Atlanta-based Georgia Tech has a 60-student campus in Metz, France. The
courses are taught in English, the students are mostly American and the
professors rotate in and out of Atlanta.
The Web site http://www. georgiatech-metz.fr of this campus is in
English only, except for directions on how to drive there, in English
This site was discovered by members of an association called Defence of
the French Language, who, according to a news clip, spend their time
checking out restaurant menus and product labels.
We have similar groups here in Quebec and Montreal, the second-largest
French-speaking city in the world. For example: Indoor signs in a Jewish
deli (and other stores) must have French words this BIG --- by law ---
or the owner will face the lash of the language police.
In France, where language laws have even forced a product name change
from Walkman to "balladeur," two private groups have apparantly brought
the first legal challenge to the use of English on the Internet and a
suit against Georgia Tech.
The groups site a 1994 law that forbids the sale of "goods and services"
in any single language other than French.
A few stats: About 490,000 computers in France are connected to the
Internet, 370,000 in business and 120,000 in homes. In the U.S., with 5
times the population, 23 million use the Web. In Quebec, 3 times the
size of France and 5 times the size of Japan, a population of 7.3
million (85%-plus French-speaking), about 120,000 have Web access.
By the way, and my opinion, the crux of the situation is that France
wants to protect its investment in Minitel, a terminal provided by the
phone company for the past 15 years and used by 6.5 million households,
which provides similar Internet-style services.
Marceau Dechamps, administrator of the French-defence association
bringing the suit, told a reporter the use of English and other foreign
languages on the Web is not the real issue.
"Whether (the Georgia site) is in English, Chinese or Russian is no
problem," he said. "The problem is that it is not also in French. We are
not against English, we are for the French language. We are in France,
Meanwhile, north of the border ...
The Question: Will the Georgia/France situation influence Quebec's
attitude and policies on the Web, a province governed by a separatist
political party, waiting for the next shoe to drop, a coming referendum,
waiting to destroy Canada as we know it?
As they say, I'm working on it.
However, I'm too close to the subject (I'm an Anglophone Quebecer with
British heritage) and I need some feedback on this situation from
members of this list.
Bottom Line: If the law goes against Georgia, should they kill their
French site? Should they willingly translate? Should they accept, by
law, forced translation of their site? Will other European countries
follow or do they also have similar laws?
If I were say, an American (or Canadian) photographer living in Paris,
offering my products and services for sale on the Web, speak French but
don't write the language, will I too, by law, one day, be forced to
translate my site, although I'm pinching francs today to buy a roll of
Editor and Publisher
Montreal Computer News
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