Language defense groups in France are taking legal action over a so-called “excessive” use of English and mixed English and French terms, by public institutions and businesses.
The newest cases considered breaches of the law include an online bank called “Ma French Bank” launched by the French Postal service La Poste, and signage in French and English at the reconstructed site of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. The latter case refers to a law in which signs must be displayed in two or more languages—the purpose of which was to avoid giving precedence to English.
The group known as Défense de la langue française (Defence of the French language) also won a similar case brought against the Eiffel Tower—arguing that the tourist attraction failed to include other foreign languages in its signage, leading to an increasing “global domination of English.”
According to Louis Maisonneuve, a spokesperson for the Défense de la langue française, a legal complaint against Notre Dame was lodged with the Paris court last Monday, which was also international French-speaker day. As a desired outcome, campaigners want offending bodies to be fined for falling foul of the “Toubon” language law of 1994 and continue to chase individual companies and institutions.
Marceau Déchamps, also of the Défense, said “It doesn’t specify which two languages, but the lawmakers who came up with the legislation didn’t want the English language to overtake French”.
Addressing the conflict within La Poste, Ma French Bank said its brand is working to promote France internationally, and also uses the slogans “made in France” and “le French touch” – a “mix of French and a dash of English while staying accessible.”
The Académie française, a government body dedicated to handling matters pertaining to the French language said last year, “The massive, unstable influx is damaging the identity of our language and in the long term its future.”