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Franglais (French pronunciation: ​[fʁɑ̃ɡlɛ]; also Frenglish /ˈfrɛŋɡlɪʃ/) is a French portmanteau referring to the macaronic mixture of the French (français) and English (anglais) languages.[1]

English sense[edit]

A typical shopping centre in La Rochelle, in western France presents many examples of the English language

In English, Franglais means a mangled combination of English and French, produced either by poor knowledge of one or the other language, native bilingualism, or humorous intent. Franglais usually consists of either filling in gaps in one's knowledge of French with English words, using false friends with their incorrect meaning, or speaking French in such a manner that (although ostensibly "French") would be incomprehensible to a French-speaker who does not also have a knowledge of English (for example, by using a literal translation of English idiomatic phrases).

Some examples of Franglais are:

  • Longtemps, pas voir. – Long time, no see.[citation needed]
  • Je vais driver downtown. – I'm going to drive downtown. (Je vais aller en voiture au centre-ville)
  • Je suis tired. – I am tired. (Je suis fatigué)[citation needed]
  • Je ne care pas. – I don't care. (Ça m'est égal OR Je m'en fous)
  • J'agree. – I agree. (D'accord)
  • M'en va tanker mon char. (Québec) – I'll go fill up my car. (Je vais faire le plein)

Franglais may also mean a diplomatic compromise, such as the abbreviation UTC for Coordinated Universal Time.

In English humour[edit]

Chaucer's Prioress knew nothing of the French of Paris, but only that of Stratford-atte-Bow ('Cockney French'). Similar mixtures occur in the later stages of Law French, such as the famous defendant who "ject un brickbat a le dit Justice, que narrowly mist". Another example in English literature is found in Henry V by William Shakespeare. A French princess is trying to learn English, but unfortunately, "foot" as pronounced by her maid sounds too much like foutre (vulgar French for 'semen', or 'to have sexual intercourse' when used as a verb) and "gown" like con (French for 'cunt', also used to mean 'idiot'). She decides English is too obscene a language. A literary example of the delight in mélange occurs in Robert Surtees' Jorrocks' Jaunts and Jollities:

"You shall manger cinq fois every day," said she; "cinq fois," she repeated.—"Humph!" said Mr. Jorrocks to himself, "what can that mean?—cank four—four times five's twenty—eat twenty times a day—not possible!" "Oui, Monsieur, cinq fois," repeated the Countess, telling the number off on her fingers—"Café at nine of the matin, déjeuner à la fourchette at onze o'clock, dîner at cinq heure, café at six hour, and souper at neuf hour."

The 19th-century American writer Mark Twain, in Innocents Abroad, included the following letter to a Parisian landlord:[2]

According to Chapman Pincher, one of Winston Churchill's family recounted how the latter, in response to obstinacy from General de Gaulle in a meeting during de Gaulle's wartime exile in London, told him, "Si vous m’opposerez je vous get riderai!"[3]

The humourist Miles Kington wrote a regular column "Parlez vous Franglais" which, for a number of years starting in the late 1970s, appeared in the British magazine Punch. These columns were collected into a series of books: Let's Parler Franglais, Let's Parler Franglais Again!, Parlez-vous Franglais?, Let's Parler Franglais One More Temps, The Franglais Lieutenant's Woman and Other Literary Masterpieces.

A somewhat different tack was taken in Luis van Rooten's Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D'Antin Manuscript.[4] Here, English nursery rhymes are written with nonsensical French phrases meant to recall the sounds of the English words, and the resulting French texts are presented as a historical manuscript and given a pseudo-learned commentary.

Another classic is Jean Loup Chiflet's Sky My Husband! Ciel Mon Mari! which is a literal translation of French into English. However, in this context, the correct translation of ciel...! is 'heavens...!'

