Sacre Bleu! French Ministry Bans English Gaming Terms

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(Photo: Anthony Choren/Unsplash)In an attempt to preserve the “purity” of its language, France has banned English terms that refer to common pillars of gaming culture. 

As of Monday, French government employees are not allowed to use English video game jargon, per changes rolled out by the Académie Française (France’s centuries-old ministry for issues pertaining to the French language). Instead, employees are required to use French versions of each term—regardless of how much more complicated the French alternatives are. 

“While some expressions find obvious translations—‘pro-gamer’ becomes ‘joueur professionnel’—others seem a bit more strained, as ‘streamer’ is transformed into ‘joueur-animateur en direct,’” reports The Guardian, which learned of the updates from Agence France-Presse. The term “eSports” must be exchanged for “jeu video de competition,” which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, even for native French speakers. 

Two volumes of the Académie Française’s official dictionary. (Photo: heurtelions/Wikimedia Commons)

While the Académie Française claims its goal is to reduce confusion among non-gamers, the organization routinely warns that the French language could be spoiled by communities overseas. Its panic stems from “the Toubon Law,” a law enacted in 1994 by then-Minister of Culture Jacques Toubon, which pledges to protect the French language and ensure French citizens’ right to use it in educational, work, and other everyday contexts. Since the beginning, the Toubon Law has been wielded as a tool to prevent French citizens from migrating to the use of excessive Anglo-Saxon terminology. Case in point: the Académie Française’s official website advises citizens to swap “data scientist” for “expert en mégadonnées” and the increasingly-popular “click and collect” for “retrait en magasin.” In fact, the site contains multiple pages’ worth of “say, don’t say” guidelines, which are exactly what they sound like (though many of its “rules” have to do with grammar and syntax, not national language).

The Académie Française’s guidelines are considered binding for government employees. This means any future policy that uses gaming-related terminology—amendments to intellectual property law, for instance, or antitrust penalties—will need to use the lengthier French jargon instead of the (admittedly more widely-used) English shorthand. The organization’s website also makes it appear as though such language guidelines are applicable to public universities.

As of now, there isn’t any public information on what happens when a government employee uses a “banned” English term, nor whether private entities (like French game developers) will make an effort to align with the new rules. But if you play internationally-adored multiplayer games, now might be as good a time as ever to brush up on your French.

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