Tokyo French Speakers Sue in Defense of Language

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    Embed <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no">
  • Transcript

A group of French-speaking residents of Tokyo are suing the governor there for his comments disparaging the French language. He called it a language which "can't count numbers."


Sacrebleu, or the Japanese equivalent. A group of French-speaking residents of Japan is suing the governor of Tokyo for what they call insulting remarks. At the dedication of a university building last fall, Governor Shintaro Ishihara referred to French as a failed language. He said that the mother tongue of Proust, Balzac and Filette(ph) and the adopted language of Jerry Lewis is a language which cannot count numbers. Now French numbers can be complicated for beginners, and Governor Ishihara is known for making controversial and outlandish remarks, including that the Nanking massacre never happened. The 21 French speakers and teachers who have filed suit say his comments have hindered their economic livelihoods. They want to be paid damages of about $4,000 US each, which suggests they can count some numbers pretty well.

Coming up, a band that sings in many languages, the Brazilian Girls, most of whom aren't. Stay tuned.

Copyright © 2005 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.