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Sacre bleu! Teachers sue over French slur
MARGARET NEIGHBOUR (The Scotsman 2005/07/14)
FRENCH teachers in Japan yesterday launched a legal action against the governor of Tokyo after he called French a "failed language".
In a suit filed at the Tokyo District Court, the 21 complainants, many of whom run language schools or teach French, said Shintaro Ishihara's remarks had disgraced them.
According to the suit, Mr Ishihara said last October: "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 in pursuing French, said Brendan Marcus, who teaches at a private French school in Tokyo.
"For someone of his public stance, it's quite unacceptable," Mr Marcus said. "When you know how many French scientists and mathematicians throughout history have made important contributions, [his remarks are] not appropriate."
Posted on Wed, Jul. 13, 2005
Tokyo governor sued for insulting French
TOKYO - A group of teachers and translators in Japan on Wednesday sued Tokyo's outspoken nationalist governor for allegedly calling French a "failed international language," a news report said.
Twenty-one people filed the lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court, demanding that Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara pay a total of 10.5 million yen ($94,600) compensation for insulting the French language in remarks last October, national broadcaster NHK said.
In their suit, the plaintiffs accused Ishihara of saying: "French is a failed international language because it cannot be used to count numbers."
"It's natural for different languages to have different names for numbers and different ways of counting them, so it's unacceptable for him to insult French in this way," Malik Berkane, who heads a French-language school in Tokyo, told reporters at a news conference.
The Tokyo metropolitan government refused to comment, saying it hadn't received word of the lawsuit.
French is the official language in about three dozen countries and territories worldwide and is one of the official working languages for international organizations such as the United Nations. In French, some numbers can be unwieldy to say, such as 90, which translates as "four-twenty-ten."
Japan's counting system can also be tricky. Adopted from Chinese, the Japanese numeric system ignores the western system of classifying large numbers every three digits. Though one thousand is the same, 30,000 would translate as "three-10,000," 4 million would be "400-10,000" and 4 billion would be "40-100 million."
Counting one pencil or one bottle of beer ("ippon") in Japanese differs from counting one sheet of paper ("ichimai") or one book ("issatsu").
Ishihara, one of Japan's most popular politicians, is known for his blunt nationalist talk, criticism of illegal immigrants and unapologetic view of the Japanese wartime military's atrocities in Asia. His remarks often rile Chinese and Korean residents in Japan.
Tokyo governor Ishihara sued for insulting French
Wed Jul 13, 2005 8:53 PM BST
TOKYO (Reuters) - 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 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."
Tokyo Gov. Ishihara sued for insulting French language