Spelling Changes in French are Causing Controversy

February 17, 2016 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

French spellingRecently, the French language council announced that spelling changes to the language will be put into effect in time for the upcoming school year. The council, Académie Française, proposed changes to about 2,400 words, which range from removing accents and hyphens to taking out vowels in certain words.

Some examples of changes include removing the “i” in the word “oignon”, which means onion, so that it becomes “ognon”. The circumflex accent, the little carrot or hat on top of some vowels in French words, will disappear as well in many words that originally had it over the “i” or “u”. Overall, the new spelling changes seem to be an attempt to make French easier to spell and learn, but not everyone is happy about it.

Many people feel that one shouldn’t change the spelling of a language simply with a proposal from the appropriate language council, because languages naturally evolve over time anyway. They see this as premature and forced evolution that won’t make anyone’s life easier, especially those who have lived their whole lives reading and writing French the way it is now. French is notoriously hard to spell, but some of those against the changes feel that, in its very spelling, we can see the history of the language and that shouldn’t be erased.

Depending on their own personal views on the issue, some translators, writers, and others whose work is influenced by these spelling changes are refusing to implement them. The rationale is that it will be confusing and take away from the actual writing, as people will only see the new changes and be confused or question the credibility of the author. However, one should keep in mind that this proposal was originally announced back in 1990, stating that the changes wouldn’t be implemented until 2016. This means that there were 26 years for people to get used to the changes, yet no one started discussing them until now, when they will be implemented very soon.

It may not be the ideal way to make changes in a language, because it won’t be a natural and organic process, but the French language council has decided and all official entities should comply and respect their decision. Languages have always gone through drastic changes, since the beginning of time, and they have always been rather shocking and difficult at first. This is just the nature of changes, and when many happen at once, as is the case with the 2,400 words that will be spelled differently in French, they seem overwhelming and a challenge to the status quo.

These new spelling rules are not compulsory as these words will now have two accepted forms of spelling, with the current spelling still being perfectly acceptable. However, we believe that, with time, the new spelling will be commonly accepted and used.

For the sake of terminology and style harmonization with past translations, Alpha Omega Translations will not be implementing these new, controversial spellings immediately. Progressive adaptations will, however, be implemented to adapt to ongoing language trends and future usage as we think that language is a living organism that cannot be set in stone.

Throughout history, languages were born, started growing with time, and in some cases gave birth to different dialects or experienced death. Language has its own life. It develops depending on the environment it was born in, demonstrating to be unique in its sound system, spelling, vocabulary, and system of grammar. We are therefore committed to follow the trend and new rules.

For an overview of our translation expertise, visit our audio and video translation service page.



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Category: Foreign Language

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