General Country Information

Languages: The French constitution, in its Title 1, Article 2 states that “the language of the Republic shall be French”. This article prevented France so far to ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of which it is a signatory. French centralisation led to the fact that regional languages, although actively spoken, were repressed. François Hollande wants to ensure a clear legal framework for regional languages within a programme of administrative decentralisation that would give competencies to the regions in language policy. But end of July 2015, the Constitutional Council gave (again) an unfavourable opinion to a constitutional change. The reasons: The charter endangers constitutional principles like the indivisibility of the Republic and the uniqueness of the French people, depite of the fact that Article 75-1 of the same constitution acknowledges: “Regional languages are part of the French heritage".  François Hollande plans to submit it again to the Parliament and the Congress in 2016.

Co-Official Languages: Currently, there are no languages recognised as co-official languages. This does not mean that there are none. A 1999 report identified 75 languages that would qualify as regional or minority language under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

Languages Strategies: France introduced in 1994 a law for the preservation of the French language against the “invasion” of Anglicisms (Loi Toubon). Public texts, TV or advertising are not allowed to use words of English origin. The “Délégation générale à la langue française et aux langues de France (DGLFLF)” substitutes English words with French ones, e.g. “courriel” (Courrier électronique) instead of e-mail. Following a report to the Prime Minister in 2000 concerning the major role of HLT in the Information Society, the Techno-langue programme was launched in April 2002 as a large French national programme on Language Technologies that lasted until 2006. The website with the financed projects is still available. Specific results, e.g. from the CESART project that enabled to carry out a campaign for the evaluation of terminology extraction tools (monolingual French), are available at the ELRA website.

In 2006, the French government commissioned a study on “Language Technologies in Europe". In its conclusion, the study states: “Several factors incite decision-makers to integrate innovative solutions into their company to intelligently manage digital content [...] The progressive use of ICT leaves us to predict that the language tools market will open towards the general public. The need is felt to take marketing actions to optimize the appropriateness of the supply and demand.” [Emphasis added]. Alas, neither marketing actions followed suit, nor did France continue with the Technolangue initiative. However, there is an attempt to revive it in a “Technolangue II” programme, see below.

Current Languages Strategies: A special web section of the Ministry for Culture and Communication is dedicated to "The French languages and languages of France". It is run by the DGFLFL (see above) to “coordinate and animate the language policy of the government”. The recent Guide des bonnes pratiques linguistiques dans les entreprise issued by DGLFLF is geared at companies in France and working at international level to reconcile the use of French with the need of a global communication. The same DGFLFL issued in 2014 a summary paper on “Digital technologies at the service of languages" where it points out short-term and long-term initiatives.
Existing:
Crowdsourcing: To enrich the French language.
The JocondeLab: Project where ca. 300.000 artworks are described in 14 languages.
Short-term:
SémanticPédia initiative: a Collaboration of the Ministry for Culture and Communication, INRIA and Wikimédia France. A one-day workshop (cooperation CNRS and Ministry of Research) as a stepping-stone for a big national programme to support language tools developments for French and the languages of France.
Long-term:
Further enlargement of the SémanticPédia experience is envisaged at a long term. The creation of a “Technolangue II” that could be financed by the Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir (PIA) is another long-term option.
Furthermore, closer cooperation with the EU is envisaged, in particular in the areas of culture (EUROPEANA), learning (DG EAC) and language technologies!

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