The french colonial empire

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The french colonial empire

Postby tungemål » Wed Mar 17, 2021 5:03 pm

I'm watching a french documentary on the fall of the french colonial empire. Even though I knew France had colonies I didn't realize how big the French empire was. Just think about it: It included Algerie and most of West Africa and Madagascar, Indochina which was Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and several island nations in the Pacific and in the Caribbean. In 1931 there was a colonial exhibition in Paris where they had built a city of buildings from around the world, including a full scale replica of the Angkor Vat temple.

It began to fall after the second world war. The documentary is very interesting and quite critical of the way France handled the "decolonization". Rightfully so it seems.

I am very fascinated by the colonial empires and would like to read more about it if you've got any tips on books.

I think that the Spanish and Portuguese colonizations happened much earlier and the transition to independent countries is long finished. While the French decolonization is not that long ago and there are still wounds and problems because of it.
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby mokibao » Thu Mar 18, 2021 4:41 pm

What I find interesting is that people will instinctively associate the French language with France, despite the fact that a huge majority of French speakers live outside France, or even Europe. There isn't any such strongly polarized association for Spanish, Portuguese or English, even though all of those languages were spread in similar conditions and their European speakers are also minorities among their respective linguistic communities. I wonder why that is.
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Mar 18, 2021 8:56 pm

mokibao wrote:What I find interesting is that people will instinctively associate the French language with France, despite the fact that a huge majority of French speakers live outside France, or even Europe. There isn't any such strongly polarized association for Spanish, Portuguese or English, even though all of those languages were spread in similar conditions and their European speakers are also minorities among their respective linguistic communities. I wonder why that is.

That's an interesting question! My guess would be that while the situations seem similar when you look at total speakers, it's totally different if you look at native speakers only, since most native French speakers live in France but most English, Spanish, and Portuguese speakers live in the Americas.
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby tungemål » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:00 pm

mokibao: Yes exactly. I've always associated french with France and its culture.

I remember when I travelled to Cambodia in 2009 - my guidebook said that older people might speak french. That would probably be in 2000 or earlier - probably not now.

Still, I imagine that to learn french would be more useful in countries outside Europe. While you'd get by with english in France, in some countries in Africa they might speak french and no english? I don't know.
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby Elsa Maria » Thu Mar 18, 2021 10:18 pm

tungemål wrote:mokibao: Yes exactly. I've always associated french with France and its culture.

I remember when I travelled to Cambodia in 2009 - my guidebook said that older people might speak french. That would probably be in 2000 or earlier - probably not now.

Still, I imagine that to learn french would be more useful in countries outside Europe. While you'd get by with english in France, in some countries in Africa they might speak french and no english? I don't know.


I teach English as a volunteer, and our organization helps a lot of French speakers from Africa. Off the top of my head, I recall working with French speaking adults from Togo, the Ivory Coast, and the French-speaking region of Cameroon.
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby lichtrausch » Thu Mar 18, 2021 11:46 pm

mokibao wrote:What I find interesting is that people will instinctively associate the French language with France, despite the fact that a huge majority of French speakers live outside France, or even Europe. There isn't any such strongly polarized association for Spanish, Portuguese or English, even though all of those languages were spread in similar conditions and their European speakers are also minorities among their respective linguistic communities. I wonder why that is.

Not only are the vast majority of Francophones included in these statistics not native speakers, many speak highly divergent varieties like Nouchi in Ivory Coast. Also, the majority of Francophone culture with global appeal has and continues to come out of France.
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby mokibao » Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:06 am

lichtrausch wrote:Not only are the vast majority of Francophones included in these statistics not native speakers, many speak highly divergent varieties like Nouchi in Ivory Coast.


And? Less than a fourth of Indonesians actually speak Malay as their mother tongue, and a variety that highly diverges from the Malay spoken in Malaysia, yet you don't see people forgetting the whole of Indonesia and focusing only on Malaysia when the language is mentioned. Paraguay is still counted as part of the Spanish speaking world despite the majority of the population being native in Guarani, and the diversity among varieties of Spanish don't need to be demonstrated. MSA is spoken natively by basically no one and is associated with the entire Arabic world, whose linguistic diversity is at least as rich as that of the Romance family. I could go on with examples like that. Why should one's native status or the presence of variety (a natural thing in any language in the world despite what prescriptivists would have you think) matter in one's perception of the language?

Also, the majority of Francophone culture with global appeal has and continues to come out of France.


Aha, good PR then.
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby Saim » Fri Mar 19, 2021 12:29 am

mokibao wrote:yet you don't see people forgetting the whole of Indonesia and focusing only on Malaysia when the language is mentioned.


Don't you? I'd say most people aren't aware Indonesian and Malay are the same language.

Paraguay is still counted as part of the Spanish speaking world despite the majority of the population being native in Guarani,


It's certainly counted but when people think of Spanish do they immediately associate it with Paraguay or do they think of other countries?

MSA is spoken natively by basically no one and is associated with the entire Arabic world


Again, how many people even know what MSA is?
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Re: The french colonial empire

Postby Lycopersicon » Fri Mar 19, 2021 8:11 pm

tungemål wrote:I'm watching a french documentary on the fall of the french colonial empire. Even though I knew France had colonies I didn't realize how big the French empire was. Just think about it: It included Algerie and most of West Africa and Madagascar, Indochina which was Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and several island nations in the Pacific and in the Caribbean. In 1931 there was a colonial exhibition in Paris where they had built a city of buildings from around the world, including a full scale replica of the Angkor Vat temple.

It began to fall after the second world war. The documentary is very interesting and quite critical of the way France handled the "decolonization". Rightfully so it seems.

I am very fascinated by the colonial empires and would like to read more about it if you've got any tips on books.

I think that the Spanish and Portuguese colonizations happened much earlier and the transition to independent countries is long finished. While the French decolonization is not that long ago and there are still wounds and problems because of it.


There were actually two colonial enterprises.

The first empire was mostly based on the American continent and comprised Haiti, most of eastern Canada as well as an enormous chunk of land between the Rocky mountains and the Appalachians. It had disappeared almost entirely by the end of the of 18th century, though, save for a few sugar islands and a couple of trading posts in India.
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