Saturday, March 25, 2006

Vowel Play …

"Poor Jacques had an attack - an anti-English gripe.
Sounds bizarre, wherever you are, for a nation who still eat tripe."

All is not well in Brussels. Not when it comes to language, it isn’t. At a recent EU Summit meeting, French Unionist Ernest-Antoine Seilliere addressed the forum in … Gasp! Shock! Horror! English!

With every European Minister sitting comfortably around the big oak table, Mr Seilliere, top cat of the French employers' association UNICE, began his address in English. He was soon to be interrupted by French President Jacques Chirac who asked "Why yew speeke zee Eeengleesh?" Seilliere replied "because English is the working language of this particular session and the accepted business language of Europe today."

Chirac, 73 going on 6, showed his temper and along with Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Finance Minister Thierry Breton, walked out.

A bit like 'it’s my ball and me and my gang are going to play with it outside'.

The following day, Mr Chirac explained his actions by saying: "France has great respect for its language. It has been fighting for a long time to establish the presence of the French language - whether it be at the Olympic Games, where it was contested for a while, whether it be in the European Union, or at the United Nations." He then went on to say that he was "deeply shocked" that a Frenchman chose to address the summit in English.

Oh, come on Jacques. We were deeply shocked when London was bombed in July last year but just because a Frenchman addressed a business meeting of multi-internationals in another language, you don't have much of a case.

Mr Chirac does, believe it or not, speak very good English. I remember conducting an interview with him during a G8 Summit in Cologne. We were shooting a 2-camera exclusive for a certain American cable news network and Monsieur Le President was eloquent, commanding and not exactly stumped for something to say.

Mr Seilliere went on to urge EU leaders to "resist national protectionism in order to avoid a negative domino effect". In real English, it means "sink or swim".

Not every member of the EU speaks French and English is becoming more dominent with business meetings etc. If Jacques really wants to plead a case of 'vowel play', then he ought not to be quite so protective and accept that things are a-changing. May I suggest a couple of things; listen to the FM radio stations around the country who play non-stop English language pop music or, secondly, wander the streets of the capital and cop an earful of his younger 'cher(è)s compatriots' who seem to have invented their own language, by dropping English words into everyday sentences.

I spoke to a French journalist friend yesterday who said "I'm so embarassed of my country sometimes" and even my French belovèd had to admit Chirac's reaction was "typically French".
In the decades to come, finding someone in the larger cities of France who doesn't speak English will be as rare as seeing a Stormtrooper taking a shit.

Oh Bugger.



Anonymous Paul said...

Excellent !

Where did you get the Stromtrooper suit?

Saturday, March 25, 2006 2:02:00 pm  

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