Uproar over changes in French spelling

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Proposed changes in the French language have faced strong opposition

Suggested new spellings for more than 2,000 French words have sparked controversy.

The French Academy proposed changes in 1990, including the deletion of the circumflex and hyphens in some words, but they were optional.

Now publishers say they will include the new spellings in schoolbooks.

France’s education minister has said the changes will not culminate in the end of circumflex and that both spellings will remain correct.

Despite this the news sparked furious reaction on social media, with users arguing the changes constituted dumbing down.

The outrage reportedly started after a report by the TF1 website (in French) said the reforms would take into effect in the upcoming academic year.

It quoted a note from the education ministry last year saying that the new spellings should be adopted and reported that publishers have decided to add the changes in textbooks from September.

Students will then have a choice to use either the old spellings or the new ones and teachers will have to accept both ways as correct.

‘Comment dire?’ Some of the new spelling

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Oignon – ognon (onion)

Nénuphar – nénufar (water lily)

S’entraîner – s’entraine (to practice)

Maîtresse – maitresse (mistress, teacher)

Coût – cout (cost)

Mille-pattes – millepattes (centipedes)

Porte-monnaie – portemonnaie (purse, wallet)

Sources: Thelocal.fr, TF1

The proposed changes followed a review of the French language to simplify learning, but they were not binding and had faced strong opposition in the country, Le Monde reported (in French).

They include the deletion in some words of the hyphens and the circumflex. The accent disappears from above the letter i and u in certain words and not from the letter o.

The new spelling would reportedly impact around 2,400 words.


Users on social media were furious over the changes, and the hashtags #ReformeOrthographe (orthographic reform) and #JeSuisCirconflexe (I am circumflex) were one of Twitter’s trending topics in France on Thursday.

Many users shared pictures showing their dissatisfaction with the changes, and most of the anger was directed the alleged end of the circumflex.

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This tweet decried the “dumbing down” of the proposals

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