Society & Culture

Africans Are Changing French: One Joke, Rap and Book at a Time (1)


Sudan Events

More than 60 % of French speakers now live in Africa .
According yo the New York Times,despite growing resentment at France, Africans are contributing to the evolution and spread of the French language.
French, by most estimates the world’s fifth most spoken language, is changing — perhaps not in the gilded hallways of the institution in Paris that publishes its official dictionary, but on a rooftop in Abidjan, the largest city in Ivory Coast.
There one afternoon, a 19-year-old rapper who goes by the stage name “Marla” rehearsed her upcoming show, surrounded by friends and empty soda bottles. Her words were mostly French, but the Ivorian slang and English words that she mixed in made a new language.
To speak only French, “c’est zogo” — “it’s uncool,” said Marla, whose real name is Mariam Dosso, combining a French word with Ivorian slang. But playing with words and languages, she said, is “choco,” an abbreviation for chocolate meaning “sweet” or “stylish.”
A growing number of words and expressions from Africa are now infusing the French language, spurred by booming populations of young people in West and Central Africa.
More than 60 percent of those who speak French daily now live in Africa, and 80 percent of children studying in French are in Africa.
There are as many French speakers in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as in Paris.
Through social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube, they are literally spreading the word, reshaping the French language from African countries, like Ivory Coast, that were once colonized by France.
“We’ve tried to rap in pure French, but nobody was listening to us,” said Jean Patrick Niambé, known as Dofy, a 24-year-old Ivorian hip-hop artist listening to Marla on the rooftop. “So we create words from our own realities, and then they spread.”
Walking down the streets of Paris or its suburbs, you can hear people use the word “enjailler” to mean “having fun.” But the word originally came from Abidjan to describe how adrenaline-seeking young Ivorians in the 1980s jumped on and off buses racing through the streets.

A young rapper who goes by the stage name Marla (left), practices her act with other rappers on a rooftop in Abidjan.Credit…Arlette Bashizi for The New York Times

The youth population in Africa is surging while the rest of the world grays. Demographers predict that by 2060, up to 85 percent of French speakers will live on the African continent. That’s nearly the inverse of the 1960s, when 90 percent of French speakers lived in European and other Western countries.

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