Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro sued for insane claim that ‘French cannot be used to count’

Translated from Yomiuru. Do I really need to comment? Whether or not the suit has any legal merit, Ishihara is a complete and total nutjob.

Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro being sued for statement that “French is disqualified from international use”

The head of a Tokyo French language school filed suit on July 13th against Tokyo prefectural governor Ishihara Shintaro (72) in response to his statement that “French is unable to count numbers, and so is disqualified from use as an international language.” In the suit, which was presented to the Tokyo district court, the plaintiff claims that the governor’s statement “damaged my reputation and interfered with my business” and is demanding total damages to the order of ¥10,500,000, as well as a public apology.

The plaintiff is Malik Berkane, head of the Class de France (Tokyo Minato-ku), as well as 21 other French interpreters/translators and researchers.

According to the complaint, the statement in question was uttered in October of last year during a meeting of the General Support Foundation for the Establishment of a Metropolitan University of Tokyo at the Tokyo governmental office. Teachers from the former Prefectural University’s literature faculty, which includes French, were speaking in opposition to the establishment of the new university, which decreased the size of their faculty. Ishihara, in addition to his statements on “French’s disqualification” also said that “it is utterly ridiculous that that these people still clinging to French are opposed to the opening of this school.”

The plantiff’s claim states that “It is in fact possible to count in French, and it is also a common language in international organizations.”

According to the governor’s office, “Because the complaint has not yet been delivered, we cannot offer any comment at this time.”

12 thoughts on “Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro sued for insane claim that ‘French cannot be used to count’”

  1. The joke’s not totally insane. Undiplomatic, yes, but as a joke it makes some sense to anyone who knows French, though. In France, they count up by tens as: “ten, twenty, thirty, fourty, fifty, sixty, sixty-ten, four-twenties, four-twenties-ten, one hundred.” In Switzerland and Belgium, they use French words for seventy, eighty, and ninety derived from the words for seven, eight, and nine, respectively.

    The joke was clearly a reference to this unusual counting system used in France. Of course, using such a system doesn’t mean that they can’t count (rather, they’re sort of doing an extra step of multiplication and/or addition), but that’s the idea behind the joke.

    As a public statement, it’s as dumb as Chirac insulting English and Finnish food right before the Olympics vote, though.

  2. Yeah, Ish is definitely loony, but not as loony as that lawsuit. Can you imagine if, anytime a politician said something that had a negative effect on somebody’s business, they’d be liable? Hell, anytime Bush or Blair or Koizumi says ANYTHING, it’s hurting SOMEBODY. If they’re on screen eating a hamburger, it’s hurting the vegan industry, if they’re campaigning on behalf of an Idaho potato farmer, it’s hurting the rice industry, if they say French is an unimportant language, it’s hurting the French teachers, if they say French is the best language in the world, they’re hurting eikaiwa. What madness!

  3. FYI, the correct spelling of the French plaintiff is Malik Berkane.

    As a general principle, making jokes in publich speeches is not appropriate for any politicans and civil servants.

  4. One draws no glory to utter such remarks but wins desohonour
    Mr. Ishihara Shintaro knows the contemporary world well and rightly noticed that the French language declined. Right… But he also has just shown his 1000 years ignorance of French culture.
    Now I invite people to observe english langage and to notice all the numerous french words that composes english langage for centuries.
    Honneur and honour / Observer and to observe / Langage and language…
    Even the maxim of the British crown is engraved in French.

    On ne tire aucune gloire à proférer de tels propos sauf le déshonneur.
    M. Ishihara Shintaro connaît bien le monde contemporain et à juste titre a remarqué que la langue française déclinait. Soit… Mais il vient aussi de montrer sa méconnaissance de 1000 ans de culture française.
    Maintenant j’invite chacun à identifier tous ces mots français dont s’inspire la langue anglaise depuis des siècles.

  5. I would like just to point out you that the last Fields medal (that recognizes outstanding mathematical achievement) winner is MR Laurent Lafforgue (French) and Mr Vladimir Voevodsky (US). In 1998, Mr Maxim KONTSEVIC (Fr), in 1994, Mr Jean BOURGAIN (Fr), Pierre-Louis LIONS (Fr), Jean-Christophe YOCCOZ (Fr), in 1982, Mr Alain CONNES (Fr)…
    I think its a good score fot people whose langage can’t be used to count.

    Fields Medal Winners :

  6. Definitely. I personally have no idea how to count numbers in French, but I think there may be a few French people out there who have figured it out.

Comments are closed.