The decline of the French language

The decline of the French language. By Ed West.

For many officials in Paris, Britain’s exit was seen as an opportunity to raise the status of the French language in the EU. …

French, although one of three working languages of the European Commission, had once upon a time been the primary language of the Common Market, but had lost ground as global English – ‘Globish’ – relentlessly marched through the institutions. Some politicians in the National Assembly hoped that French would become ‘the only’ working language of the EU, calling Brexit a ‘unique opportunity’ to reverse the march of ‘Anglo-Saxon culture’.

Éric Zemmour, the public intellectual turned presidential candidate, had meanwhile called for a post-Brexit boycott of English, which had ‘crushed’ his own beloved tongue. Zemmour argued that since now only two small EU countries, Malta and the Irish Republic, used English, it was therefore obvious that French should become the EU’s official language: …

Not so fast:

Yet other European officials were not keen on the idea and complained that ‘We are so used to English.’ Indeed, when Portugal held the EU presidency, ambassador Nuno Brito would speak mostly in English in council meetings. And when the time came for France’s presidency, in early 2022, their insistence on using la langue préférée of international diplomacy especially annoyed Baltic and Scandinavian representatives, who all speak fluent English.

Because, while the departure of the British could have heralded the decline of English in the corridors of Brussels, paradoxically the opposite seems to have happened. English, because it is no longer the language of a major EU nations, is now a more neutral form of communication and so seems more popular than ever.

The march is relentless. L’Académie française, who are usually viewed by the British press as charming no-hopers fighting a war against reality, last year threatened to sue the French government unless it removed ‘English words like “surname” from the country’s new biometric identity cards’, calling the English ‘invasion’ unnecessary and unconstitutional. They also dislike the way that President Emmanuel Macron, who is fluent in English – indeed he is a bit English – is so fond of using Americanisms. …


Back in the 14th century French was the language of noblemen in England, Flanders, Naples and Sicily, used in Jerusalem law courts, by scholars and poets everywhere; in the words of a Venetian of the time, ‘the French language is current throughout the world and more delightful to hear and read than any other’.

In Britain, of course, French was long the language of the ruling class. As George Galloway once pointed out during the Scottish referendum campaign about the mythologising of the Battle of Bannockburn, the kings of both England and Scotland at the time were both French speakers of Norman descent (the first post-conquest English monarch to have English as a first language was Henry IV in 1399). …

French was once the undisputed language of global diplomacy, a fact that surely motivates optimistic French officials today, which is why, until 1858, it was the only language on British passports.



Such was the pre-eminence of the language in global affairs that Paul Cambon, the notable French ambassador at the time of the First World War, couldn’t even speak English — despite being stationed in London for 22 years. …

The Lebanese, who have been Francophones and Francophiles since at least the time of the Crusades, have been increasingly speaking English for some time now. Algerians, who admittedly aren’t quite so Francophile, have adopted English as a second language. Such is the domination of English in the Middle East that even ISIS opened two English language schools in Raqqa during their brief caliphate. French is also in decline in Senegal, the language being associated across west and north Africa with colonialism – so instead they’re adopting, er, English.

France’s status as the main international language would last until the advent of the 20th century, but after 1759 it was always going to lose out as the British North American colony swept across the continent. And with globalisation, it was perhaps inevitable that one language would win, following Greek, Latin and French as the dominant means of communication in the western world. But perhaps it is not entirely good news that it is ours. …

English spreads wokeism, sadly:

English was once the language of liberal democracy and, for many, the language of emancipation, but it has also become the background jabber of a particularly low-brow progressivism.

Today, if you see photographs of young protesters carrying vacuous signs making inane slogans with an uncourageous swear word or crude sexual reference in English, it is as likely to be in Kraków or Warsaw as in Oxford or Portland.

Where English spreads, idiocy follows, a concerning trend as global languages allow new ideas to be disseminated far quicker. The existence of a Greek-speaking ecumene enabled the spread of Christianity, and its success in the West was dependent on universal elite knowledge of Latin. The current belief system — the successor ideology, the Thing, woke, runaway progressivism, whatever we call it — uses the vector of English.

How long before Arabic is the official language of France? On current trends, only a few decades.