In a letter circulated to government ministers, French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault took aim at the use of English in official communications, and reminded his cabinet colleagues that “The language of the Republic is French,” according to French daily Le Figaro.
“Our language is able to express every contemporary reality, and describe innovations that are constantly being born in the areas of science and technology,” Ayrault said in the letter, dated April 25th.
The prime minister went on to remind ministers that French had been “inscribed in the constitution of 1992” as “the language of administration, and of the courts.”
Ayrault’s scolding note came the day after two government ministers launched a major economic initiative, under the English title of “Silver Economy.”
Arnaud Montebourg, minister for industrial renewal and Michèle Delaunay, junior minister for the elderly, announced on April 24th their plan to form an entirely new sector of the French economy, which would group together all businesses related to older generations.
One of their advisors attempted to justify the now-forbidden use of English saying: "The English term seems to us most appropriate for a sector planning to expand exports".
This isn’t the first time in recent months that the use of English has caused a stir in the highest echelons of the French establishment.
In January, The Local reported that France’s official ‘language police’ had called for the demise of the word “hashtag,” recommending instead the somewhat unwieldy “mot-dièse.”
Bénédicte Madinier, from France’s ministry of culture, weighed in on the controversy.
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“People say 'it’s impossible', or 'it’s ridiculous' to use a French word, but is it really? Is it really that ridiculous to ask people to use 'nuage' instead of 'cloud'? For some it’s just fashionable to want to use English, but like all trends, this will change,” she told The Local.
In February, eyebrows were raised when British poet Michael Edwards was elected to the Academie Française – the elite institution with the onerous task of protecting the French language.
Last month, French academic Claudia Senik sparked a worldwide debate after telling The Local the French people would be less miserable if they spoke English and other foreign languages.