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Speech by President Macron at the Institut de France 20th March 2018 (excerpts)

“…on this vast world forum, there is one ground that the Francophonie must reconquer, namely that of the economy. Talking about the practices of this exchange or about the opportunities I mentioned earlier, is also talking about the economic world. When I came to Davos, I first spoke in English and then in French. Some would have preferred me to speak in French only, however, speaking in English in a forum that brings together the business community is indeed useful. This also shows that French develops further in this process and through multilingualism, through the capacity to speak the language of the other, also when this language has become dominant and sometimes hegemonic in the business world. This also brings English speakers closer to French when it comes to talking about the values that guide us and the way we view globalisation.

There is therefore an economic Francophonie which we need to rediscover, whose vitality must be regained, as Jacques ATTALI put it in 2014 in his report that made a number of recommendations, all of which are still topical. Thus, the solution is neither to impose a language nor to play the rivalry of languages. The solution is to allow language pluralism especially in trade. That is why I hope that two languages be taught in Europe in addition to one’s mother tongue because English must not be the only foreign language spoken by Europeans. Likewise, I hope that our business schools will attract more foreign students and contribute to a new impetus giving French as a business language new momentum. Enterprises must also take their share of responsibility.

The temptation to make English the working language must give way to an effort to promote multilingualism and intercultural exchanges, otherwise enterprises themselves will be subject to a linguistic and therefore cultural uniformity that is largely contradictory to the world as we know it. We will support enterprises with this task also with proposals for certification. This is part of the input we have gathered and employers’ organisations, Chambers of Commerce and diplomatic circles will be involved in this evolution.

Victor HUGO believed that French would be the language of Europe – he would perhaps be somewhat disappointed today. But after all, it only depends on us to see to it that French and multilingualism regain the place that should be theirs, especially in a Europe of economics, of trade and of EU institutions. This is why we will strengthen our language training system, especially for European leaders. Brussels will be the subject of a special effort, in conjunction with our Belgian partners, because we are experiencing a paradox which is rather unique in the current situation where English has probably never been so present in Brussels as in today’s debate on “Brexit”. This domination is not inevitable, it is up to us to define some rules, to reoccupy certain spaces and to make French become again a language that gives access to the opportunities I mentioned earlier. The Francophonie must do justice to other languages, especially other European languages as well as to all the languages that are being isolated or weakened by globalisation… ”