Wednesday, Mar 21, 2007, 12:40:35

Francophones sue Ishihara over anti-French comments

It is not surprising that Mr Ishihara is in the "japan-bashing"-limelight again.

Willingly or unwillingly he has become the prime represantatve of the "right-wing nationalist , revisionist male-chauvinist" japanese politacal land-scape in the conscience of all "Japan-watcher" "gaijin-on-guard" world community .

What is interesting in this burlesk francophile upcoming litigation is ..... why ? What motivates a handful of french-teachers in japan to this rather extraordinary venture.

The french language:

The french language has its roots in latin as the celtic speaking gauls adopted and gradually changed their spoken language into a kind of pidgin latin .This was later adopted and further changed by the invasion of germanic speaking frank tribes in 3.-4. century. Latin quickly became a lingua franca across the entire Gallic region for both mercantile, official and educational reasons, yet it should be remembered that this was Vulgar Latin, the colloquial dialect spoken by the Roman army and its agents and not the literary dialect of Cicero. Latin was first adopted in the South and then spread to the main Northern cities. However, it was not accepted by the majority of Gauls until as late as the 4th century AD.

Thereupon came many changes and influences: The Alemanni , the Burgundians , the Visigoths , Gascon and Provençal, Picard, Walloon, Francien , Brythonic ,the Normans .

The Arab peoples also supplied many words to French (élixir, orange), spices (camphre, safran), trade stuffs (alcool, bougie, coton), sciences (alchimie, hasard), and mathematics (algèbre, algorithme). For the period up to around 1300, some linguists refer to these languages collectively as Old French (ancien français). The earliest extant text in French is the Oaths of Strasbourg from 842. By the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts in 1539 King Francis I made French the official language of administration and court proceedings in France, ousting the Latin that had been used before then. The first grammatical description of French, the Tretté de la Grammaire française by Louis Maigret, was published in 1550.

The foundation of the Académie française (French Academy) in 1634 by Cardinal Richelieu created an official body whose goal has been the purification and preservation of the French language.

"À l'immortalité" ("to the Immortality of the French language").

The foundation still exists and contributes to the policing of the language and the adaptation of foreign words and expressions. Some recent modifications include the change from software to logiciel, packet-boat to paquebot, and riding-coat to redingote and the word ordinateur for computer . From the 17th to the 19th centuries, France was the leading power of Europe; thanks to this, together with the influence of the Enlightenment, French was the lingua franca of educated Europe, especially with regards to the arts, literature, and diplomacy; monarchs like Frederick II of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia could both speak and write in French.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the French language established itself permanently in the Americas. There is an academic debate about how fluent in French the colonists of New France were since most of them came from northern and western regions of France where French was not the primary language natively spoken by its inhabitants. The French national-state appeared after the 1789 French Revolution and Napoleon's empire unified the French people in particular through the consolidation of the use of the French language. Hence the French language has been essential to the concept of 'France', although in 1789 50% of the French people didn't speak it at all, and only 12 to 13% spoke it fairly well.

In the North as in the South of France, almost nobody spoke French. Compared to Japanese,which have changed relatively little since "Genji Monogatari" and "Makurazoshi" was written 1000 years ago , French is very vulrnable to outside influence and historically has no deep roots in the general population .It therefore needs constant government help and academic guidance to slow its decline and defend its agony and deterrence.

There is some debate in today's France about the preservation of the French language and the influence of English . Once the most universal language, French lost most of its international significance to the English language in the 20th century.

There have been laws enacted which require that all print ads and billboards with foreign expressions include a French translation and which require quotas of French-language songs (at least 40%) on the radio. The legacy of French as a living language outside Europe is mixed . Many former French colonies have adopted French as an official language, and the total number of French-speakers has increased, especially in Africa and in Quebec .

So it is a good idea to learn french if one is planning to live in:

Burkina Faso
Central African Republic
Congo (Brazzaville)
Côte d'Ivoire
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Equatorial Guinea (former colony of Spain)

If not , it may be a waist of time to learn french if one speaks english or one is not married to a frech-speaking person,unless ofcourse one absolutely would like to enjoy reading Victor Hugo or Asterix and Obelix in the original.

Merde , monsieur Ishihara you are right , as an international means of comunication the french language has very little significance in Europe north of Belgium and east of Strassbourg . If a japanese would like to add command of another language besides english we may suggest a few languages of future international importance:

1. Spanish(402 mill. speakers) the fastest growing language in USA . By 2040 the world´s Spanish-speaking population will have increased 103% .

2. Chinese , (1000 mill. Mandarin speakers) an obvious , good choise since the japanese already know kanji .

3. German the fastest growing 2nd foregn language in East-Europe and Russia.

4. Turkish ,(90 mill. speakers) and the most important language from western China all the way to Istanbul,including Uyghur Uzbek ,Turkmen, Kazakh ,Azeri, Kyrgyz ,Tatar , Yakut and Chuwash plus there are turkish TV-chanels in all of Europe.

5. Russian since its a "tonari-san".

All this said monsieur Ishihara you must understand how poor those "france-go no sensei" in Japan must feel.If there would be even fewer japanese "heso-magari" to study french , those 150 gaijin's would become jobless or have to go back home and work as waiters or waitresses. Its only in Japan they can make a living teaching french.

Nowhere else.

by Gabor Fabricius


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