Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute
Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute
Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute
Beverly Hills Lingual Insitute

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Learn French - The Language of Diplomacy

The French are quite passionate about politics. This could have something to do with their centuries-old tradition of philosophical political thought, with the likes of Rousseau, Robespierre, Napoleon, Charles de Gaulle, and Jean-Paul Sartre enjoying international renown.

It has often been said, too, that there isn't much love lost between the French voter and their chosen politicard (the suffix -ard gives the politicien original a rather perjorative connotation). Des promesses, toujours des promesses! Promises, promises!

A French person is more likely than not to characterize politicians as liars, parasites, and control freaks, in a manner that might make you think they are un anar.

un anar
(un anarchiste)
an anarchist
un coco
(un communiste)
a communist
un socialo
(un socialiste)
a socialist
un écolo
(un écologiste)
an ecologist
un réac
(un réactionnaire)
a reactionary
un facho
(un fasciste)
a fascist
un politicard
a politician
(perjorative)
un éléphant
old, conservative
politician

When politicians evade tricky questions with clichés, they might be accused of using la langue de bois (literally, wooden language).

Perhaps it is ironic, then, that French is widely known as the language of diplomacy.

Indeed, the French have long been advocates of their own tongue for international purposes. With English being built on many a French word and expression since the Norman conquest of 1066, it bears remembering that French was the language of English courts until 1386, and that French was used at the courts of Jerusalem and Antioch during the Crusades.

Marco Polo's account of his travels, too, first appeared in French.

It is no surprise, then, that French continued to supply the official language of all treaties until Versailles. The Treaty of Portsmouth that ended the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 had Russian, Japanese, English, and French versions, but the French one alone was authoritative.

The first blow to French as a diplomatic language came, perhaps, in 1878, when British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli dared address the Congress of Berlin in his native English.

The First World War marked the end of French as the sole language of diplomacy, and in 1920, French and English were placed on an equal footing for the deliberations of the World Court.

Today, the French translation apparatus at international organizations is well oiled. Both English and French are considered the "working" languages of the United Nations, which has six official languages. Both Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) and the International Committee of the Red Cross prefer French. Many traditionalists in Europe hew to French, not English; and many African countries are officially Francophone.

Some might call the preference for French anachronistic. At seventy-four million native speakers, French is much smaller than languages like Hindi, Portuguese, and Japanese. That said, French has geographic diversity to its credit.

And, as Brunetto Latini explained when in the thirteenth century he wrote his Treasure of Wisdom in French (rather than in Latin or in his native Italian) -

"The speech of the French is more delectable and more common to all men."
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