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Speak You Globish?

photo, tables, chairs, leaves, luxembourg

While it was warm enough, in the Luxembourg

Church Kicks Halloween

Paris:– Monday, 25. October 2004:– The 'new' news about English being compulsory in French education is obviously too new to be widely known, much less being 'staunchly opposed' by anyone. There was a report on TV–news last week about the tentative plan to introduce English lessons earlier in the school cycle, possibly in grade two.

This is a bit like the plan, repeated about every five years, to make everybody in France computer literate. Aside from 'computer–literate' being a oxymoron, the various plans never got further than the previews of their proponents. It now looks like the combination of video games and being able to copy movies on DVDs may be the honey that attracts computers to households.

Jean–Paul Nerrière, former vice–president of IBM Europe, writing in Le Monde on Friday, suggested that the language that should be taught might be 'globish.'

In case you are unfamiliar with this, 'globish' consists of 1500 words, mostly simple to pronounce somewhat more approximately than the language of Gore Vidal, Mark Twain and Tony Blair combined. Happy enough with it are Jacques Chirac, José Bové – and – CNN Paris.

About 300,000 students in prestige schools will be asked to take English exams this year, but without an oral test. If they opt for the oral exams they will pick up a couple of extra points, worth no more than for regional languages. For the national education system, to progress professionally, speaking Basque or Breton is considered equally useful for communicating in 'Ulan Bator, Buenos Aires, Osaka or Chicago.'

Monsieur Nerrière calls for the education minister to give teachers the means to teach English, because, in the 'global village' fluent English or bilingualism is in demand.

Then he notes that, really, the only French that are liable to learn English are those with parents thatphoto, cour st andre can afford to send them abroad to learn English in countries where it is spoken. He adds that getting the French to speak a 'planetary dialect' – like 'globish' – would be useful for France.

Saturday's Le Parisien seemed to be unaware of this 'great debate.' The Paris daily devoted two pages to lamenting that spoken French is in actual danger in French companies.

The Cour du Commerce Saint–André.

Apparently it has become a major mode to speak 'globish' in certain companies; some of which are entirely French and not foreign subsidiaries. One mentioned is the insurance giant Axa, where a manager was reprimanded for substituting English for German, in a letter addressed to an Austrian.

Some unions see the trend as amounting to harassment for employees who haven't mastered 'globish.' They feel foreign in their own country. This was followed by a list of major companies in France that have adopted 'globish' wholly, partially, or not at all.

One airline pilot who flies routes to west Africa was quoted as complaining about having to speak English with other French speakers, while landing at airports. Apparently Le Parisien is unaware that English was selected as the worldwide language of air control after WWII.

A special sidebar was given to General Electric Medical Systems, located just outside Paris. This company has so 'globished' its communications that its unions are going to take it to court on behalf of employees who feel that they are being discriminated against. Le Parisien wrote that GE is pronounced 'gihi,' and asked, 'Do you speak Franglish?'

The French law in question, 'la Loi Toubon,' affects the Code du Travail, which is a very large set of work rules here. The purpose of the law is to ensure that French speakers will be allowed to speak French in the workplace. Basically it stipulates that the language of companies operating in France is French.

GE sells its medical equipment in 150 countries worldwide, and all of its service manuals are in English – even for equipment sold to French health services. Not having these user manuals in the language of the country could be risky, but GE would rather be profitable – since 149 of these countries aren't full of hungry lawyers.

Judging from Le Parisien's report, much of this penetration of 'globish' has no business purpose. It is simply a fad, forced on employees by megalomaniacs – who themselves speak English no better than Jacques Chirac or José Bové – or George W Bush.

One personal observation – when my boys were studying English in their French schools, I oftenphoto, fountain marco polo had to tell them that correcting – no matter how politely – their teachers was futile. In France, like many other countries, getting good grades is better than getting it right.

The Marco Polo fountain after its renovation.

On the street the 'rule' now is, if somebody wants to talk to you in 'globish,' it is polite to let them rattle on. They have gone to a great effort to learn it – perhaps more than you have done to learn French – and if you haven't, at least you know some of the elementary terms of 'globish' and you may end up finding a friend for life.

But if, like me, you merely speak cracked Franglish, you will be amazed how acceptable lost Parisians find this, if you actually know the way to the street they are seeking. Or seem as if you do. For thanks you'll probably get a "Bye–bye!" The world is just a big language sandwich.

Language Soup

By today Le Parisien is catching up. Shift to Brussels where a French bureaucrat working for the European Commission chaired a press conference to discuss economics, entirely in English. Asked by attending French journalists why the speech wasn't in French, the bureaucrat said, "Mon discours a été préparé en anglais et je n'ai pas de traduction en français." And then he continued in English.

Ten years ago a majority of the documents produced in Brussels were in French, but today they are 60 percent English, only 28 percent in French and a measly 3.8 percent in German, the third 'official' language.

What's happened has been the enlargement of the EC. The ten newest members are largely anglophiles, which has shifted the language balance away from the 50 percent French of the founding members. Worse – two–thirds of the 25 new European Commissioners do not speak French, or not much.

Of the 43–member French crew in Brussels, only a half–dozen are fluent in English. This means that when the BBC wants to interview a 'spokesman,' their choices are limited to Dominique de Villepin or Jean–François Copé on the right, or Dominique Strauss–Kahn and Laurent Fabius on the left. If these are not available, then the BBC talks to Germans or Spaniards.

Le Parisien says the result is seeing English teachers running around from intensive course to intensive course in the 7th arrondissement where many ministries are located.

