Should you be teaching l’écriture inclusive?

Inclusive writing is a hot topic in France at the moment. French newspapers in particular, but also the international press, seem fascinated by the debate and try to offer some clarity. French teachers worldwide are observing the discussions and it is only natural that they should wonder whether to incorporate inclusive writing in their teaching.

What is l’écriture inclusive?

Inclusive writingIn essence, inclusive writing endeavours to represent both sexes equally in written language. In concrete terms, it advocates the following principles:

  • Le point milieu:

Traditionally, if you have both male and female friends, you would refer to them as mes amis. This is because the rule is as follows: the masculine form trumps the feminine form when referring to a group that contains at least one man. Supporters of inclusive writing advocate that you should write mes ami·e·s instead. The strange dot used to insert the feminine mark ‘e’ is called point milieu (= middle dot, sometimes also referred to as point médian).

Other examples: les directeur·rice·s / les chef·fe·s / les écolier·ère·s

The approach applies the same principle to pronouns and adjectives: il·elle·s / chacun·e·s / tou·te·s…

Note: To type the point milieu, on Windows hold the ALT key down and enter 0183 on your keypad, or on Mac hold down simultaneously ALT + Shift + F.

  • Functions, jobs and titles:

French mayorOfficial titles are considered gender-neutral by the Académie française so you should say Madame le maire, Madame le président, Madame le ministre… There are also a great number of jobs that do not have a feminine form (e.g. le professeur). Advocates of inclusive writing argue that all those words should have a feminine form. A female teacher, for example, should be referred to as la professeure, and a female president as la présidente.

  • The rule of proximity (la règle de proximité):

In the example Les garçons et les filles sont égaux, the adjective égal agrees takes the masculine form by default. However, with inclusive writing the adjective agrees in gender with the closest noun (in this case les filles) so you should say: Les garçons et les filles sont égales.

  • Proscribing generic use of Homme:

Another recommendation is that words such as Homme when generically referring to both men and woman (e.g. droits de l’Homme) are to be proscribed. It is worth noting that the first draft of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights referred to ‘Man Rights’ in its English version. Eleanor Roosevelt, the only woman on the panel, however insisted the term ‘Human Rights’ was used instead. But the English language still includes words such as ‘mankind’ so it’s fair to say the problematic is not specifically French.

What’s the official policy?

To start with, it is important to note that inclusive writing was developed by a private communications agency (Mots clés) working for special interest groups. Therefore there is clearly an agenda behind the proposal. It is not backed by the Académie française or any governmental agency. Indeed the Académie française is fiercely opposed to inclusive writing and the French Prime Minister has recently instructed his ministers not to use this new form of writing in official documents claiming that “the masculine form is a neutral form”.

At the French Ministry of Education, the official line is that nothing has changed and teachers should continue to teach the traditional way.

So what’s the big deal?

NotebookThe controversy started when a French textbook introduced inclusive writing earlier this year. It attracted a lot of criticism from grammar purists who think the new method is unnecessary, sloppy and too complicated. Critics point out that grammatical gender has nothing to do with sex. Indeed feminine words such as une personne’, ‘une vedette’, or une célébrité’ can refer to both men and women.

Backers of inclusive writing in turn argue that traditional grammar rules are sexist. They add that a change is necessary to ensure equal representation for men and women in language. They believe that a lack of feminine forms is a sign that women are not considered as highly as men.

So is the French language sexist?

SexistTo try to understand the complexity of the problem, let’s draw a parallel with the English language: we’ve all heard in recent times actresses referring to themselves as ‘actors’. The word ‘actor’ refers to a person who acts regardless of gender. ‘Actress’ being a specifically feminine word, some argue that the term is sexist, maybe even condescending.

To take another example, a female mayor is usually called a ‘mayor’, while ‘mayoress’ traditionally refers to a mayor’s wife. However in recent years it has become common in the UK to refer to a woman elected to the position of mayor as ’mayoress’. Indeed, some female mayors prefer the term. This of course raises further questions: how do you then call the husband of a mayoress? Officially ‘mayor’, as a title, is already gender-neutral, and official government guidelines recommend referring to female mayors as ‘Mrs Mayor” and to their husband as ‘Mr Consort”.

The principle is the same in French. However, the vast majority of elected female officials state they prefer the feminine form (la maire). Consequently, dictionaries are now classifying words such as maire as epicene words. This means that speakers can use them with either a masculine or a feminine article.

What should French teachers do?

It is probably too early to decide whether to teach inclusive writing or ignore it. Certainly, if the Académie française and/or the French government were to back it, there would be a strong case for switching to inclusive writing. As it stands, the general public has not yet embraced the new method either. However, it is a good idea to introduce the concept and principles of inclusive writing to learners of French. Perhaps this should not be at beginner level to avoid adding another level of complexity. But students should be aware of inclusive writing as this is something they are likely to encounter at some stage. So in short: stick to the old rules, but introduce students to the new rules and allow them to practise and use Fiche de travailthem if they choose to.  A good place to start is this simple video by 1 jour 1 actu.

Linguascope has also produced a worksheet to practice the point milieu. Readers of this blog can download it free of charge using promo code LINGUABLOG.

Links:

ecriture-inclusive.fr

French schoolteachers push for ‘gender neutral’ grammar in row with language purists

Comment fait-on… pour appeler une femme maire ?

Écriture inclusive: que risquent les profs refusant que “le masculin l’emporte”?

Ecriture inclusive : la polémique entre enseignants, académiciens et ministres en six actes

Pour ou contre l’écriture inclusive à l’école ? Deux enseignantes témoignent

L’écriture inclusive, choquante ou nécessaire ?

Écriture inclusive: plus de 300 professeurs refusent d’enseigner que “le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin”

L’écriture inclusive, ça marchera jamais (et tant mieux)

How to watch French TV when you live abroad

Trying to watch French TV channels when you don’t live in France can be a real challenge. Most channels available online apply geographical restrictions so you cannot watch them outside France. You would think they wanted as many people as possible to be able to access their content, but the fact is that they are not allowed to broadcast outside their territory for licencing reasons: If for example they are showing episodes of The Simpsons, the licence they acquired only allows them to broadcast within their territory so as not to compete with other channels who acquired the rights in their own territories.

Channels that are easily accessible

BFMTVThe good news is that geographical restrictions do not apply to channels producing their own content for their exclusive use – news networks for example. This is why you can watch channels such as BFMTV, France 24, or Euronews without any problem. Besides, BFMTV has an excellent free app that allows you to watch their live feed (search for ‘BFMTV’ in your app store).

Another great channel is TV5 Monde which broadcasts selected programmes from French-speaking countries (France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland…) In their case, they have negotiated worldwide rights with the respective programme producers. The channel is widely available via satellite and cable (Sky or Virgin on the UK).  Check out the TV5 Monde website to check how you can receive it in your country.
Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to watch TV5 Monde live online, but you can view news programmes on their website as well as a wide selection of videos on their YouTube channel. You will also find a section for French teachers with video clips and educational resources to exploit them.

ArteArte is another interesting channel with programmes in both French and German. Arte is a public Franco-German TV network that promotes programming in the area of culture and the arts. You can watch live and catch up TV via their website and there is also an Arte app for mobile devices and well as for Smart TVs.

French TV via satellite

If you’d like to receive the main channels (TF1, France 2, M6…), the most straightforward way is to get a satellite dish. In the UK, companies such as Fransat or Totalsat can install a dish for around £250. If installing a satellite dish is not practical (e.g. you live in a flat) or out of your price range, there are subscription services such as Téléfrance allowing you to watch a small selection of French channels online and via your Smart TV for £6.99 monthly.

Using a Virtual Private Network

NordVPNIf you’ve tried to view French catch-up TV (or ‘replay’ as it’s called in French – e.g. TF1 Replay, Pluzz by France Télévisions or 6 Play), you will have noticed that all of them apply geographical restrictions. If you want to get around those restrictions, you will need to be a bit tech-savvy. To start with, you will need a VPN (Virtual Private Network) which redirects your connection to the Internet via a remote server run by a VPN provider such as Nord VPN. By connecting to a remote server based in France, you will be able to access content normally only available if you are in France. For more details, check the Nord VPN website.

