The first global forum on French kicked off in the Canadian province of Quebec Monday aimed at strengthening the language of Moliere in a world dominated by English.
“I could tell you that the French language is doing well, that it is spoken and taught on five continents, that the number of speakers is growing and that it promises to have a brilliant future, especially in Africa,” declared Abdou Diouf, secretary general of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF), a union of French-speaking nations.
“But beyond these reassuring figures that we know, there are more sobering facts.
”I will say it strongly: a language cannot survive in isolation, it never circulates better than with its speakers. We cannot wish for the influence of the French language and, at the same time, close our borders to those who speak French, who study French, who create in French,“ said the former Senegalese president before a 1,000-strong crowd that included the prime ministers of Canada and Quebec and the mayor of Paris.
The French Language World Forum, going on until Friday in historic Quebec City, is expected to draw more than 1,000 artists, speakers, business people, youth and representatives from civil society.
Events and discussions will focus on four major themes: the economy, the cultural industry, the place of French in the digital world and the coexistence of languages.
”We must define the French language and its development according to what we want it to be first and foremost, in a context of linguistic diversity,“ said Michel Audet, who is heading the forum.
There are some 220 million French speakers around the world, according to the OIF.
But Diouf says, by the beginning of 2050, there should be more than 700 million French speakers, 80 percent of whom will be in Africa.
Forum participants will discuss concrete steps on how to facilitate the flow of artists, university students and business people among francophone countries, as well as how to increase scientific publication in French and promote trade.
The issues are not likely to be resolved before the October summit of francophone governments in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (AFP).