Why are France’s new identity cards translated into English?


France’s new biometric identity cards, issued on August 2 this year, for the first time contain French and English translations of all fields, such as “name”, “address” and “nationality”.

The decision to use English on the maps was made to facilitate travel.

However, it sparked controversy when they were first revealed in March.

Barbara Cassin, philologist, philosopher and member of the Académie française, the leading French council on matters relating to the French language, called the inclusion of English “insulting”.

“By deciding to translate everything on our new ID card into English and English only, we were wrong!” She wrote in an opinion piece for Le Monde.

She referred to German, Austrian and Romanian identity cards, which are translated into English and French, and said France should also translate its cards into several languages.

“Limiting yourself to English, especially after Brexit, and not to travel the world like with the passport, but just to travel in our Europe, sends too many false messages,” she wrote.

French Senator Mickaël Vallet was also against the inclusion of English on the maps, saying it was against the constitution.

“A document such as a national identity card must not contain elements in a foreign language”, he wrote in a letter to the French Ministry of the Interior.

“Little by little, the Globish steamroller is imposed with the complicity of the French government, even in our identity papers.”

Globish refers to “Global English”, a form of English used around the world, mainly by non-native speakers.

But Michel Lascombe qualified the remarks of Mr. Vallet of “misplaced chauvinism”.

“To travel to Europe you only need your identity card, so it is clear that the use of English here is intended to facilitate checks in the Schengen area,” he said. declared at 20 Minutes.

Names of French villages too long for the new identity card format

Several inhabitants of the village of Saint-Quentin-la-Motte-Croix-au-Bailly (Somme) were unable to obtain the new French identity cards, launched in August, because the name of the town is too long and does not do not match the new format.

There is only room for 30 characters in the address section on the back of cards, Le Parisien reported.

The 38 characters of Saint-Quentin-la-Motte-Croix-au-Bailly therefore do not fit.

The mayor of the village, Raynald Boulenger, said he was alerted to the problem by a resident who had not been able to obtain a new identity card, which he needed to pass his driving theory test.

“Five or six people in the commune of about 1,300 inhabitants were affected,” said Boulenger, adding that the problem dated back to March or April.

Local authorities have found a short-term solution, issuing temporary cards with the short name Saint-Quentin-La-Motte until a longer-term solution can be found before the end of the year. .

Saint-Quentin-la-Motte-Croix-au-Bailly may be a mouthful, but it’s not the longest town name in France. This honor goes to Saint-Rémy-en-Bouzemont-Saint-Genest-et-Isson, in the department of Marne.

French journalist Jules Grandin found a total of 47 names of communes in France that have names of 30 characters or more.

He’s plotted them on the map, which you can see in his Tweet below.

Anne-Gaëlle Baudouin, director of the Agence Nationale des Titres Sécurisés (ANTS), the agency responsible for issuing identity cards, said the mayors had received instructions to “find a solution” to shorten the names of long commons, especially those with the word ‘holy’ or ‘on’ in them.

She explained that the reason for the long names of municipalities is that since 2016, many villages have regrouped, keeping the two names but merging into one.

She said the ANTS planned to increase the number of characters available in the addresses section to 49, and also to reduce the font size.

The identity cards of century-old France

The new French high-tech identity cards with an electronic chip may be state of the art, but the original concept actually dates back 100 years, in September 1921.

Proving his identity at the time was not easy. The French could present various documents, including certificates of good moral character, proof of address, hunting licenses, family registers, railway cards and passports (but only for the rich).

This problem gave rise to an experiment: on September 12, 1921, Robert Leullier, then Paris police prefect, announced the creation of a French identity card for citizens residing in the Seine department (Paris and its inner suburbs ).

It was initially optional, due to a certain political opposition, and the cards did not become compulsory in France until 1940. However, they did not get off to the best start, as Leullier’s experience proved to be true. unpopular.

Several journalists of the time reported on the complexity of obtaining one of these first-generation ID cards.

Paul Gordeaux, renowned journalist, writer and humorist, recounted his misadventure while trying to obtain one in L’Écho de Paris.

“It takes a lot of patience,” he wrote.

He said he had to produce various certificates, including that of the janitor of the building where he lived. He also had to bribe two people to pose as his childhood friends and act as witnesses.

After all this, he discovered that the fingerprinting equipment was missing at the issuing center and that his application would have to be sent to the local prefecture before his card could be issued.

It seems that French identity cards have changed a lot over the past century, but the frustration with the country’s bureaucratic procedures is still strong.

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