For French and francophonic people, the continued vitality of their linguistic heritage is an integral part of their sense of national identity and cultural cohesiveness. The truth of this statement has been corroborated recently by legislative enactments in France and in Belgium which prescribe and/or recommend the use of French in certain private commercial and governmental activity taking place within these countries. This legislation represents an attempt to provide a partial remedy to what has been perceived generally as the syntactical and lexical "contamination" of the French language resulting from the dominance of English or, more precisely, American English, in international business transactions and technological development. Born of a common desire to protect the "integrity of the French language," the provisions of the two legislative instruments are similar in many respects: the earlier French law in fact served as a model for the Belgian decree. They raise the same issues, albeit to differing degrees; namely, the wisdom of modifying linguistic usage through legislative means; the practicality of enforcing a broad, perhaps ill-defined, mandate; and the propriety of having their substantive prescriptions interpreted and applied by the courts.The purpose of this article is to assess legislation which attempts to regulate the use of language by measuring the consequences of these enactments on transnational commercial matters. Since the Belgian decree relies heavily upon the precedent set by the French law and is a less drastic measure, the provisions of the French statute constitute the principal focus of this study.
Thomas E. Carbonneau, Linguistic Legislation and Transnational Commercial Activity: France & Belgium, 29 Am. J. Comp. L. 393 (1981).