Publishers to Adopt French Spelling Changes

April 1, 2016

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. reform /rɪˈfoɚm/ (n.) – changes or modifications for improvement
Example: The Department of Education is pushing for reforms to improve the quality of education.

2. optional /ˈɒp ʃə nl/ (adj.) – something presented as a choice but is not required
Example: Following the guidelines proposed is optional.

3. usage /ˈjuːsɪʤ/ (n.) – the way something is used
Example: It is important for language learners to know the proper usage of punctuations.

4. redundancy /rɪˈdʌn dən si/ (n.) – something that is unnecessary because it serves the same function as something else
ExampleThe lawmakers are revising the law to remove redundancies.

5. undermine /ˈʌn dərˌmaɪn/ (v.) – to indirectly attack something
Example: Some modern policies may undermine traditions if not implemented properly.


Read the text below.
A policy of reforms that will be adopted in the French language this year is fueling outrage among language traditionalists.

The policy was written and enacted by the Académie Française [a-kad-e-mi FRUHN-seiz], the official language moderator of France, as far back as 1990. The reforms proposed in the policy change the way 2,400 French words are written. The changes, however, have always been optional; both the old and new spellings are still acceptable. Schoolbooks and dictionaries across the country will start using the new spellings in September this year.

Changes proposed in the policy include altering the spelling of some words to match their pronunciation more closely. New rules on the usage of the hyphen (-) have also been introduced, adding it between number phrases and removing it from some compound words.

Lastly, the circumflex (^), a mark that may modify the pronunciation of a word, will be removed from certain vowels. This particular modification gathered the most negative reactions, because the mark is also important in distinguishing the meaning of two different words spelled the same way. The Académie said that some words will retain it for that purpose.

The enactment of the policy had the goal of simplifying French to make learning the language easier, especially for foreigners. They wanted to achieve this by fixing inconsistencies and removing redundancies.

Still, because of these simplifications, supporters of the traditional French spellings accuse the Académie of “dumbing down” the language and undermining the rich culture and history behind it. On the other hand, those who support the policy remind traditionalists that the French language evolved through time, even before the changes were proposed in 1990.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Should we maintain language in its traditional state, or should we adopt changes that come through time? Explain your answer.
·         If a policy that changes certain rules in your language were to be implemented, how would you react?

Discussion B

·         Aside from language, what other elements of a culture are prone to change through time? Cite examples and discuss.
·         How much do you think has your country’s culture adapted to globalization?

April 1, 2016