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Leïla Slimani, “Mrs Francophonie” of Macron, wants to “de-skin the French”

Ⓒ AFP/Archives – Lionel BONAVENTURE – | The French-Moroccan novelist Leila Slimani, January 11, 2018 in Paris

The number of French speakers is expected to nearly triple in the next 30 years in the world: the French-Moroccan novelist Leïla Slimani, Emmanuel Macron’s advisor on the Francophonie, intends to accompany this tremendous momentum and prove that French, “it is not cheesy “.

“For many people, the French language is considered a boudoir language, literate but not a pragmatic language, which is used to find work”, recognizes the 2016 Goncourt award for “Sweet Song”, the most prestigious French literary award .

“I have to say no, it’s also a language of business, of work, French is cool,” she says, recalling in a smile that “cool” is now “back in the French language”.

To achieve this ambitious program, the young and dynamic woman of 36 years, wants to persuade the French of the “potential” of their language whose number of speakers should almost triple by 2050, from 274 million today to 750 million, thanks to the demographic explosion in Africa.

“Every French must become the ambassador of the Francophonie,” she said in an interview with AFP. “We have to make Francophonie live in France,” she says, remembering her consternation when she discovered that “a lot of French high school students are unable to name an author from the French-speaking world”.

Abroad, however, the Francophonie is “extremely vivid”, says the former student of the French school of Rabat, came to Paris for his studies after living in Morocco with a Moroccan father and a mid-Alsatian mother, half Algerian .

“In China, we can not imagine the number of learners of the French language In Korea, the progression is 20-30% and English-speaking African countries start to French, like Ghana and Nigeria”, enthuses the young woman with a stream of lively words.

French President Emmanuel Macron had already stressed during his recent trip to China that the Middle Kingdom should “be a land of Francophonie”. According to the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF), about 120,000 Chinese students learn French, seeing it as an asset to trade with Africa. “French is an asset for the future,” Macron said.

– ‘Fourth International Language’ –

‘French’ could ‘indeed become the second international language, behind English. It is the fourth today, preceded by Spanish and Arabic. But this can only be “if the efforts in favor of the education of French-speaking countries are sufficient”, warns in a thick report on the Francophonie Cese.

But this progression is “not mathematical”, warns Marie-Béatrice Levaux, Francophonie referent to the Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Cese, which helps the French government and parliament to write the laws).

“We need a more committed French political leadership, the States must get wet and commit to an educational program,” said Levaux, counting on the upcoming Summit of the Francophonie in October in Armenia.

“France must be at the forefront of learning French,” agrees Ms. Slimani, focusing on the “great plan for the French language” that Macron will present on March 20, during the International Day of the Francophonie, and that he had already outlined in November during his speech in Ouagadougou.

“It has been a long time since the French language is not only French, it is as much, even more African,” he had then launched, touting a “French plural”.

“We must get out of a Jacobin vision of French where good French would be here” in France, adds Leila Slimani.

The author “accompanies” the head of state in the preparation of his plan but is aware that his means are limited.

“I do not have a budget, no office and I’m not paid, I’m not part of the government, I’m a free electron,” she admits, without complaining.

Intellectual high profile in France, Leila Slimani was chosen in November for the only volunteer mission to represent the French president at the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF), which includes 84 states and governments.

“This is a first step,” Judge Levaux, who regrets, however, that the Macron government has not created a ministry of the Francophonie “as of right”. “Currently, actions in favor of the Francophonie are dispersed between Sports, Culture, Foreign Affairs …”, says Ms. Levaux. “There should be better coordination”.

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