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Tuesday June 02, 2020

While Jacques Attali and other “éminences grises” stood against a bill authorizing French universities to offer courses entirely in English to attract a clientele of foreign students wishing to enjoy the sweetness of the Hexagon while preparing to work in globalized companies that favor the language of Shakespeare, Francophonie, so far from the daily life of the French, was reinvited in debates. But what is this Francophonie in which the French feel so little concerned and that they know so little about?

The issues surrounding Francophonie are similar to those of cultural influence. When we adopt a language, we do not integrate only a simple tool that allows us to fulfill a function (transmit messages, receive them ...). A language is associated with modes of thought, logics of functioning, values ​​and, ultimately, a way of conceiving the world and relationships between individuals.

When English is established as the language of business in a country, the country is naturally approaching English-speaking countries. Some countries like Equatorial Guinea, isolated because of its Spanish-speaking predominance in a predominantly French-speaking region, have made the choice to develop the use of French to be able to trade with its French-speaking neighbors. On this occasion, the local currency has been replaced by the CFA franc, which is also essential to facilitate cross-border trade.

Guy Series, who has made a remarkable career as a diplomat and has worked in a dozen countries on five continents, has seen the use of French develop under the impetus of officials. According to him, "French and Francophonie are not things that are simply decreed from above, it needs committed artisans without whom it can not develop. "We do not know, but hundreds of anonymous people work every day to support French. To name only one, I will speak about Hassan Hachem, a Franco-Lebanese who, in various ways, contributed to the development of French in Equatorial Guinea, by pushing in turn to the construction of a French School in Malabo , a French Cultural Institute, but also facilitating the reception of artists and French personalities in the country to which he provided logistical and administrative support. We often forget it, but the Francophonie is not just book donations, French lessons or the broadcast of RFI and France 24. It's also the whole cultural process that demands mobilization on a daily basis and a very important amount energy that few people are ready to give. Francophonie relies on hundreds of people every day like Hassan Hachem around the world. Without them, it could not develop.

At a time when the world finds that China has managed to achieve an incredible breakthrough on the African continent by offering well-balanced exchanges to African governments and companies that Westerners, especially Europeans, have often treated as second-class partners , Francophonie is both a bulwark and an opportunity to relaunch relationships. On a so-called globalized planet, whose exchanges are more and more structured around the economy, the Francophonie is a vehicle of values ​​and meaning between peoples and, therefore, more than a simple functional alternative to English for the commercial exchanges.

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