TV & Radio
Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 11:02 GMT 12:02 UK
French outraged by Tokyo governor - BBC
(Photo) Shintaro Ishihara is known in Japan for his outspoken remarks
A group of French speakers in Japan are suing the governor of Tokyo after he described French as a failed language.
The 21 teachers and researchers, are demanding compensation and an apology for the "insulting remarks" from Governor Shintaro Ishihara.
Mr Ishihara is accused of saying he was not surprised French did not qualify as an international language, as it was "a language which cannot count numbers".
The veteran politician is well-known for his outspoken comments.
He has previously drawn criticism for saying the Nanjing Massacre, in which hundreds of thousands of Chinese were slaughtered by Japanese troops in the 1930s, never happened.
His latest controversial came comments during the inauguration of a university building last October. Among the audience were French professors who had opposed his government's integration of five schools to form Tokyo Metropolitan University.
"I have to say that it should be no surprise that French is disqualified as an international language because French is a language which cannot count numbers," he said.
Numbers in French can be complicated for beginners, especially combinations which make up numbers such as 94, which translates as "four 20s and 14".
The group taking Mr Ishihara to court, who include French and Japanese nationals, are seeking a written apology and 500,000 yen (£2,545; 3,683 euros) each. They say his comments "hindered their economic livelihoods".
Brendan Marcus, who teaches at a private French school in Tokyo, is one of the plaintiffs.
"For someone of his public stance, it's quite unacceptable," Mr Marcus told Reuters news agency.
"When you know how many French scientists and mathematicians throughout history have made important contributions, [his remarks are] not appropriate."
Tokyo governor sued over improper comment
Jul 13, 2005, 10:03 GMT
TOKYO, Japan (UPI) -- The head of a French language school in Tokyo is suing Governor Shintaro Ishihara over his comment that "French fails as an international language."
The school head and 20 other plaintiffs, including French language researchers, are demanding that Ishihara publish newspaper advertisements apologizing for the remark and pay compensation of 10 million yen ($90,000), the Mainichi Shimbun reported Wednesday.
Ishihara made the remark in a speech supporting the establishment of the Tokyo Metropolitan University in October last year.
"I have a feeling it is aptly said that French fails as an international language because it is a language that can`t count numbers," he said.
The governor`s comment was apparently related to the fact that in French, the number "80" means "four twenties."
The lawsuit, which was filed Wednesday, objects to his remark.
"French can count numbers and it is used as an official language in international organizations and many countries," the lawsuit says. "The false comments stain the reputation of people who are researching French and speaking it as their native language."
A member of Ishihara`s secretarial staff said the legal complaint had not yet arrived, and refused comment.
Tokyo governor Ishihara sued for insulting French
13 July 2005
TOKYO - French teachers and researchers in Japan sued outspoken Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara on Wednesday for calling French a “failed language”, demanding compensation and a public apology.
In a suit filed at the Tokyo District Court, the 21 plaintiffs, many of whom run language schools or teach French, said Ishihara’s remarks had disgraced them. According to the suit, Ishihara said last October: “I have to say it is no surprise that French is disqualified as an international language because French is a language which cannot count numbers.” The governor made his remarks at a gathering in support of a new university in Tokyo, apparently to explain that there was no point to pursuing French, said plaintiff Brendan Marcus, who teaches at a private French school in Tokyo.
“For someone of his public stance, it’s quite unacceptable,” Marcus said.
“When you know how many French scientists and mathematicians throughout history have made important contributions, (his remarks are) not appropriate.”
The plaintiffs are demanding a written apology in a newspaper and 500,000 yen ($4,500) each in compensation.
Ishihara, a nationalist long known for making contentious remarks, has in the past drawn ire for his comments on China, Chinese and Korean residents of Japan, and older women.
An official at the Tokyo metropolitan government declined to comment, saying they had not received details of the lawsuit.
Numbers in French can be a mouthful at times, such as the word for 80, which translates into “four 20s”, or 70, which is ”60 plus 10”.
Japanese, however, has an unusual and sometimes awkward system for counting large numbers in which 1 million is expressed as “100 ten-thousands”. Different words are also used for counting depending on such factors as whether the object is an animal, a book, or something long and thin.
“If you try, you can find that every language has its difficulties,” Marcus said. “But people should be encouraged to do what they can with any language.”