Using a Virtual Private Network is legal in the vast majority of countries but note that authorities consider it illegal in China, Russia, Turkey, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Belarus, Oman, Iran, North Korea and Turkmenistan.

6 French singers you must listen to now

OrelSan

OrelSanRight now, OrelSan has no less than 9 singles in the Top 50 charts. That makes him one of the hottest contemporary French singers right now. OrelSan is a French rapper, songwriter, record producer, actor and film director. Being a white rapper, but also because of his musical style, pundits have compared him to American rap legend Eminem. Perhaps a lazy comparison? Look out for his latest hit featuring Stromae, called La pluie (lyrics here).

French TV channel TV5 Monde has produced some educational resources using one of OrelSan’s songs, Plus rien de m’étonne.

Zaz

ZazIsabelle Geffroy, better known by the nickname Zaz, is a French singer-songwriter. She mixes jazzy styles, French variety, soul and acoustic for a unique sound. Isabelle became famous with her hit Je veux (lyrics here), taken from her eponymous debut album. Furthermore, she has sold over 3.4 million albums worldwide. As a result, she is amongst the best-known French singers in the world. Just google her name and you will find tons of ready-made resources to exploit her songs in class.

Soprano

SopranoSoprano is a French singer and rapper of Comorian descent living in Marseille. And he is one of the only rappers who raps without cursing. His latest hit, Mon précieux (lyrics here), describes the special relationship he has… with his mobile phone! Consequently, this can be a very interesting song to study in a French lesson. The song is part of his latest album, L’Everest.

Ready-made educational resources for several of his other songs are available on the TV5 Monde website.

Tété

TétéTété is a self-taught French musician born in Dakar, Senegal. He moved to France as a 2-year-old after his mother, from Martinique, and his father, from Senegal, divorced. Described as a French Jeff Buckley, his intimate music style combines blues, folk and pop. He blends influences including the Delta Blues, Lenny Kravitz, The Beatles and Bob Dylan.

Educational resources for his song Mon trésor (from his Le sacre des Lemmings er autres contes de la lisière album) are available on the TV5 Monde website. Also, check out the video clip for Le Magicien, in which Tété holds handy cue cards with words from the song – ideal for language learners!

 

Lescop

LescopMathieu Peudupin, known as Lescop, is a French cold-wave singer who has been described as “the perfect mix between Etienne Daho and New Order”. His poetic lyrics have also drawn comparisons with Gainsbourg’s songs. Lescop’s eponymous debut album opens with La forêt (lyrics here), a song which explores the moments before someone is shot; this evokes Camus’ L’Étranger, as some critics have pointed out. His songs’ lyrics are extremely rich and evocative, making them ideal for language lesson use.

ArchiPol

ArchiPolArchipol, Breton singer-songwriter-poet conjures up a world where the barrier between the digital and the human can be porous. How many other writers could adopt the personalities of a critical supermarket trolley, a (female) satnav voice who falls for her charge or a street convinced of its generosity in providing a bed for the homeless on its pavements?

Archipol and his co-artists lyrically and ironically reproduce the frustrated love affairs and paradoxes of a technological world to appeal to a teenage audience. The underlying aim-to encourage us all to maintain our humanity and rise above the virtual chasm by asserting our individuality. Enjoyable works of art in their own right, the songs from his latest album Drôle de monde are ideal for developing a range of language skills in the context of relevant vocabulary, structures and grammar. What’s more, Linguascope has developed a handy photocopiable workbook with everything you need to exploit the songs. Sample pages can be downloaded here.

5 French TV shows you can watch for free online

Kaamelot, a French TV seriesKaamelott

Kaamelott is a satirical interpretation of the King Arthur legend and his Knights of the Round Table. This French TV series explores the comical reality behind the legend, with grotesque characters and absurd situations.

