speaking populations of the South”, he observed.
Herve Bourges advocates “ridding the Francophonie of its inhibitions”, making the work of the International Francophonie organization with its 68 States and governments more noticeable, and launching a “linguistic counter-attack, while emulating the US in pushing for commercial or diplomatic agreements to include as many French-language provisions as possible.
“We ought to regain the offensive and further the French tongue in an uninhibited way, the English way, because the linguistic battle is not only about culture or aesthetics: the real stakes are political influence and economic growth”, he wrote.
He stressed that the British Council had just launched a program aiming at increasing the number of English speakers from 2 to 3 billion with an investment of 150 million euros, whereas the OIF programs for the teaching and promotion of French amounted to about 6 million.
To protect the French language, Herve Bourges suggests among other things that Francophonie be taught at school and junior high and that a “French-speaking Academy” be created on the model of the French Academy, but where French writers would be in the minority, along with an “Erasmus program” that would foster exchanges between the universities of the North and those of the South.
We need to ask Southern countries for “a financial contribution and to allow them to be part of the decision-making process”, he explained.
All in all, the Francophonie must be less financially reliant on France “which today shoulders 50% of the Francophonie budget”, he said.
He proposes the creation of a “Francophone Foundation” which would report to the OIF but could raise private funding for language programs.
RTL info ran this story on June 4th, 2008: