Effectiveness and simplism of the simplified spelling

In the text signed by Caroline Montpetit of May 18 on the simplification of French, I could not help but notice that we quickly move from exceptions and specific difficulties in learning French, to the accusation of elitism of a language which would prevent access to higher education for less privileged classes. My reaction as a man of the left who spent childhood and adolescence in a single-parent family and on social assistance (this is to confirm my status, since loving the language as it is would make me an “insider”, why not a francophone? mason) would rather be to question and modify the socio-economic system which perpetuates this state of affairs.

The idea that simplifying the language will allow everyone to make a living as a lawyer or engineer seems to me… simplistic: if my son no longer stumbles over double consonants, he will be able to go to HEC Montréal. QED.

With their noses glued to academic results and social mobility objectives prevented by this damn French language which becomes a source of “social problems”, the researchers of EROFA (Studies for the rationalization of French spelling today) totally forget to question the recent history from which they themselves come. I am of course invoking here the spelling reform of 1990.

A teacher friend, a secondary school French teacher, wrote me this after reading the article: “How to grant a past participle when, at twelve years old, you have not learned to find a subject or a direct complement in a six word sentence? And I mean six. We could also talk about the systematic non-teaching of phonemes which wreaks havoc and creates chronic gaps. I blame the whole Earth for wasting these brains. »

Another secondary school teacher friend, this time in France, told me that she read short stories aloud to her 13-14 year old students, drawn from a repertoire in the primary school curriculum a few years ago, that they could not decode in text analysis. And what can I say about the secondary school teachers who approach me at work (I’m a bookseller) and who, for around ten years, have asked me for novels for their students not exceeding a hundred pages because “when not even discourage them.”

Anecdotal, I will be told. However, these problems did not arise systemically around fifteen years ago. Added to all this is what a group of teachers told us on these pages last Friday about so-called inclusive writing which puts an additional weight on the shoulders of students who suffer from dyslexia (now rampant in classes — the reform of course having nothing to do with the increase in cases) and dysorthography.

In a significant number of articles and books published in recent years, teachers, psychologists, sociologists and pediatricians nevertheless explain to us that the arrival of social media in the landscape (Jonathan Haidt speaks of the “smartphone generation”), particularly in the education system, caused a movement of the tectonic plates on which the entire system itself rests. This change combined with the reform, both contemporary with the shortage of teachers which worsens from year to year, never seems to provoke the spark of the beginning of a reflection outside the silos of EROFA researchers.

The school, which should be the place where learning French should confront us with ancient and contemporary texts, risks becoming the place of the exclusive here and now. If it serves no specific purpose for their socio-economic future, if it speaks in a language that does not reflect their everyday orality — the very idea of ​​using language levels in class becomes suspect. not to say reactionary — then the school does not have to confront students with adversity, with difficulties, or worse, with failure. Success is the only way out and, of course, this obligation is not responsible for any insecurity…

I see myself at 9 or 10 years old, watching the teacher write a sentence on the board, and saying to myself, great, we’re going to dissect the sentence. I guess I have to blame my mother (it seems it’s always their fault) for encouraging me to like something that’s useless, even though we had no money. Besides, I ended up as a bookseller, so without money, but doing a job that I love. I continue to use all the double consonants while simultaneously trying to make as few errors as possible when conjugating my verbs. It’s the endless work and pleasure of using language, and perhaps that’s where we don’t understand each other, on the equation: work = pleasure.

I am still reassured to know that half of the young people consulted on these simplification proposals are opposed to them, but not surprised that this is immediately interpreted by the specialist, in a group of “people more educated than the average” (therefore already elitist?) as being a fear of “losing acquired knowledge”, an opposition which she describes as astonishing, which is hardly surprising on the part of researchers who, for their part, seem committed to a form of utilitarian progressivism well in tune with the neoliberal imperatives of efficiency that govern us.

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