Skip to content
CityLab
Justice

How France Tries to Keep English Out of Public Life

France has a long history of using official institutions to protect the French language from outside influence. Still, English keeps working its way in.
Qu'est-ce que c'est? Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was chided in 2017 for projecting this English phrase on the Eiffel Tower during the city’s Olympic bid.
Qu'est-ce que c'est? Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was chided in 2017 for projecting this English phrase on the Eiffel Tower during the city’s Olympic bid.Francois Mori/AP

Twenty-five years after France passed a law that mandates the exclusive use of French in most public contexts, the nation’s culture minister says the language must be energetically defended from English phrases that keep slipping in to daily life.

On Twitter and in radio interviews last week, French Minister of Culture Franck Riester complained that the French language is habitually “mistreated” and that his country must fight for its preservation. “Our daily lives would be so different without this simple demand—say things in French!,” he tweeted (in French) in honor of the 1994 Toubon law, which requires French to be used in official documents, broadcasts, advertisements, and elsewhere.