French Tradition: La JournÉe De La Francophonie

Each year on 20th March the Journée internationale de la Francophonie is celebrated across France. It is a day where the 220 million francophones, across five different continents, celebrate their language and celebrate the sharing of diversity and the love of the French language. This celebration takes form in the presentation of plays, poetry readings, film festivals, food festivals and art exhibitions.

This date has been chosen specifically in celebration of the historic date of 20th March 1970 marked itself by the creation of the Agence de coopération culturelle et technique (ACTT) in Niamey in Niger, which is now known as the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie.

The term ‘Francophonie’ or ‘French speaking’ first came into use at end of the nineteenth century. In around 1880 French geographer Onesime Reclus used it to refer to all French speaking people and countries. The meaning has recently been split, where Francophonie with a capital F is used in reference to French speaking countries and francophonie with a lowercase f for that of French speaking people.

With the significant number of francophones in the world, this day is particularly important for the celebration of the extension and proliferation of the French language. It is in itself such an interesting concept and we cannot help but love the play with language that each francophone country or person develops. Take Canada for example. The Quebec region of Canada is a completely francophone environment and in many of the places in this region you will not find a single soul who speaks English. It is often stated that Metropolitan French, having evolved directly from its European roots, does not have the same pronunciation as that of Canadian French which has been influenced over time by many different factors such as that of the British and the nearby US. Just like British and American English there are different intonations and even different words in Metropolitan and Canadian French yet the same grammar rules in its written form. Did you know that some French Canadians say “mon chum” meaning ‘my friend’ which is taken from the British English? In a similar vein, French Canadians refer to their girlfriends as “ma blonde” which translates directly in French as my blonde, which does not make much sense, particularly in reference to a girlfriend who is a brunette! French Canadians would also say “avoir mal aux cheveux” which literally translates as to have a ‘hairache’ but is used to describe a really bad headache, evidently so bad that it hurts the hair!

The beauty of language is that it can change and adapt and in this sense the learning of language is neatly intertwined with its evolution. As we learn language we too are part of its evolution. This celebration has become important in France as not only are the French particularly proud of their language but also proud of what it has become and of those who speak it. So, we wish you the best of luck and courage when learning French and hope that you go out and celebrate this day of francophonie too!