I first heard about Franglish during my freshman year at The American University of Paris (AUP). It is advertised as a “language-exchange event for French and English speaking people” that takes place in both France and in the UK. Yann Louis, who worked at the Student Affairs office, told me it was a great way to learn French. Determined to practice English after returning from England (where they obtained their university degrees), two French graduates launched the exchange program in Paris and a few years after, opened a branch in London. Franglish serves as a platform through which Anglophones can navigate their lives in France and Francophones mapping out their lives in the United Kingdom (UK). The program has existed for several years now but in the emergence of Brexit, to what extent can it still be impactful? Speaking about Brexit, a Financial Times article quoted a French diplomat who said, “playing down, or minimizing, the consequences would put Europe at risk.”
Franglish takes place at different bars in the city and on this particular day, it was going to be Chapi Chapo in the 5th arrondissement. At first glance, it was a typical Parisian bar – small, with wine glasses dangling behind the counter. But at the same time, it was different. There were splashes of red (paint?) all over the cream-colored walls and even at 7pm; the bar was completely empty. My conversations that evening were with different, interesting people. Xavier was a middle-aged man who taught at a high school and spoke about art with intense passion. He was particularly charmed with Katsushika Hokusai, a Japanese artist whose work was flaunted during the Japanese landscape exhibition at the Musée national des arts Asiatiques – Guimet, the national museum of Asian art. My second chat was with Quentin, a mechanical engineer who worked at AirFrance. He was a member of aviation sans frontieres (aviation without borders), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that brought sick, African kids to France for medical care. The organization pays for their round flights and lets them stay here for three months after their surgeries – all expenses paid. Although the group has visited all 54 countries in Africa, Quentin has only visited Casablanca (Morocco), Nouakchott (Mauritania), Cape Town (South Africa) and Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire). Then there was Siavash, the Cinematography (film studies) major at the Sorbonne; Stacy, who works at the public relations department of Road Scholar, a non-profit corporation that travels people around the world for educational experiences; and finally, I met Michael, a jurist who had studied International Law at university.
Franglish has become even more important after Brexit. However, whether or not it will continue to be as successful as it is now is unclear. In his article for The Guardian, Jo Griffin cited Nicky Morgan, the UK education secretary who warned, “native language speakers who assist at schools or teach in the language centers could find it more difficult to live in the UK.” If this is true and native French speakers find it difficult (or are unable) to exist in the UK, what would it mean for Franglish? How can London accommodate Franglish with a trifling population of French speakers? Can it survive; and if yes, barely so or dare to exist and continue to thrive? These are questions I am particularly looking forward to answering as the UK frees itself from the chains of the European Union.
The people I interacted with that night all had the same reason for learning English – to interact with a larger group of people. Learning a new language is always a big advantage; it strengthens your CV as well as helps you adapt easily while travelling. As I left Franglish that night, one thing was clear on my mind – something that had always been obvious to me – Language should be sans frontieres; communication should have no borders. It was 9pm; the bar was full.