Ishihara Shintaro and French

The Governor of Tokyo managed to get into Le Monde newspaper this morning. I am spending a few days in the little town of Brulon near the Loire valley in France. The town is small, charming and Medieval in its architecture. I went out for my pre-breakfast shopping which included a copy of Le Monde newspaper. As I looked at the newspaper over my coffee I noticed a headline that said that Ishihara Shintaro insulted the French language. Ishihara likes to make outrageous statements which appeal to certain Japanese people who like it when their leaders are allowed to say things that people usually only say after a few drinks.

It appears that Ishihara said that French did not have the qualities of an international language because it was not good for computation?? If he had said that French was not as important as at least a handful of other languages that are spoken by more people, even many French people would have agreed with him. But what was he referring to?? when he said that it was not suitable for computation? The French have produced brilliant mathematicians. Is it the fact that in French eighty is called four-twenty? Ishihara would be aghast at Danish where fifty is half-threes, sixty is threes, seventy is half-fours and so on. Yet this did not prevent Denmark from producing a Niels Bohr.

Every language has its idiosyncrasies, not the least Japanese ( is “ashi” foot or leg, “ude” hand or arm etc.) . Yet somehow it all works and people communicate just as well in all languages more or less. I can only speak for the ten languages that I know, yet I suspect it is true for all or at least most languages.

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