The new way of writing French

by RomyLeclerc on February 8, 2016 - 6:47pm

In France, there is a committee discussing the French language and its grammar, named the Académie de la langue française, known in English as French Academy. The members of this council agreed about the changes that will be made on the language. Lately, the Académie revealed a new report changing some of the basics of the French language.

On February 5th 2016, we could read about this news in the article French Spelling Changes, 26 years in the Making Cause a Fracas by Dan Bilefsky in the New York Times.

As a French-native speaker, I totally understand French’s need of updating. Some changes would probably make the spelling of language of Molière a bit easier to learn.

However, I am also a French tutor at my College. I help English-speaker students improving their skills in that language. I know the struggle students experience while learning French. If students have to learn those changes in addition to the traditional grammar, a lot of them will probably lose their mind since they have already learned the “old French” and will be mixed up with the new version. As for me, French is sure a tough language, but it has its charm.

The Education Ministry said that those changes were actually not new. In fact, they were created and approved 25 years ago as “optional recommendation”. However, a lot of French textbooks and teachers decide to ignore them. In 2008, the Ministry created a bulletin in order to persuade French schools to put them in place.

The Académie will cut back the circumflex accent, also known as the “little hat”, on many words. Indeed, the word “work out” will be written entrainer instead of entraîner. As of September, 2,400 words will be spelled differently. For instance, oignon (onion) will be ognon and nénuphar (water lily) will be nénufar. Also, the hyphen in week-end and tic-tac will be removed.

Reactions on social media were abrupt and strident. Many Francophones saw these changes as an insult of their culture. On Twitter, a new hashtag was born: “Je suis circumflex”, in reference to the famous “Je suis Charlie”.

Patrick Vannier, one of the member of the elite dictionary of the Académie française said: “I am happy that this shows the extent to which the French are still attached to their language”. Vannier also added that we should not forget that any language is not static, they are all always moving.

Finally, Fleur Pellerin, France’s minister of culture reassures us that the French language is not threatened by other languages, including English.

To read the article in the New York Times :

To learn more about the new spelling (source in French):


It is a great summary. As a French-native speaker, I obviously did hear about it, but I did not know about all the details of the reform. Your summary did its job perfectly. It summarizes all the changes that French will suffer from now on.
Also, I totally agree with you. French needed an update, as long as the language retains its charm. There are so much rules to follow and rules not to follow that it is, sometimes, hard to write and speak it properly. French is my mother-tongue as well, but even after 19 years of speaking, listening and writing it everyday, I still do make mistakes. My point is that reforms will make it less complicated and especially easier to write and speak, for both those who already speak it but also for those who would like to learn this beautiful language. Those reforms will make French more accessible for a lot of people.

I find your summary very interesting. I am also a French-Native speaker and I know that this reform will affect part of the French speaking population. Your summary has greatly helped me understand the situation. French isn't an easy language to learn especially when it's time to write. I think this reform will help people learning to read and write it. Researchers have studied the case of the circumflex accents for years now, and I think they have decided to do these changes because they knew that it wasn't that necessary for the french writing. Today, when I write online or in text message, I don't even bother putting accents on my words because people still understand what I mean. Some accents are more important such as the "accent aigu" and the "accent grave", because they can change the meaning of a word, but with studies it was proven the circumflex doesn't affect any word.
Good Summary!