English translation on France’s new ID cards angers traditionalists


English translation on France’s new ID cards angers traditionalists Education Beyond Borders Podcast

France’s new biometric identity cards, issued on August 2 last year, contain for the first time both French and English translations of all the fields, such as ‘name’, ‘address’, and ‘nationality’. This has sparked a big controversy. The French Academy, charged with defending the French language, is threatening to take the government to court over the use of English on the country’s new identity card.

The Académie Francaise has called on the French Prime Minister to suspend the country’s biometric identity card for its “excessive” use of English translations, which it claims are unconstitutional. The move comes amid rightwing accusations the government is “erasing” French identity. Several rightwing politicians, including Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate for the hard-right National Rally, praised the move by the Académie Francaise.

Every French citizen is required to have a national identity card which they can also use as their main travel document when heading to another European Union country. The addition of the English translations, therefore, appears to be a move to facilitate passage across international borders for French citizens.

There is also a European regulation requiring the words “Identity Card” to be translated into at least one other European Union language, but Brussels leaves translating the rest of the document up to member states. German national ID cards include translations into both English and French, while even passports issued by Britain — which quit the European Union in 2020 — offer French translations. Italy, Austria, Romania, and Poland also translated all the terms on their identity cards.

However, in France, the venerable Académie Française, founded in 1635 under King Louis XIII to guard “pure” French, has taken offence and has given French authorities two months to re-established French as the sole language on the card before appealing to the Council of State. Even if the court rules in its favor, legal experts say the fully bilingual cards already issued will remain in place.

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