02 May 2006

French Politics

Something I have no business commenting on, of course. But why should that stop me?

I heard a quick 30 second bit on NPR about a proposed French law that would require potential French immigrants to learn both French language and culture before emigrating to France. Considering that we've been on about illegal immigration in this country for a few weeks now, I thought that was very interesting. I wrote a post just the other day suggesting that people learn the official language of whatever country they choose to live in, and now realize that the statements I made make me sound nearly as xenophobic as the French Interior Minister, Nicholas Sarkozy. Which was NOT my intention. I don't support mandatory classes before you immigrate. Just once you decide that's where you're going to live, then you ought to take an active interest and learn to speak the language. What irks me is folks who live in a country for 20 years and can't speak the language. That seems inexcusable to me. And I've run into those types of folks here in the US and in Sweden, so I conclude that you’ll have that pretty much anywhere.

My local paper started running "Annie's Mailbox" after advice columnist Ann Landers died a few years ago, and there was a recent letter from a nurse who was pissed that her co-workers, who are Filipino, would chatter to each other in their native language at the nurses' station in the hospital. Apologies, but the link takes you to the current column, the one in question ran on 26 April 2006. "Annie", which is actually two women, gave an answer that I thought was high-handed and smug, but essentially is how I feel. If I'm speaking privately to my sister, who also speaks Swedish, then tough rocks to you. If I am trying to conduct official business, however, then I expect that I should be able to speak English to the official and that they would be able to speak English back to me. Or, that I would provide my own translator, on my own dime, to translate for me if I couldn’t speak English.

Much like I followed the German Chancellor’s race a few years ago when someone really nationalist was running, I’ll be watching the French presidency race this year with much fascination and curiosity. I’m sure that there are those out in the wider world who watched in horrified fascination as we elected President Idiot (not once but TWICE!!!!!) and with the same degree of detachment, I’ll be checking into this issue from time to time.

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