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France Bans Schools from Using 'Gender-neutral' Words in French, Says It's 'Harmful'

Representative Image.

Representative Image.

Academie Francaise also said that gender-inclusive words are 'harmful' to the practice of the French language.

The government of France has directed schools across the country to stop using ‘gender-neutral’ spelling of words, saying the practise threatens the existence of the French language. The ruling, according to a news website, was issued last week by the country’s education ministry which aims to put an end to the use of midpoints that include both feminine and masculine endings to words.

Academie Francaise also known as the French Academy, which is entrusted for the preservation and promotion of the language, also said that the gender-inclusive words are “harmful" to the practice and understanding of the French language. In French, nouns, pronouns and adjectives reflect the gender of the word. For example, the French word ‘dirigeants’ means ‘leaders’, but has a masculine tone to the word. So, gender-inclusive activists and speakers advocated for putting an ‘e’ - symbolising femininity - before the end of the word and a midpoint, to make the word gender-neutral. So, ‘dirigeant•es’ would mean that men and women both can be leaders.

Therefore, advocates of women rights are increasingly using this method of spelling even though ‘dirigeants’ and ‘dirigeant•es’ are pronounced the same.

But the education ministry, under the government of President Emmanuel Macron, reasons that this only creates more confusion, and discourage even the French people to learn their own language.

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“With the spread of inclusive writing, the English language — already quasi-hegemonic across the world — would certainly and perhaps forever defeat the French language," Mail Online quoted French Education Minister Nathalie Elimas as saying when the ban was issued.

Domestically, India too has seen debates on using of language. The issue of alleged imposition of Hindi language in non-Hindi speaking regions of the country has time and again been propped up by different political parties. Particularly in south, several political parties have accused the ruling party at the Centre of trying to impose Hindi in non-speaking states.

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