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Taking offence over language

Peter van Dyk | 13:12 UK time, Friday, 24 March 2006

French President Jacques Chirac left a European Union meeting on Thursday after a French union leader chose to speak in English rather than French.

When asked by Mr Chirac why he was speaking English, the French president of the employers' association UNICE, Ernest-Antoine Seilliere, said that English was the working language of that particular session and the accepted business language of Europe today.

Fair enough, you might think, but Mr Chirac, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy and Finance Minister Thierry Breton left the meeting. They returned to hear the French president of the European Central Bank address the leaders in French.

And the European Commission's multi-lingual president, Jose Manuel Barroso, later stuck to French in his address to the meeting.

Is Mr Chirac overeacting or as president should he defend the French language in this way? Or are there more important things for him to worry about? (Dr Roy thinks so.)

The Joker to the Thief calls it a "Grand Stupid Gesture" and The Morningstar compares Mr Chirac to a spoilt child who wants everything his own way.

How important is your mother-tongue? Is it a national symbol, part of the country’s identity or just a functional tool?
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