Hervé Bourges: Francophonie In Crisis

RTL info ran this story on June 4th, 2008:
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.


Edward J. Cunningham said...

"Protect the French language"? I don't see any signs that---at least within France itself---that the French language is on the verge of disappearing. I do see many signs that it is declining in its former colonies, and it's use as an international lingua franca is on the decline. But if this guy is up in arms because somebody in Vietnam would rather study English than French he needs to get over it.

It may well be that in East Asia, Mandarin Chinese may become a preferred lingua franca than English, and the same is already true with Spanish in much of Latin America. It would not be good for the U.S. to get upset solely over this issue.

Snake Oil Baron said...

"while emulating the US in pushing for commercial or diplomatic agreements to include as many French-language provisions as possible"

Does the US really push for commercial and diplomatic agreements to include English language provisions? Maybe they do but I am surprised that such provisions are even necessary.

The last bit is priceless. To paraphrase:

"Lets create a bunch of programs for French speaking writers and the cultural elites and by the way the underdeveloped French nations are going to have to pay more for this stuff."

If France really wants to improve the status of the French language maybe it should try not sabotaging the political and economic development of nations where French is spoken.

Edward J. Cunningham said...

Snake Oil, I'm pretty sure the only diplomatic agreements where the U.S. "pushes" to be written in English are the agreements where they are a party, like the Camp David accords. If Great Britain, Germany, and Austria were to make a treaty like the Triple Entente, the U.S. would not object if it was in French rather than English.

If it were handled the right way, French language education programs could improve the relations between France, her former colonies, and other nations. But if France comes off more upset about the choices nations make about languages than those nations' genuine well-being, France reputation---not the French language itself---will suffer.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

I would also like to learn more about those English-language provisions. I think it is nothing but a lie Bourges made up to justify his call for "uninhibited" imperialism. The gall and mendacity of the whole piece is breathtaking. Just as it has never been denazified, France has never stopped being a colonial power. The mindset that pervades this story seems right out of the 19th century. Yet it is the mindset of many French, especially within the so-called elite. Like Mr. Bourges, many of them even fancy themselves as "Third-World activists". Meanwhile, francophone countries are among the poorest in the world due to "agreements" with France that puts most of their economies into French hands. French military occupation is hated in West Africa, and a lot of its native people are desperate to learn English and emulate the example of Rwanda.
Hopefully they will succeed in this sooner than later.

Anonymous said...

Unfrench write...

Just as it has never been denazified, France has never stopped being a colonial power.

What France needs is a thorough investigation of how many communists are in the civil service and the national parliament right now. I read a book about the Mitrokhin archive notes smuggled out of the former Soviet Union. The book detailed how after the war
(1948?) the Communist Party of France was included in a power sharing agreement and used the opportunity to plant hundreds, if not thousands of agents in the French government.

I also remember reading in The New American that one of Italy's top leftists (Romano Prodi?) was fingered by a KGB defector as being the former Soviet Union's man in Europe. A good part of the push for the EU in France during the Cold War could have been coming from these people, leading France and Europe into a new Eurosoviet.

Considering that many of the Nazi collaborators are dead, what France needs now is a program to locate the communist agents and collaborators and have them expelled from the media and the civil service.

Unfrench Frenchman said...

Your information is correct, Ronduck. I would only add that both Nazism and communism are rife in France because socialist ideologies in general usually enjoy a great appeal in dechristianized, materialist societies. All these ideologies are rival but they have similar root causes.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Let me add one other point. The volume of the Mitrokhin notes I read did not mention that the Soviet Union spent more money on the US antiwar movement than it did on weapons for the North Vietnamese, instead I found it in a review of the whole series. Normally it is a lot of fun to mock France, despite the good things it has done, but now it seems years of internal subversion and active collaboration have reduced us to electing one of the most far-left presidents since JFK. A White South African that moved to Germany stated on the iSteve blog that "this election has been the coming out of the idiots". I believe the South African was referring to the Obama supporters in Germany, but it is true here in the US as well.