En Français, S’il Vous Plait

Just read Pardon my French, article written by Michael Kimmelman for the New York Times.
Mr. Kimmelman met with Eric Zemmour who works at the conservative French daily paper Le Figaro. Complaining about the end of the French language, Zemmour blames everyone from the immigrants to the middle class and even the upper class. According to him, nobody in France cares about preserving the unique French culture that he believes doesn’t exist without keeping the French language. Mr. Zemmour thinks that France has to defend the French language which is under siege. Translation: English language has overtaken the world.
Whenever I open a French magazine, I am indeed amazed by the growing number of English vocabulary that is now present in most headlines. It is more evident in feminine and fashion magazines and of course anything linked to the high tech and internet world is definitely in English. Even my sister who lives in France and isn’t fluent in English drops English words such as boss, job, cool, news through her e-mails which are called mail in France.
On the other hand, to add a je ne sais quoi to their articles, American magazines love to sprinkle a French word here and there.
A strange language is spoken in my home in California. The mix of French and English would sound perhaps shocking to Mr. Zemmour but it is our trademark. Although my husband and I speak fluent French and address our children in our native language, they answer in English and always talk together in English. Lively conversations happen in both languages and more often in a unique blend of both. I suspect it is the case in many households in the US and despite Mr. Zemmour’s fear,it is also happening in France.
Languages evolve as does the world. The French language Africans speak in the 18th arrondissement in Paris or young Arabs in the Parisian and big ciites suburbs is not exactly the proper French I learned at school. Words mix and match and yes, sometimes clash against each other. But isn’t the thirst for communication more important?
Young people are hungry for contact with each other. And yes, English is the language they use to share the universality of human experiences and feelings.
Each language is beautiful and I understand Mr. Zemmour’s desire to keep them alive. But it is because they are living that languages evolve and change.
After almost twenty years spent in the USA, I still read in French every day although I almost never write in French anymore. Writing in English is my way to belong to my adoptive country. It links me to a culture that is not mine by birth but by choice.
Strangely, I have never been more interested in the role languages play in people’s search for their place in the world than now, far from my homeland. Writing in English hasn’t made me less French or more American. When I share stories about France and the French language through my writing or with my American friends, I contribute to the keeping of the French culture more than I did when I lived in France.
If only for that reason, I am willing to loose some of the proper French I learned at school. I already did a long time ago anyway to communicate with my four children.

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