Why France might ban discrimination in opposition to accents

By Hugh Schofield
BBC Information, Paris

Composite image showing French politician Laetitia Avia (left) and Prime Minister Jean Castex

picture copyrightGetty Pictures

picture captionPolitician Laetitia Avia got here up with the thought of a brand new legislation, whereas Prime Minister Jean Castex has been mocked for his south-western accent

Think about a widely known Westminster MP – a celebration chief – caught in a press scrum and being requested a query which is delivered in a thick Scottish accent.

He seems to be on the journalist in mocking incomprehension, and says: “Sorry I did not perceive a phrase of that. Can somebody ask me a query in correct English?” Unthinkable, proper?

And but in France kind of precisely that alternate was caught on digital camera between left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon and a hapless lady reporter from French regional TV. Her offence: having a powerful southern twang.

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picture captionJean-Luc Mélenchon apologised for his response to the Toulouse-based reporter, arguing that he thought she had been mocking him

Regional accents in France have lengthy been the sufferer of a patronising Parisian disdain.

These humorous nasals from Marseille are nice when accompanied by

pastis and a recreation of boules. Some good comedy components on TV, too.

However woe betide anybody with a touch of the south of their voice who seeks promotion in broadcasting or nationwide politics or the upper finish of academia and the civil service – and even in telesales.

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Get forward, converse Parisian

If you wish to talk in France – and never simply increase fun – then you definately conform to the norm, and meaning talking commonplace Paris bourgeois. There are many on-line elocution courses to show you ways.

However occasions are altering, and for the primary time a pushback is underway on behalf of the estimated 30 million French residents who converse with an accent. That is virtually half France’s inhabitants of 67 million.

Laetitia Avia

Getty Pictures

I too have corrected over time my so-called “banlieue” accent, first by getting into Sciences-Po (college), then by changing into a lawyer. So I do know all about this personally

Laetitia Avia MP
First proposed the accent invoice

Underneath a personal member’s invoice going earlier than the Nationwide Meeting on Thursday, it should turn into an offence underneath the labour and penal codes to discriminate in opposition to a person on the idea of accent.

The French phrase for it’s “la glottophobie“.

Why an accent can hurt your profession

“Having a regional accent in France means mechanically that you simply’re handled like a hick – amiable however basically unserious,” says the invoice’s sponsor Christophe Euzet, who’s from Perpignan in French Catalonia.


“It’s unimaginable in France that you could possibly have somebody with a southern accent – or a northern one for that matter – broadcasting commentary on Remembrance Day. Or discoursing on Center Jap politics.

Christophe Euzet

Assemblée nationale

It is a private downside for many individuals who discover they’ve to surrender a part of their id in the event that they need to advance their careers

Christophe Euzet
Sponsor of personal member’s invoice

“However additionally it is a political concern right this moment. The yellow vest motion was a traditional instance of what occurs when tens of millions of individuals from the areas have a look at their representatives in Paris and really feel they don’t have anything in frequent.”

However dangle on. Is not France’s Prime Minister, Jean Castex, well-known for being the primary within the workplace to talk with an accent? And is not that each one about reconnecting with the folks?

“Sure,” says Euzet. “However how lengthy did it take Castex earlier than he was taken severely as a politician?”

How French accents differ

France can not boast fairly the identical range of accents because the UK. Centralisers from the Revolution on did their greatest to suppress regional languages first – like Occitan and Breton – then the accents that emerged from them. Colleges had been the primary instrument of conformity, then mass media.

The largest household of accents is the southern one, marked, amongst different issues, by pronunciation of the usually silent ‘e’ on the finish of phrases, and the well-known “pang” and “vang” for ache and vin (bread and wine).

Different regional accents could be present in Corsica, jap France, Alsace (influenced by German), Brittany and the north – influenced by the native dialect Ch’ti.

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picture captionOne in all France’s best-loved movies Bienvenu Fiers d’etre Ch’tis (Welcome to the Sticks) performed on misunderstanding the northern accent

In lots of rural areas of France, accents are preserved amongst older folks however are heard much less ceaselessly among the many younger.

There may be additionally an identifiable banlieue accent, widespread amongst folks of immigrant origin and characterised by exhausting consonants and rapid-fire supply.

One fantasy is that the most effective French is spoken by the folks of the Excursions area within the Loire valley.


Underneath the ancien régime, members of the courtroom saved châteaux alongside the Loire, and introduced with them the educated Paris vernacular.

media captionHear the Spanish accents spoken in United States

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