Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Toubon Law (full name: law 94-665 of 4 August 1994 relating to usage of the French language), is a law of the French government mandating the use of the French language in official government publications, advertisements, and some other contexts. The law does not concern non-commercial communications, web pages or publications from individuals or private bodies.
The law takes its common name from Jacques Toubon, a conservative, who was Minister of Culture when it was passed. A nickname is Loi Allgood – "Allgood" is a syllable-per-syllable translation of "Toubon" into English, whereas the law can largely be considered to have been enacted in reaction to the increasing usage of English in advertisements and other occasions in France.
Effects of the law
The most significant effect of the law is that it makes it mandatory for commercial advertisements and public announcements aimed at the public to be given in French. This does not rule out advertisements made in a foreign language: it is sufficient to provide a translation in a footnote, a very widespread practice. This was justified as a measure for the protection of the consumer.
In addition, the law specifies obligations for public legal persons (government administrations etc.), mandating the use of French in publications, or at least in summaries of publications. In France, it is a constitutional requirement that the public should be informed of the action of the government (The society has the right of requesting [an] account[ing] from any public agent of its [i.e., the society's] administration.); since the official language of France is French, it follows that the French public should be able to get official information in French.
Other dispositions concerned the use of French in colloquia. These dispositions are largely ignored by many public institutions, especially in the academic fields.
Some dispositions of the law were found to be unconstitutional by the Constitutional Council (decision 94-345 DC), on grounds that they violated freedom of speech, after a complaint by members of parliament of the left-wing opposition .
This law has often been very inaccurately described in the English-language press. In particular, it was incorrectly said to make it mandatory for French websites to be in French, and to ban the use of English words in French publications. Furthermore, it has often been lambasted in commentaries as a sign of French arrogance or inability to deal with the current world situation.
The Georgia Tech Lorraine case
One incident related to the Toubon law became particularly known in the United States of America, as it concerned the French branch of an American college.
Two groups, the Association for the Defence of the French Language and the Future of the French Language, used the Toubon Law to demand that information on some websites based in France, which they deemed to constitute advertisement, must be in French, and filed a complaint against Georgia Tech Lorraine .
Georgia Tech Lorraine is the French branch of the Atlanta-based Georgia Institute of Technology with a campus in Metz, in eastern France, with a current enrollment of 60 students. Classes are conducted in English, and the faculty rotates in from Atlanta. All course descriptions on its internet site were in English, which was supposed to violate French law in the reasoning of the two associations: these course descriptions constituted an advertisement for this private college and thus fell under the Toubon law.
Should the court have ruled against Georgia Tech Lorraine, the school could have been forced to pay a fine of 1,000 French francs for every day after such a ruling that the site was not translated into French, and 10,000 francs to each of the two plaintiffs. However, the case was dismissed by the court on a technicality, and the plaintiffs chose not to appeal the ruling. Since then, Georgia Tech Lorraine has made its website available in French and German in addition to English.
- Text of the Toubon law (in French; unconstitutional dispositions are marked as such)
- Text of the decision deeming many dispositions of the Toubon law unconstitutional (in French)
- Georgia Tech Lorraine official site
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