Language. Mobility. Environment.

Dis-moi dix mots – International Day of the French-Speaking community

Today’s topic does not come at random.

Hear ye, here it comes, the 20th March!

As a matter of fact, today is the Journée Internationale de la Francophonie (International day of Francophony), a day where French speakers or appreciators celebrate the values of solidarity and intercultural bonds bringing the French-speaking countries together.

The term Francophonie was coined in 1880 by geographer Onésime Reclus while working on a report on the French speakers throughout the world. He personally believed that French was the most appropriate linguistic means to spread the values that had driven the French Revolution in 1789. However, the term fell into disuse and was not retrieved until the 1970s, when the Agence de cooperation culturelle et technique was set up. The urge of holding the transnational French-speaking community together, triggered by a shared cultural identity, led to the establishment of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) which ultimately sponsors today’s celebrations in 70 countries across the globe. (Source: journalducameroun.com) These events are aimed at promoting the French language as language of education and development, yet respecting cultural diversity. (For more info, have a look at the Passeport de la Francophonie!)

Although English does not really give French a fair competition, la langue française remains strong as long as organizations such as the OIF makes sure that its influence on a global scale is not undermined. French still has a strong impact on international culture and prides itself on a thriving literary production that flourishes transnationally. Moreover, French is for many the language of success. The motto stands clear: le français est une chance, French is opportunity. French is a force stimulante, as Abdou Diouf, general secretary of the Francophonie has claimed in his speech. This dynamic portrait depicts the Francophonie as a device to make one’s voice heard, “the boldness to say that, together, we can make an impact on our shared destinies”.

The Francophone community embodies the power of language over global dynamics. How language ultimately shapes society, research, development, culture, frames of mind. What language means to the individual, how the individual can engage with a language and with what kind of history and Weltanschauung (I love this word!) that particular language conveys. I like to think of language as an opportunity. Many might (actually, I am pretty sure they do) argue that single languages should have the priority and the voice of the people should be heard anyway, no matter whether they speak the language of former colonizers or not. I agree to some extent: opportunities should be equally available, to anybody, no matter what language they speak. However languages like French, English, Spanish, Chinese, are languages of larger communities, they bring people together. Some of them do evoke a nefarious colonialist past, we cannot deny that. But we can neither deny that these languages today create connections, they actually give people a chance to develop, to think outside the box, to embrace cultural diversity – see?. And if French does that, I do not see why we should perpetually look backwards. French is future!

(And, funnily enough, future comes from French).

Dis-moi dix mots

These are the 10 words selected by OIF for the annual Dis-moi dix mots Games. Participants have 24 hours to produce something creative (a piece of prose, a poem, a visual work and so on) playing with the 10 words announced. This year’s bunch includes AMBIANCER (to enliven the atmosphere), À TIRE-LARIGOT (galore), CHARIVARI (uproar),  S’ENLIVRER (my favourite, ‘to be drunk with reading’), FARIBOLE (nonsense), HURLUBERLU (eccentric, a screwball), OUF (‘phew’ – expressing relief), TIMBRÉ (crazy, nuts), TOHU-BOHU (a pandemonium, a hustle, a mess),  ZIGZAG (well, I guess this is quite clear). Some new words here!

Vive la Francophonie!

Paolo

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