Watch online or get the DVD

Fais pas çi, fais pas çaFais pas çi, fais pas ça

Fais pas çi, fais pas ça gives an insight into two modern French families with radically different visions of education. The Lepic parents try to uphold their traditional Catholic bourgeois values while raising their 4 children, whereas the more liberated Boulay parents try to redefine parenthood, seemingly making it up as they go along.

Watch online or get the DVD

Un gars, une fille

Un gars, une filleUn gars, une fille is a French comedy television series starring Jean Dujardin and Alexandra Lamy, who met during the audition for the series, and started a real-life relationship during the last year of the show. Each 7-minute-long episode depicts the daily life a young couple named Jean and Alex. The pair, nicknamed “Chouchou” and “Loulou”, face an array of hilarious everyday situations. This highly successful French TV series, which gathered 5 million viewers each day, consists of 5 seasons for a total of 486 episodes.

Watch online or get the DVD

Bref

Bref

An anonymous 30-year-old Parisian, unemployed and single, talks about his daily life and ongoing failures. Unlucky in love, he keeps going to lots of parties to meet girls, and learns the guitar to increase his chances. His numerous attempts at finding a job are just as unsuccessful, and he ends up working for a copying machine company despite a disastrous interview. Much to his dismay, his father comes to live with him after getting divorced as a result of an affair with a student.
Bref… you get the idea!

Watch online or get the DVD

Samantha oups !

Samantha OupsThe series deals with the life of a blonde young woman, Samantha, and her brunette best friend, Chantal. As part of the comedic nature of the series, men play both roles. The series is presented in a “shortcom” (short sitcom) format, with each episode generally running for approximately 5 minutes each. Each episode features Samantha and Chantal attempting various activities or careers, with varying, comedic results.

Watch online or get the DVD

7 tried and tested fundraising ideas

Looking for fun ideas to fund a school trip, pay for a piece of equipment or your Linguascope subscription? Budgets are tight at the moment and many teachers feel they don’t have the support they need from their SMT. Then why not take things into your own hands? Fundraising is a great way to bring some extra cash to your departmental budget, and it really doesn’t have a be a headache. Here are some fun ideas that are guaranteed to work every time:

Fundraising with cakes!Cake Sale

It’s an obvious one, but we use the idiom “sells like hot cakes” for a reason. Cakes definitely sell! Ask your students to bring some homemade cakes (possibly with a prize incentive for the best decorated one) and set up a stand at breaktime – in the playground or the staffroom. Ideally, you should choose a festive time of the year or the end of a term as you are likely to sell more then.

Charity Car Wash

Again, not a very novel idea, but there is no shortage of cars to clean in the staff car park. Advertise the car wash in the school newsletter and invite parents to bring their car too!

Foreign Film Night

Kill two birds with one stone: Instil some culture and raise some money! Simply get your hands on a projector and have a movie night with a subtitled film. Fundraise via entry donations and/or selling movie snacks (popcorn, sweets and drinks).

Grow your ownGrow your own

Buy a packet of seeds, plant them and let them grow. Then sell the plants to staff and parents. It’s a fun, purposeful fundraising activity and the whole class can join in.

Book Sale

A book sale is not only a great way to raise money, but it also has the advantage of encouraging reading. Ask students and parents to donate books they have already read and sell them. Any books that aren’t sold could then be used in the school library.

Guess the amount

Fill a glass jar full of sweets and get students (and teachers!) to guess the amount or weight. Each participant gives a small donation and the one with the closest guess wins the content.

Sell language resources

If you’re a Linguascope subscriber, you are entitled to a 50% discount on ALL product orders from the Linguascope catalogue (log in to the Staffroom section of the website to find your exclusive discount code). Why not buy some resources and resell them to your students at the standard price? Products such as verb wheels or vocabulary books are extremely popular with students and they are affordable. You could also consider the Linguascope mouse mats, pencils, the Talking Dice Essentials or the C’est comique graphic novel as part of your fundraising arsenal.