Dear Yamina Benguigui, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, responsible for the Francophonie,
Dear Bruno Racine, President of the National Library of France,
Dear Xavier North, Delegate General for the French Language and the Languages of France,
Dear Jean-Pierre Siméon, Artistic Director of the Printemps des Poètes,
Dear Elsa Santamaria, Responsible for Press and Media Week in School,
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
If I come in February to speak to you about the month of March, it is therefore to announce to you, not the imminent arrival of spring, but the launch of three events, all of which, with their own specificity and inventiveness, contribute to a renewal, playful and fruitful, around words, language, expressions and meaning.
While the last few days have been the scene of controversies and polemics about the weight of words and the impact of books and ideas they convey to the youngest, this initiative is an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to freedom, to the literary creation and formidable creativity of children’s literature, but also to all the word-smugglers, creators and authors, actors of books and reading, and to this openness to the world that the mastery of words and literary texts represents for each of our fellow citizens.
“Mars, the month of words!” answers a double observation.
First, a coincidence of dates. The month of March saw the blossoming of a series of demonstrations around words, each of which was highly anticipated by the public.
The Spring of Poets, first, that does so much to make poetry familiar to the greatest number, to reveal it in the daily life of our lives and to call our attention wherever it arises.
French Language and La Francophonie Week, which then explores the language in all its states and expressions, and makes it possible to highlight the role played by its mastery and use in social cohesion, personal development and as a strong link for a community of more than 220 million speakers worldwide.
Press and Media Week at School encourages our children to become citizens, helping them to understand the mechanisms by which information is constructed and to look at it with a conscious, enlightened and selective eye.
These three events also take place at a time of the year when the book is particularly in the spotlight with the Paris Book Fair, organized at the end of March.
The second observation that led us to «Mars, le mois des mots!» is that of a common denominator between these three manifestations: all three play with the appropriation of the language, often in a playful way, so that it fully expresses its meaning.
The written language, the spoken language, the common language whose codes we have inherited and which we are constantly reinventing. Creating or discovering a poem, playing on and with words, reading, writing or understanding a press article are all activities that present an intimate and fruitful link with language.
In their diversity, the three events gathered in this "month of words" have as common aim to give everyone the opportunity to speak, to seize the language as a tool of discovery, knowledge and expression of themselves and their creativity.
Beyond this double recognition, today’s initiative is also - and above all - an expression of political will.
If the language and the written word evolve freely, according to the imagination of the artists, the invention and the media used by the journalists, the finds of our young citizens, the State has a decisive role to play.
Language and writing are everywhere but not all have equal access to it: 7% of people who have been educated in France have serious or strong difficulties with writing and are in a situation of illiteracy, or about 2.5 million people between the ages of 16 and 65.
There is an exclusion by language and by writing that the State, like any other form of exclusion, must fight. It is up to him to awaken the desire to read, to accompany the development of the cultural industry that is books, to enable everyone to understand the information of the media so that each of our fellow citizens - and especially the youngest - feels “good in his own language”..
Culture has a major responsibility here.
The Printemps des poètes, the Semaine de la langue française and the Semaine de la presse et des médias at the School have in common to strengthen the mastery of the language to facilitate the access of all to works and knowledge and, through this access, to develop French-language expression skills.
I would also like to welcome the launch in March of the new season of the First Pages operation, which was designed in close partnership with local authorities to promote familiarity with the book and a taste for reading among children and families. It affects over 100,000 children this year. It is proof that the source of creation of the many events that make books and reading loved is never gone.
This shared ambition naturally tends to include the three operations that bring us together today in the policy for arts and cultural education. For me, the inequalities in access to culture are the most terrible. The strength of the Ministry of Culture and Communication is to fight against these inequalities in all the territories of the Republic. By bringing them together in a “month of words”, I would like to highlight the linguistic dimension of this policy and the bridges that can exist between each of these events, particularly for educational stakeholders.
This “month of words” is only in its first edition. If it is intended to loosely federate initiatives that each retain their specificities, its overall aim, as I described it, must encourage synergies around the word.
Our recent debates in the National Assembly around the French language, regional languages and languages of France prove that opinion has changed a lot: we are more serene about the place of the French language in the Republic. She does not have to fear the strengthening of regional languages.
Between the poetry of Max Jacob - celebrated by the Printemps des poètes, which uses pun, irony and pun - and the lexical creativity encouraged this year by the Semaine de la langue française, between the words that are popping up in every corner of our cities and our lives and those that are in the press, there are obvious connections that exist and can be leveraged in joint operations.
This month of March, which I put under the sign of the word, must allow each of our fellow citizens, especially the youngest, to build a special bond with our language and thus be able to compose his own poem, because as Raymond Queneau said, “ words, you just have to love them to write a poem That this month of words may be the month of poetry.