“Avec votre accent, ça ne va pas être possible.” FRENCH MPs DISCUSS 'ACCENT DISCRIMINATION' LAW (B2)

In recent years, there has been a heavy focus on ending many kinds of discrimination in the workplace. For example, legislation exists in many countries which makes discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, age, and religion or belief unlawful. In the United Kingdom, the most recent legislation in this area is the Equality Act 2010, which protects people from discrimination in relation to nine ‘protected characteristics’.

In France, MPs have recently (18th November) discussed the issue of discrimination on the grounds of regional accent. One of the concerns is that there is ‘linguistic centralisation’ in France, with some people believing that there is only one ‘correct’ way to speak. This raises the possibility that certain people who speak with regional accents are being discriminated against when applying for jobs and also in the workplace generally.

Speaking to French news outlet, ‘FranceInfo’, Médéric Gasquet-Cyrus, who is a linguist and lecturer at the university of Aix Marseille, said:

It is the idea that there is only one right way to speak, that which is used in the capital – or at least by the elite who work in the capital, who are not necessarily Parisians."

He went on to say that other French accents are considered “less serious and less legitimate”.

For reasons like these, French MPs are now considering a new law against ‘glottophobia’ (unfair treatment based on the use of language and characteristics of speech). This is allegedly a term which was popularised by sociologist Philippe Blanchet of the University of Rennes and involves discrimination based on pronunciation and tone. For now, it seems to be a particular issue in France.

Readers may remember an incident which occurred in France in 2018, when politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon mocked a journalist from Toulouse for having a ‘southwestern’ accent. After being asked a question, Mr Mélenchon allegedly said, “Has anyone got a question in more or less comprehensible French?”

© Cambridge Legal English Academy 2020

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