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Franglais (or Frenglish, françaianglai), a portmanteau combining the French words "français" ("French") and "anglais" ("English"), is a slang term for an interlanguage, although the word has different overtones in French and English.

English sense

In English, Frenglish means a mangled combination of English and French, produced either by poor knowledge of one or the other language or for humorous effect. Frenglish 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.
  • Je vais driver downtown. I'm going to drive downtown.
  • Je suis tired. I am tired.
  • Je ne care pas. I don't care.
  • J'agree. I agree.
  • M'en va tanker mon char. (Québec) I go fill up my car.

Frenglish may also mean a diplomatic compromise such as the abbreviation UTC for Co-ordinated Universal Time.

In English humour

Chaucer's Prioress knew nothing of the French of Parismarker, but only that of Stratford-atte-Bowmarker ('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". 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, diner 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:

The humorist Miles Kington wrote a regular column Parlez vous Franglais which, for a number of years starting in the late 1970s, appeared in the 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.

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!.

Perhaps the oldest example of Frenglish 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, "semen" or "to have sexual intercourse" when used as a verb) and "gown" like con (French "cunt", also used to mean "idiot"). She decides English is too obscene a language.

French sense

In French, franglais refers to the use of English words for which there are no French equivalents; the most notorious of these anglicisms (which are sometimes regarded as unwelcome imports or as bad slang) is le weekend. The term also refers to nouns created from Anglo-Saxon roots, often by adding "-ing" at the end of a popular word—e.g. un parking (a car park or parking lot), un camping (a campground), or shampooing (shampoo, but pronounced , not ). 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 déstockage (a clearance sale). Others are based either on mistaken ideas of English words (e.g. footing meaning jogging, not a pediment), grammar (e.g. un pin's (with the apostrophe in both singular and plural) meaning a collectable lapel pin) or word order (e.g. talkie-walkie meaning a walkie-talkie, a hand-held two-way radio). For those who do not speak English, such words may be believed to exist in English. (Note however that in Quebecmarker, where both English and French are spoken, expressions such as "footing" and "relooking" are not used.)

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). The Quebec government has proposed the use of an alternative word for "e-mail" which is derived from French roots, "courriel" (from "courrier électronique") and this term is now widely used. The Académie française has also suggested the use of the abbreviation "mél." as an analogy with the abbreviation "tél." for telephone. Another example from Canadian French is the word look. The verb "to look" in French is regarder but the noun "a look" (i.e. the way that something looks) is look, so the sentence "This Pepsi can has a new look" in Canadian French would be "Cette cannette de Pepsi a un nouveau look". This is clearly a borrowed word since native French words (like most modern Romance languages) do not use the letter K (or W).


After World War II, a backlash began in Francemarker 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 Americanmarker 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 generally use English titles such as "Loft Story" (Big Brother), "Star Academy" and "Popstars".
  • Celebrities are known in French as "people".
  • 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 cause confusion 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 at all. The word chat in writing can be confusing as well since it 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 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. 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, ...) 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 Flying Blue. The Paris Transportation Authority (RATP) has also recently introduced a handfree pass system 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 of 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", a substitution for "e-mail" initially proposed by the Office québécois de la langue française, is increasingly coming into use in written 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 D, V & D).

The use of English expressions is very common in the youth language, which combines them with verlan. The letter J is often pronounced the English way in words such as "jeunes" (youth).



Franglais should not be confused with Quebec French, which has a number of longstanding borrowings from English as the result of the historical coexistence of two linguistic communities, largely within Quebecmarker (and especially around Montrealmarker). 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), metro (subway), circular (flyer, from the word circulaire, a pamphlet that circulates as opposed to being round) and many others (See Quebec English). These are permanent and longstanding features of local usage rather than the incorrect speech improvised by any given individual user with poor knowledge of the other language.

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 that someone has used a variety of French and English words, expressions or propositions in a 'correct' fashion in the same sentence, a surprisingly common occurrence.

Rest of Canada

Franglais can refer to the long-standing and stable mixes of English and French spoken in New Brunswickmarker, Nova Scotiamarker, and northern Mainemarker (see Chiac and Acadian French), Manitobamarker, some parts of Northern Ontario, and even certain towns on the west coast of Newfoundlandmarker. 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.

Incorrect and unstable usages

Franglais, in the sense of incorrect usage by second language speakers, occurs across Canada because of immersion programs. 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" (literally, a dog that is hot) when in fact the French term is simply "un hot dog". (This is in spite of the Quebec government's suggestion of 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. 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 the other language.

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 (religious words such as sacrament as expletives) rather than swearing in English.


Cameroonmarker 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 language has gained in popularity and has a growing music scene.

Elsewhere in the world

Frenglish also occurs in other communities where imperfect English-French bilingualism is common. UN officials in Genevamarker often speak of "the UN Office at Geneva", rather than "in Geneva", in an imitation the French "à Genève".

Another example is provided by the civil servants in European Union institutions (European Parliamentmarker, European Commissionmarker, European Court of Justice), based in French-speaking Brusselsmarker and Luxembourg Citymarker. 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").

Some well-educated English-speaking people interlace their conversation with French words and expressions, some of which they misunderstand, e.g. using "to look at someone de haut en bas" to mean "to look them over from head to toe", whereas the French expression means "to look at them as from on high", as from a superior to an inferior , while "pris de haut" would be the expression with the intended meaning.

See also

External links


  1. Twain, Mark. The Innocents Abroad. 1869. (at Project Gutenberg)
  2. BBC NEWS | World | Africa | New language for divided Cameroon

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