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Japan profs urge Tokyo's Ishihara to study French
Tue Jul 26, 2005 11:36 AM BST
TOKYO (Reuters) - A group of Japanese professors, irked at an attack on the French language by Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, gave the outspoken politician a set of French textbooks on Tuesday and urged him to study during his summer holidays.
Ishihara said last October that French was "disqualified as an international language because French is a language which cannot count numbers", prompting 21 French teachers and researchers to file suit against him this month seeking a published apology and 500,000 yen each in compensation.
"We would like you to study this summer the fact that one can count in French," the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper quoted 13 Meiji University professors as saying in a letter to Ishihara, which they presented along with the textbooks and a dictionary.
"Languages are diverse, including in how they count," the letter added. "We would like you to learn that recognising diversity is the first step towards international understanding."
A Tokyo Metropolitan government spokesman confirmed the professors had brought the materials to city hall, where they were received on Ishihara's behalf by a division that handles public complaints and suggestions.
Ishihara, a nationalist known for contentious remarks on many topics, has in the past angered China, Chinese and Korean residents of Japan, older women and homosexuals.
Numbers in French can be a mouthful. The word for 80, for example, translates into "four 20s". Japanese also has a sometimes awkward system for counting large numbers, in which 1 million is expressed as "100 ten-thousands".
Tuesday July 26, 4:00 PM
Tokyo Gov. Ishihara given French study kit for summer 'homework'
(Kyodo) _ French language instructors at Meiji University gave French textbooks and a dictionary on Tuesday to Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who has been the target of a lawsuit for allegedly remarking that the French language "cannot count numbers."
A group of 13 instructors from Meiji University presented the gifts to an official of the metropolitan government's office for accepting citizens' views. Ishihara is on vacation.
The gifts were accompanied with a letter that said, "Please learn this as homework during the summer vacation so you can count numbers in French."
According to the lawsuit filed with the Tokyo District Court by a French language school principal and other people on July 13, Ishihara said last Oct. 19, "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."
The plaintiffs say their honor as people engaged in running French language schools was hurt by the governor's remark which they say gave the impression French is a primitive language and cannot be used internationally.
Ishihara made the remark at a meeting of supporters for the Tokyo Metropolitan University, which opened in April through the merger of four universities.
Some faculty members of the merged institutions voiced opposition against streamlining language and literature courses including French at the new university, as promoted by Ishihara.
French teachers hand Ishihara language set after controversial comments (Mainichi Daily News 2005/07/26)
A group of French teachers from Meiji University visited the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices on Tuesday to hand Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara a French language learning set following controversial comments he made about the language.
The presentation of the learning set, which contained a textbook, dictionary and calculator, followed Ishihara's comments that French failed as an international language because it was a language that couldn't count.
Thirteen people including Yoshikazu Obata, a professor at Meiji University's School of Political Science and Economics, made the visit.
Ishihara was not present when the group arrived, so they handed the learning set over to Metropolitan government officials.
"Languages are diverse, including the way they count. We want you to learn that accepting the differences is the first step to international understanding," a note accompanying the gift said.
"If you study hard, you can count numbers. If it's difficult, we will teach you personally," a member of the group said. Members said the presentation of the gift was not designed as a protest.
"Rather than protesting, we wanted to display the esprit of the French language. We really want the governor to understand French," Obata said.
On July 13, 21 people including the head of a French language school filed a lawsuit against Ishihara in the Tokyo District Court, demanding compensation and an apology for his comments. (Mainichi)
Click here for the original Japanese story
July 26, 2005