La loi Toubon, or the Toubon Act, is a French law passed on August 4, 1994 that requires the use of the French language in advertising, published materials (brochures, contracts, guarantees but also things like books and magazines), labeling of products, etc. France's Minister of Culture, Jacques Toubon, endorsed the law, believing that the increasing use of English in business is detrimental to the country of France. French citizens, after all, have the right to use their native language as much as possible and to protect this right, the Toubon Act requires businesses to use French whenever applicable--particularly in advertisements. The actual language of the law is interesting; it doesn't say businesses must use French exclusively, but that they must include it at all times.

This law is the source of much controversy, particularly on the 'net. The French government has taken issue with many websites, based in France, that are English-only. The most publicized of these legal battles was brought against Georgia Tech 's campus in Lorraine, France, whose website provided no French translation.

At face value, the French attitude toward their language may seem mysterious, if not peculiar. French culture is not only enriched by language; it is validated. The French language is a source or pride and respect; the ability to speak well is regarded as a necessity. You see this phenomenon throughout the culture: dialects and patois are often discouraged, accents are generally sources of comedy, l'Academie Francaise regulates the evolution of the language. Given the context, the law seems completely natural. The people of France have simply come to identify themselves with their spoken language and are now faced with the infestation of English.

That's exactly what it is, too. While in the U.S. citizens generally take delight in the fact that everyone speaks English, it has become something of a horror to our baguette-toting friends. You see, for many years French was THE international language. During the last 100 years or so, however, English has slowly whittled away at that distinction. Now, Europe is full of McDonald's', American pop music, and products that sport English names like "walkman" and "blue jeans." The French are angry. Very, very, angry. They might also be a little scared.

Don't worry about them, though. With this law and other strategies like the mandate that requires French radio stations' playlists to include a certain percentage of music in French, and the creation of the L'association Défense de la langue français, the French are taking the necessary precautions to protect their language and, in turn, their culture and way of life.

...Or so the Germans would have us believe...

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