French Academy fights government over English on ID cards

The Academy charged with defending the French language has taken aim at the latest encroachment of English - its appearance on the national ID card widely used for travel within the EU.

The Institut de France houses the Académie Française
The Institut de France houses the Académie Française - a body which is fighting back against anglicisation of the French language. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

The latest versions of the laminated cards that were introduced last year have included English translations of the different data fields, like “surname” appearing in italics next to the French “Nom.”

While the move appears intended to smooth passage across international borders for French citizens, the Academie Francaise – founded in 1635 under King Louis XIII to guard “pure” French – is ready to mount a constitutional challenge over it.


“Who has decided to place French and English on an equal footing in this document?” asked Helene Carrere d’Encausse, the Academy’s permanent secretary.

“An essential principle is being jeopardised,” she told the conservative newspaper Le Figaro, recalling that the modern French constitution provides in Article 2 that “The language of the Republic shall be French”.

There is a European regulation requiring the words “Identity Card” to be translated into at least one other EU language, but Brussels leaves translating the rest of the document up to member states.

German national ID cards include translations into both English and French, while even passports issued by Britain — which quit the EU in 2020 — offer French translations.

Complaining that the Academy’s voice is no longer heard in public debate, the body has hired lawyers to write to Prime Minister Jean Castex, Le Figaro reported, “asking him to repeal the provision creating the new national ID card” — so far without receiving a response.

If Castex’s office fails to reply, the lawyers are preparing to take the case to the Conseil d’Etat, France’s top administrative court.

Bruno Retailleau, leader of the conservative Republicans group in the French Senate, tweeted Friday that “the new card no longer really has a ‘French identity’. Why is there such insistence on erasing the substance of our pride and our national unity?”

But speaking on broadcaster RMC, writer and musician Etienne Liebig asked, “Who are we French people to be so very afraid of losing our identity for reasons like this?”

Member comments

  1. It could have been worse. The translation chosen could have been into German – and if Ireland and Malta leave the EU , it might have to be.

  2. My British passport (admittedly printed by a French company) has ‘subtitles’ in French for each section:
    Given names/Prénoms
    and the dates are given bilingually.

    The French ID card is not only a domestic document, but an international one.
    The Academy seems to have forgotten this.

    1. @Mike bonjour The French ID is only recognized within France and La France d’Outre Mer. Vous avez besoin d’un passeport pour tout autre pays.

        1. Not always. The French ID were not always enough in Spain or Greece. Passports were demanded.

  3. Hilarious really considering most official Italian paperwork is in both Italian and French…Not seen any protests in Italy about that ‘infringement’ on their language…strangely it also seems no more in danger of dying out than French is for all French has such vociferous champions…

  4. Time the EU bit the bullet and decided on a common language. Their window of opportunity is fast disappearing , however, if they want anything other than English as that is now the 2nd language taught in 96% of all EU schools.

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French AOP cheese the latest victim of France’s drought

Your cheeseboard board might have to go without a classic French cheese for some time, after production was halted due to the impacts of drought. 

French AOP cheese the latest victim of France's drought

Production of Salars – a type of cows’ milk cheese from the central French département of Cantal – has been halted for an indefinite period, as France suffers its worst drought on record.

Across the country rivers have run dry and water restrictions have been imposed – and now the cheese-makers are affected too.

The Salars cheese is an AOP (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée), meaning the rules for its production are carefully defined – to be authentic, the cows’ diet must be at least 75 percent grass from pastures within the Auvergne region.

But as the drought continues, the normally fertile volcanic earth in Auvergne has gone hard and dry, and the grass has died – for the 78 AOP cheese producers in the region, their cows have not been able to graze for weeks.

READ MORE: Ask the expert: Why is France’s drought so bad and what will happen next?

“There is nothing left to eat at my place,” said Laurent Roux, a farmer at Gaec de la Calsade in Cantal, to Francetvinfo.

“In some places, the ground looks like ashes. It’s dust,” he added. Roux’ cows have not been able to graze since June 25th. 

While this is the first time a full production stop for Salers has occurred, it is not the first time the AOP has had to contend with challenging climate conditions.

Some farmers had to temporarily suspend production in 2017, and in 2019, the AOP requested a waiver to decrease cows’ share of grass in their diets to 50 percent rather than the usual 75 percent.

However, farmer and head of the AOP, Laurent Lours, said this option was not on the table this year. “It is not worth it because we do not even have 50 percent of the grass,” he told the local station of France 3

He expects production to drop by at least 15 percent this year, as the cheese is only produced on farms between April 15th and November 15th. 

READ MORE: More than 100 French villages without tap water in ‘unprecedented’ drought

For individual farmers, many will turn to Cantal cheese (rather than Salers), which has less restrictive regulations for its production. Doing so also means that they will earn less – a loss of €200 per 1,000 litres of milk.

As for consumers, they can expect a shortage in stores and increase in prices for Salers cheese.

The drought is expected to continue for the foreseeable future, with the possibility of impacting other cheeses and AOP products.

In Switzerland, producers of Gruyère cheese are also worried about a lower quantity of milk production and are considering bringing their cows down to the plains earlier than usual this season.

From the mussels in the bay of Mont-Saint-Michel (as a result of a lack of fresh water in the rivers) to the Espelette peppers being lost to high temperatures, drought will likely impact a range of France’s unique ingredients.