Language Matters: Anglophones at the Tour de France

Have you been following the Tour de France?

The race, arguably the most famous bicycle race in the world, is a race around France that’s been happening for 110 years.  And even though the athletes who compete in the Tour de France come from all over the world, most of the communication in and about the race has been in French.

That is, until now.

The last two Tour titles have gone to English speakers and this year’s might go to another Anglophone (though Chris Froome, the race leader, is a Briton who also speaks French).

Many Tour de France athletes who don’t speak French or English as their native language prefer to learn English rather than French, and conduct their press interviews and other Tour business in that language.

Not that long ago, riders who didn’t speak French were at a real disadvantage — they couldn’t converse with their fellow competitors, they had to have translators to read official documents and find out about official scores and announcements, and they knew they needed to learn at least some French to get by.

Now, it’s a lack of knowledge of English that’s more of a handicap.

The rise of English as the world’s international language means that a rider from Germany can talk with a rider from Italy — in English.  An athlete who speaks only French would be left out of the conversation.

Not that the Tour will ever give up French entirely — the race is, after all, in France.

What do you think about this?  Do you think you’d be upset if you lived in France and you knew that more and more of the Tour’s athletes and communications were in English?

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