French institution elects British professor

Michael Edwards, a poet who writes in English and French, joins the institution charged with protecting the purity of the French language. Since the all-pervasive nature of “Anglo-Saxon” culture and vocabulary has often been bemoaned by the French, this is a historic first. The Academy has often adopted a rather Canute-like approach to the influence of English on the French language, insisting that its own choice of vocabulary or “good French” should be used, rather than Anglo-Saxon imported words.

Mr Edwards points out that English too has borrowed words from other languages. In a Guardian interview he said “languages do change and they thrive by change, and they thrive very often by a kind of impurity. Elizabethan English changed and became immensely rich by borrowing from other languages and by inventing words continuously.” He suggests that English can actually help French to develop: “Rather than being a menace, it could help enrich French,” he said in a telephone interview.

Professor Edwards, who is based in France, married to a French wife and holds dual nationality, writes in both French and English. The Academy was founded in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu to establish rules to preserve the purity of the French language. One of its most important tasks is to update the French dictionary.

la Academia congratulates the professor and agrees that languages are living creatures, and that change will always happen. We hope he can encourage the Académie Française to be more open to outside influences on the French language and persuade them that not all change is bad, and neither are all “Anglo-Saxons”! Vive la France et la langue Française!