Quebec forum seeks French word for 'hashtag'

QUEBEC CITY - English words like "email" and "networking" pepper digital and economic parlance in the French-speaking world, to the chagrin of the attendees at the first French Language World Forum, who are struggling to find French alternatives.

Certain countries have attempted to "frenchify" different terms cooked up in faraway Silicon Valley and on Wall Street, but a French-language alternative to words like "tweet" and "hashtag" remains woefully absent.

"A common lexicon for economic and business circles still doesn't exist," said Louise Marchand, president of the Quebec Board of the French Language (OQLF) who published an online dictionary of terminology, including translations of contemporary terms used in finance, accounting and new technology - English words that sneakily pop up in French-language discourse.

"That's part of the genius of the English language: Being able to create words rapidly and efficiently, and to be sure they are used. To create words in French, we must work very quickly. Because once a word from English is implanted (in everyday speech), it's difficult to dislodge," she said.

It is often difficult for words created and embedded in Quebecois French to cross the Atlantic and take root in European and African French-language vocabularies - or vice versa. For example, outside Quebec, no one uses the word "pourriel" to mean "spam," "baladodiffusion" for "podcast" and "clavardage" for "chat."

French is the third most commonly used language on the Web and social media networks as well as in international trade, according to studies cited at the forum in Quebec, which lasts until Friday.

Still, "there exists a real need to implement a digital Francophone Web strategy. One of the first steps in this strategy lies in the 'Frenchification' of digital terminology," said Claude Malaison, a specialist in digital communications and business.

Become a fan on Facebook