In Monty Python's 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the French castle guard (John Cleese) orders, when King Arthur (Graham Chapman) doesn't want to go away, his fellow guards to "Fetchez la vache.". The other French guards respond with "Quoi?" and he repeats "Fetchez la vache!". The guards finally get it: fetch la vache ('the cow'), which they then catapult at the Britons.[5]

French sense[edit]

In French, franglais refers to the use of English words sometimes regarded as unwelcome imports or as bad slang. An example would be le week-end (also weekend). Though [le] weekend is often used informally in many French dialects, the Québécois would use la fin de semaine ('the end of the week') instead, although fin de semaine in France refers to the end of the work week, i.e. Thursday and Friday. Franglais also refers to nouns created from Anglo-Saxon roots or from recent English loanwords (themselves not always Anglo-Saxon in origin), often by adding -ing at the end of a popular word—e.g., un parking ('a car park or parking lot' is more properly un stationnement in Quebec French, although stationnement means 'the action of parking or the state of being parked' in European French); un camping ('a campsite'); and shampooing ('shampoo', but pronounced [ʃɑ̃pwɛ̃], not */ʃɑ̃pu.iŋ/), a term that has become standardized and appears on many French hair-care product labels since at least the 1990s. A few words that have entered use in French are derived from English roots but are not found at all in English, such as un relooking ('a makeover'), and un rugbyman ('a rugby player'). Others are based on mistaken ideas about English words, e.g.: un footing meaning 'a jog or a run' rather than 'a pediment'; un tramway meaning 'a tram', not 'a tram-track'; and bitch, which is widely used by French speakers to mean 'a prostitute' rather than 'a female dog' or its more frequent English slang meaning of 'a disagreeable woman'. Still others are based on misapprehensions of English punctuation, e.g. un pin's (with the apostrophe in both singular and plural) meaning 'a lapel pin'; or word order, e.g. un talkie-walkie meaning 'a walkie-talkie' (hand-held, two-way radio). For those who do not speak English, such words may be believed to exist as such in English. However, in Quebec, where both English and French are spoken, expressions such as footing and relooking are not used.)

In English publications, a misspelling of piedfort as "piefort" has crept into the French language as piéfort.[6][7]

Owing to the worldwide popularity of the Internet, relatively new English words have been introduced into French (e.g. e-mail and mail, referring to either e-mail or an e-mail address). An equivalent for the English word e-mail derived from French roots was created in Quebec French and promoted by Quebec government: courriel (from courrier électronique), and this term is now widely used there. The Académie française has also suggested the use of the abbreviation mél. (from message électronique) as an analogy with the abbreviation tél. for 'telephone', to be uniquely used in front of an e-mail address;[8] however the term, which roughly approximates the English pronunciation of mail, is now used more broadly in France than that prescribed usage. Another example from French is the word look. The equivalent of the English verb to look at in French is regarder but the noun a look (i.e. the way that something look or is styled) has become un look in French, such that the sentence "This Pepsi can has a new look" in French would be "Cette cannette de Pepsi a un nouveau look".

In France[edit]

Map of the English Channel, a natural barrier between French and English speaking communities

After World War II, a backlash began in France over the increasing use of English there. "Corruption of the national language" was perceived by some to be tantamount to an attack on the identity of the country itself. During this period, ever greater imports of American products led to the increasingly widespread use of some English phrases in French. Measures taken to slow this trend included government censorship of comic strips and financial support for the French film and French-language dubbing industries. Despite public policies against the spread of English, the use of Franglais is increasing in both written and oral expression.

In recent years, English expressions are increasingly present in French mass media:

  • TV reality shows often use English titles such as Loft Story, Star Academy, Popstars, and Secret Story.
  • A leading national newspaper, Le Monde, publishes a weekly article selection of The New York Times entirely in English and uses anglicisms such as newsletter, chat, and e-mail instead of French substitutions (bavardage/clavardage for "chat" or courriel for "e-mail").
    • Note that saying bavardage to a French person instead of Internet "chat" may confuse them, since bavardage refers in France to real-life conversation and is rarely used in an Internet context. The word clavardage (a portmanteau of clavier 'keyboard' and bavarder 'chat') is hardly known outside of Canada. The word chat in writing can be confusing as well since it natively means 'cat' in French, thus the unique respelling tchat is occasionally seen.
  • In James Huth's blockbuster movie Brice de Nice (to be pronounced as if it were in English), Franglais is used in a satirical way to make fun of teens and other trendy people who use English words to sound cool.

