English words like "email" and "networking" pepper digital and economic
parlance in the French-speaking world, to the chagrin of the attendees
at the first French Language World Forum, who are struggling to find
Certain countries have attempted to "frenchify"
different terms cooked up in faraway Silicon Valley and on Wall Street,
but a French-language alternative to words like "tweet" and "hashtag"
remains woefully absent.
"A common lexicon for economic and
business circles still doesn't exist," said Louise Marchand, president
of the Quebec Board of the French Language (OQLF) who published an
online dictionary of terminology, including translations of contemporary
terms used in finance, accounting and new technology -- English words
that sneakily pop up in French-language discourse.
"That's part of
the genius of the English language: Being able to create words rapidly
and efficiently, and to be sure they are used. To create words in
French, we must work very quickly. Because once a word from English is
implanted (in everyday speech), it's difficult to dislodge," she said.
is often difficult for words created and embedded in Quebecois French
to cross the Atlantic and take root in European and African
French-language vocabularies -- or vice versa. For example, outside
Quebec, no one uses the word "pourriel" to mean "spam,"
"baladodiffusion" for "podcast" and "clavardage" for "chat."
is the third most commonly used language on the Web and social media
networks as well as in international trade, according to studies cited
at the forum in Quebec, which lasts until Friday.
exists a real need to implement a digital Francophone Web strategy. One
of the first steps in this strategy lies in the 'Frenchification' of
digital terminology," said Claude Malaison, a specialist in digital
communications and business.
A tip for Africa
Africa will account for 80 percent of some 700 million French-speakers,
according to projections by the International Organization of La
Francophonie (OIF), a union of French-speaking nations.
future of the French-speaking world and the French languages is playing
out in Africa," said Milad Doueihi, professor at Quebec's Laval
In the 1990s, the OIF launched the Francophone
Information Highway Fund to promote the creation of Web sites in
But today, "the most important thing is
access" to infrastructure (telephone connection, bandwidth, Wi-Fi etc.)
to facilitate consultation, creation and dissemination of cultural
production in French, said Doueihi, who called for the digitalization of
French without waiting for US giant Google.
Officials from the
OIF in Quebec have already indicated that the fund was being reevaluated
and a new digital strategy may be on the agenda at the OIF's October
summit in Kinshasa.
French and business
access and the launch of an interactive French-language Web could
stimulate exchanges between French enterprises and the development of
business in the North and South of the French-speaking world,
participants at the Quebec forum argued.
"It's as though we were
the only people in the world to question whether our language is a
fundamental asset of our economy," said Lionel Zinsou, an influential