The 2018 Olympics are upon us and let me preface this blog post by saying that I am a huge Olympics fan. Being a naturally competitive person, I am drawn to competitions and what competition is more grand than the Olympics?

But don’t worry, I am not here to just talk about my love for sports, athletes and world-wide competitions. Although, if you want to geek out about the Olympics, come into the Alliance and we will chat about fun sports like curling and long ski-jumping (which still blows my mind… I mean how do you get into that?).

But no, let’s talk about the role of the French language in the Olympics. You might be surprised to learn that English AND French are the two official languages of the games. And there is a good reason for that! Firstly, English is used as an international official so therefore, the use of English makes sense for the Olympics.

But what you may not know is that the French language has a long history with the modern Olympic games. In fact, the “father” of the modern Olympics games was a Frenchman by the name of Pierre de Coubertin. He founded the International Olympic Committee (Comité International Olympique) in 1894. The IOC is also located in a French speaking city, Lausanne Switzerland, and guess what… the official languages for the IOC are English and French! So, as you can see, the French language has been closely intertwined with the modern-day Olympic games since their conception. In fact, the International Francophone Organization, that is dedicated to representing French speaking countries around the world sends a representative to each games to ensure that French is being properly used and represented during the competition.

Even though there are more Spanish speaking and Manderin-speaking people in the world vs. English and French speakers, more countries in the world list English or French as an official language (English: 54 and French: 29). Therefore, it only makes sense to have French and English be the official languages of the Olympic Games.

So, why does it really matter? Well, when you tune into les Jeux Olympiques in the coming weeks, listen to the announcers on the loud speakers. For instance, during any medal ceremony (like the one below), everything is announced in French, then English and then in the host country’s official language. In the video below from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, that happens to be Russian. So, for all you French speakers, gear up to use your language skills while you watch your favorite winter sports.

To start you off before the Opening Ceremony, let’s dive into some winter sport French vocabulary. And since I love lists, I made you a couple.

For you hockey fans:

  1.  Hockey – hockey sur glace
  2.  Offense – attaque
  3.  Defense – défense
  4. Goal – un but
  5.  Puck – un palet

For those who can’t get enough of skiing:

  1.  To ski – skier
  2.  A ski – un ski
  3.  Ski goggles – un masque de ski
  4.  Downhill skiing – ski de descente
  5.  Ski jumping – saut à ski

For the curling enthusiasts (me):

  1.  Curling – curling
  2.  Curling stone – une pierre de curling
  3.  To deliver (the stone down the ice) – lancer la pierre de curling
  4.  Broom – balai de paille
  5. 12 foot circle – cercle de douze pieds 

Let the games begin… Je déclare ouvert les Jeux de Pyeongchang célébrant les XXIIIes Jeux olympiques d’hiver !

Jane Eagleton







One Comment

  • James Adesko says:

    I found this explanation of the history and present use of French and English in the Olympic Games as exemplary. The only additional comment I would offer is to emphasize the point that not only are all announcements given in French and English, but that the French announcement is invariably given first. I would believe that this is done because, at one time, perhaps from the very beginning of the modern Olympics, French was the only official language, English being added at some later point, perhaps because this is the official language of the United States, the most powerful nation in the world, and will continue to be the most powerful and influential, hopefully, for some time to come, with France as a close friend and ally. We should not forget that France was a close and not insignificant ally in the founding of our country. And that voyages to France were extraordinarily important to our founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

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