Most telecommunication and Internet service providers use English and Franglais expressions in their product names and advertising campaigns. The leading operator, France Télécom, has dropped the accents in its corporate logo. In recent years, it has changed its product names with trendier expressions such as Business Talk, Live-Zoom, Family Talk. France Télécom's mobile telecommunications subsidiary Orange SA runs a franchise retail network called mobistores. Its Internet subsidiary, formerly known as Wanadoo (inspired by the American slang expression wanna do) provides a popular triple play service through its Livebox cable modem. The second-largest Internet service provider in France is Free, which offers its freebox. Set-top boxes that are offered by many other providers are also following this trend (e.g. Neuf-box, Alice-box, etc.) and the word box by itself is gradually ending up referring to these set-top boxes.

SNCF, the state-owned railway company, has recently introduced a customer fidelity program called S'Miles. Meanwhile, Air France has renamed its Fréquence Plus frequent flyer program to Flying Blue. The Paris transportation authority RATP has also recently introduced a contactless smartcard ticketing system (similar to the Oyster card in London) called NaviGO.

Public authorities such as the Académie française and the Conseil supérieur de la langue française generally propose alternative words for anglicisms. The acceptance of such words varies considerably; for example, ordinateur and logiciel existed before the English words computer and software reached France, so they are accepted (even outside France in the case of ordinateur). On the other hand, vacancelle failed to replace weekend or fin de semaine (the latter being in current usage in Canada). The word courriel, equivalent of "e-mail", created and used in French-speaking Canada is increasingly coming into use in written European French. However, most French Internet users generally speak about mail without the prefix "e-". Note that English words are often shorter, and they are usually coined first (the French alternatives are generally thought of only after the original word has already been coined, and are then debated at length before coming into use). This is partly why they tend to stay in use.

Alternative words proposed by the Académie française are sometimes poorly received by an aware (often technical) audience and unclear to a non-technical audience. The proposed terms may be ambiguous (often because they are artificially created based on phonetics, thus hiding their etymology) which results in nonsense (e.g. cédéroms réinscriptibles for CD-RW (literally 'rewritable CD-ROMs', despite ROM meaning 'read-only memory'). Some words are considered uncool (for example, adding the initial t- to chat to form tchat (in accordance with French phonetics) or rendering DVD as dévédé (reproducing the French pronunciation of the letters in the initialism).

The use of English expressions is very common in the youth language, which combines them with verlan wordplay. The letter j is thus sometimes humorously pronounced the English way in words such as jeunes ('youth'), rendered as /djunz/ and thus written djeun's, to refer to this trend.

In Canada[edit]


Map highlighting Quebec within Canada

Quebec is the only French majority-monolingual province of Canada, and the only de jure (but not de facto) monolingual jurisdiction. New Brunswick is officially bilingual, and the other provinces, while predominantly English-speaking, are not officially English-only).

Franglais should not be confused with Québec French, which has a number of longstanding borrowings from English as the result of the historical coexistence of two linguistic communities, largely within Québec (and especially around Montreal). Likewise, Quebec English, the language spoken by the anglophone minority there, has borrowed many French words such as dépanneur ('convenience store'), autoroute ('highway'), stage ('internship'), métro (subway'), circular ('flyer', from the word circulaire, a pamphlet that circulates), and many others (see Quebec English). These are permanent and longstanding features of local usage, rather than the recent slangish improvisation by any given individual user or affinity group with poor knowledge of the other language.[9]

These expressions have mainly become part of a common tongue born out of mutual concession to one another. In fact, the substantial bilingual community in and around Montreal will occasionally refer to Franglais, usually after it is pointed out by an observer that someone has used a variety of French and English words, expressions or propositions in the same sentence, a surprisingly common occurrence even in the educated register.

Rest of Canada[edit]

Franglais can refer to the long-standing and stable mixes of English and French spoken in some towns, cities, and rural areas of other Canadian provinces; New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Newfoundland. It is even used in the northern regions of Maine (U.S.) (see Chiac and Acadian French). This mix uses approximately equal proportions of each language (except in Newfoundland), although it is more likely to be understood by a francophone, since it usually uses English words in French pronunciation and grammar.

Franglais is commonly spoken in French immersion schools in Ontario and Alberta as well as in DSFM (Division scolaire Franco-Manitobaine) schools in Manitoba, where most students speak either French or English as their first or preferred language, yet know school-related terms in French specifically (e.g. "Let's go to la bibliothèque", instead of "Let's go to the library"). As many French immersion classes and French schools have a strict "French-only" policy, such Franglais is used discreetly between students, or out of class.

