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An introduction to the Académie Française

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Have you ever wondered who is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the French language and serving in the role of the guarde rapproché? France is well-known across the globe for its fierce linguistic nationalism. Everything you need to know about the Académie Francaise is included in this article.

Anyone who has ever moaned about the French language is likely to be familiar with the name of the French Language Academy, the Académie Francaise. This institution, in the eyes of the majority of us foreigners, serves no purpose other than to aggravate us. Why can't we just refer to it as an email; what's wrong with calling it a courriel? Who was it who referred to a soccer game as a party or a new business venture as a jeune-pousse?

One of the tasks of the Académie is to act as the official custodian of the French language, although this is not the only one. The degree to which the Académie can successfully carry out these tasks is a topic that generates considerable debate among the French. A disillusioned article that was once published in the French weekly Télérama (13 June 2007) asserted that not only had the Académie failed to move with the times, but it also failed in its mission to honor the best writers in the French language. The article was written by a person who felt that the Académie had failed both of these missions.


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Académie's history

In 1635, Cardinal Richelieu, who was serving as Louis XIII's regent at the time, created the Académie, which is now considered to be one of the few remaining remnants of France's regal history. As a response to the censoring of potentially subversive intellectuals who would plot against the monarchy, this was the solution. Since that time, the club's membership has included eminent figures from the fields of science, medicine, anthropology, oceanography, and politics, as well as some of France's most famous writers. But others, such as Molière, Gustave Flaubert, and Jean-Paul Sartre, were destined for greatness but fell short. The author Emile Zola was rejected 24 times.

If the Académie was to blame for any glaring canonical omissions like these, it is unavoidable to state that the job at hand is not an easy one. The fundamental responsibility that falls within its purview is to continue the work of compiling a dictionary that safeguards the uniqueness of the French language. The Académie faces the challenge of keeping up with the ever-expanding English vocabulary that emerges to accommodate emerging trends in software, technology, and cyberspace. This challenge arises as a result of globalization and the Internet's tendency to make English an all-pervasive language in most workplaces.

According to the principles that were established by Cardinal Richelieu, the primary responsibility of the Académie is "to labor with all possible care and effort to give our language definite norms, and to make it clean, eloquent, and equipped to cope with the arts and sciences."

The Académie's mission

Maurice Druon, the Perpetual Secretary of the Académie, provided the following response when asked how the organization accomplishes its mission: "How do we execute our mission? By updating definitions, registering new meanings, and identifying the register of language; editing several pages of the Dictionnaire every week; approving or rejecting newly added terms, often via the use of a vote; amending several pages of the Dictionnaire every week. In addition to this, we will sometimes issue cautions, warnings, remarks, and judgments. Those individuals who mistreat the French language are made to feel as guilty as possible by our organization. And when we get to the letter Z, we begin the process all over again, just as Penelope does when she's weaving. At intervals ranging from thirty to fifty years, a new edition of the Dictionnaire is published.

It seems like a tiresome endeavor, and it's partly to blame for France's image as being monolingual, protective of their language, and sometimes even outright unpleasant to people who don't speak it very well. On the other hand, this is a stereotype that is quickly becoming outdated. The younger generations in France are becoming more aware of the significance of studying English to better their chances of finding employment. Even the Académie allows for some leeway, permitting the use of certain English terms. Some examples of these words are interview, reporter, and bulldozer.

The oldest of institutions

The Académie's advanced age is perhaps one of the most significant challenges it faces today. In more ways than one, it is the oldest of the institutions that are native to France. The average age is 78 years old. It is very odd that five of its remaining members, who are collectively referred to as the immortals, are all above the age of 90. One is 98. Nine are over 80. Beginning in 1981 with the French-American novelist Marguerite Yourcenar, there have been a total of more than 700 members, although just four of them have been female.

It seems that newer generations are showing less interest in entering the doorways of the Academy these days; the allure of grandeur and old-fashioned clothing is no longer a distinction that is worth searching out. A few years ago, there was also dissension among the ranks when Alain Robbe-Grillet, who is considered to be the father of the nouveau roman, declined to wear the traditional green tailcoat, sword, and bicorn hat for his induction ceremony. If the Académie wants to shake the dust off of its reputation and if it wants to keep abreast of the development of the French language, it should probably begin by aiming to recruit authors whose literary creation goes a long way toward reaffirming that although the French language may grow and change, it will always remain eloquently distinctive. If the Académie wants to shake the dust off of its reputation and if it wants to stay abreast of the evolution of the French language, it should begin by

The Académie Francaise website is accessible at


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