Thursday, June 19, 2008


Worst enemy of the Francophonie: Le restaurant francais

Corsica is fighting a tough battle to keep its language. However, it’s easy to forget that the language displacing Corsican all over the island – French – is also fighting a battle for survival.

To find the enemy troops that are undermining the bulwarks of the French language, one needs to look no further than the restaurants in the Cote d’Azur, France’s famous wine regions, and of course our favourite French island of Corsica. On these battlegrounds of the tastebuds, French waiters sometimes insist on speaking English. Even when you ask for your meal in half-decent French.

Imagine the plight of an English speaker who has gone to night-school for a year to learn the basics of French. He has then gone to France for a well-earned holiday, eager to try out his new-found language skill in a brasserie … only to hear the waiter ride roughshod over his attempts in well-oiled anglo-restaurant-speak. It’s hardly surprising that three-quarters of us give up, and resort to speaking English a bit LOUDER. Leaving the French language diminished.

Many is the time I have been out-languaged by an aggressive and unsympathetic waiter (note the masculine gender – no oversight) who insists in speaking English despite the fact that his English is much worse than my French. One English friend actually faced down a waiter in these circumstances, asking, in his always immaculate French “Is my French so bad that you must continue to talk to me in my own language?” He received an apology. Perhaps more of us should do this – if for no other reason than to give the French language a much-needed boost.

I just carry on speaking French. I'm happy for people to practice their English on me - so long as I can practice my French on them.
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