Mistaken and unstable usages[edit]

Franglais, in the sense of mistaken usage by second-language speakers, occurs across Canada. An example of an anglicism turned Franglais is the unintentional translation of English phrases into French by students unaware of the Canadian French term. For example, a hot dog is sometimes called un chien chaud when in fact the French term is simply un hot dog. (However, the Quebec government has itself promoted using expressions such as chien chaud for 'hot dog', and hambourgeois for 'hamburger', neither of which has gained widespread acceptance.) In some ways, confusion over which expression is more correct, and the emphasis many immersion schools place on eliminating anglicisms from students' vocabulary, has promoted the use of Franglais.[citation needed] Franglais can also slowly creep into use from mispronunciation and misspelling by many bilingual Canadians. Common mistakes that immersion or bilingual students propagate include incorrect inflection and stresses on syllables, incorrect doubling of consonants, strange vowel combinations in their spelling and using combinations of prefixes and suffixes from English.

Recently, Canadian youth culture (especially in British Columbia and southeastern Ontario) purposely uses Franglais for its comical or euphemistic characteristics, for example, in replacing English swear words with French ones. Some anglophone Canadians euphemistically use the Québécois sacres (i.e., religious words such as sacrament as expletives) rather than swearing in English.[citation needed]

False anglicisms[edit]

There is a particular form of Franglish which consists in the adoption of English words with alternative meanings to their usage in actual English.

These are words like forcing ('a scramble', 'a rush', 'a strong effort'), or bronzing ('a tan', 'the act of sunbathing'), made by adding the English ending -ing to a verb from French (e.g. forcer 'to force') or English to tan, properly bronzer in French) to form a new noun. These are slang or informal at best, and not widely accepted.

Another type of false anglicism comes from the abbreviation of an English name made keeping only the word on the left (while the important word for English speakers is the rightmost word, impossible to remove). For example, to designate a dress suit, the word smoking is used by the French (and some other languages), borrowed ultimately English 'smoking jacket'. Yet the British use dinner jacket and Americans tuxedo (or the abbreviation tux); smoking does not exist in English other than as a form of the verb to smoke, and as the gerund smoking, referring to the act of smoking something or giving off smoke. Another example is the French term clap for 'clapperboard' as used in motion picture production).

They are either French constructions mimicking the English rules, or shifts of meaning affecting borrowed terms.

In Cameroon[edit]

Main article: Camfranglais

Cameroon has substantial English- and French-speaking populations as a legacy of its colonial past as British Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun. Despite linguistically segregated education since independence, many younger Cameroonians in urban centres have formed a version of Franglais/Franglish from English, French and Cameroonian Pidgin English known as Camfranglais or Frananglais. Many educational authorities disapprove of Frananglais in Cameroon and have banned it in their schools. Nevertheless, the youth-culture argot has gained in popularity and has a growing music scene.[10]

Elsewhere in the world[edit]

Franglais is also used in London, due to the number of native French speakers living there, from France, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Caribbean.

Franglais also occurs in other communities where imperfect English–French bilingualism is common. The United Nations Office at Geneva is so named in an imitation of the French à Genève, rather than the expected "in Geneva".

Another example is provided by the civil servants in European Union institutions (European Parliament, European Commission, European Court of Justice), based in bilingual Brussels (French and Flemish) and Luxembourg City (Luxembourgish and German). They often work in English, but are surrounded by a French-speaking environment, which influences their English (e.g. "I'm a stagiaire at the Commission and I'm looking for another stage in a consultancy", referring to internships).

Franglais songs[edit]

  • A notable song with substantial Franglais lyrics was "(Si Si) Je Suis un Rock Star", written and recorded by Bill Wyman. The record reached #14 in the UK Singles Chart in 1981.
  • The song "For Me, for Me, Formidable" by Charles Aznavour relates the struggle of a French singer trying to sing a love song to an English girl.
  • The song "I Want to Pogne" by Rock et Belles Oreilles.
  • "I went to the market, mon p'tit panier sous mon bras", a popular Acadian song made famous by Gilles Vigneault.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]