The paper has a list of 'good students,' ranging from 'excellent' to 'mauvais.' Super–star minister Nicolas Sarkozy 'could do better.' While former foreign minister Dominique de Villepin has been graded 'excellent,' the current foreign minister Michel Barnier is at the bottom of the class.

For the occasion of giving an official speech most ministers can read a prepared text. But when it comes to small talk, or conversations held without interpreters, then the French worry about their isolation.

On the green left, Daniel Cohn–Bendit is reported to be as 'flamboyant' in English as he is in French or German. On the right, UMP deputy for Paris, Pierre Lellouche, is appreciated by the BBC for understanding English–style humor.

One minister who is taking lessons says, 'To make France's voice heard, speaking English – in addition to French – is better.'

Kerry Edges Bush at Harry's

Americans in Paris are getting excited about the election. There was a snap poll at last Thursday's Café Metropole Club meeting. All present said they had either voted, or would be home in the United States in time to do so.

France–2 TV–news mentioned earlier in the week that polls taken around Europe showed that if Europeans could vote, they would vote heavily for John Kerry. He was the choice for something like 80 percent of the French. Kerry also got comfortable majorities in Britain, Germany and Spain. Only Russians favored George Bush, with about 55 percent choosing him over Kerry.

In Friday's Le Parisien there was a page devoted to the traditional 'straw vote' that is held at Harry's New York Bar. Anybody showing up with an American passport can take part in the poll, which is held during the month preceding the election.

With the results still incomplete on Wednesday there had been 133 votes for Bush and 179 votes for Kerry, according to the paper. Voting will continue until Tuesday, 2 November, when the ballots will be totalled as the election results are being shown on big–screen TVs in the famous bar.

In 2000 Harry's customers gave the edge to Bush, with the straw vote showing 54.4 percent for him, against 45.2 percent for Al Gore. The traditional straw vote has only been wrong once, according to legend, when Gerald Ford received an edge over Jimmy Carter in 1976.

According to further legend, Harry's New York Bar was opened in 1911, 1923 or 1924. It was the location of the world's first Bloody Mary cocktail in 1921, and of the first hot dog served in France, in 1925. In lessphoto, harry's new york bar doubt is the name of Harry MacElhone, who took over the existing New York Bar in the Rue Daunou near the Opéra, most likely in 1911 or 1912 – based on the sign in the window in 2001. The bar is famous for the invention of 40 other cocktails.

Harry's New York Bar in Paris.

Le Parisien points out that American banker and business types tend to be Republicans, and they tend to be outnumbered by other Americans living in Paris or passing through. Kerry has been handily leading throughout the duration of the straw vote. The paper adds that France doesn't seem to be a electoral stronghold for the sitting US president.

Bush Cries Wolf

Here in the home of Ketchup–flavored grated carrots, with cheese, we got to see the 'Bush and the Wolves' commercial last Friday on France–3 TV–news. I thought they sure found some homey–looking cute little wolves. The news also mentioned that this election is the most expensive in history, or last week's ads were.

France just bumped off the first of four wolves that it has decided to take out, to keep the hills full of music safe for José Bové's fluffy little lambs. Save–the–Wolves folks came on and said it was just a little–bitty wolf, and didn't really need to be rubbed out. France only has about 39 of them, while Italy has hundreds, and they all live in perfect harmony in the distant suburbs of Rome.

A little later France–2 TV–news showed the folks hanging out around Union Square in Manhattan on Friday. First image–bite was closeup of a t–shirt with the catchy slogan, 'F*** Bush.' See how French TV distorts things in America?

An earlier report was from Huntsville, Texas. I never knew there was more than one prison there. They finished off their five–minute report by saying how many dudes will be bumped off before election day. Was it six? The odd thing is that Americans actually talk freely to French TV–news.

On Friday TV–news was also in Iraq talking to US Army guys. One said, "Maybe we weren't told the truth about WMD." I couldn't hear the other guy because of the French voice–over, but I don't think they were translating all of the shorter words he used. I had the impression that French news was trying to imply that not all the troops intend to vote for their commander–in–chief.

You can deduce from this that the world is playing attention, very interested in what is going on in the United States. Luckily we are not depending entirely on Fox News for our slanted visions.

The Saints March In

The fancy of the French for Halloween seems to be on the ebb, or at least this is what the Catholic church wants us to think. Why the church wants a victory over a harmless pumpkin festival is beyond me – just as getting excited about 'celebrating' Halloween is beyond me.

In France the day after Halloween is Toussaint, which is on Sunday, 1. November. Although notphoto, masts on seine marked on my calendar, I think that the school holiday that is traditional at this time may have begun on Friday and probably lasts for a week.

Starting on Saturday, all Paris was supposed to be shouting 'hallelujah' – a Jewish word by the way. For the first time the church has organized 500 events to take place in Paris during the week of Toussaint.

Masts on the Seine.

Apparently there was a thing called 'Holy Win' in 2002 that was supposed to kick wind out of Halloween's sails. After thinking it over in 2003 the church returns with 'Paris Toussaint 2004' this year, which resulted in a 'vast operation of seduction' when Paris' Cardinal Lustiger inaugurated the big cross in front of Notre Dame on Sunday.

Another reason for all of this activity is the perception that Toussaint is 'sad.' The church wants to change this, plus kick out Halloween's phantoms. It is a 'fête joyeuse, that celebrates the saints that we will all become,' and not some vulgar pagan commercial goblin festival.

According to Le Parisien, there are 120 churches in Paris. This may sound like a lot but it is only an average of six per arrondissement. Most of the time the churches are open but very quiet. They are there if you need one. I'm not sure substituting a Christian techno band for pumpkins is going to make much difference.

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