Here’s the good news for those who remember struggling through dictation in French class: French spelling has been simplified.
Here’s the bad news: Few have noticed, and those who have don’t like it.
An official body that includes government ministers and a representative of the Academie Francaise, the eminent French language institution, issued a new set of rules to simplify the spellings of many words, either to bring them in line with pronunciation or to eliminate exceptions.
The changes were made in 1990 but French media are just getting wind of them.
For example, “aout” (August) drops the pointy circumflex accent over the “u’’. “Baby-sitter” gets Frenchified into “babysitteur.” Bonhomie, which has come into English with that spelling, becomes bonhommie to reflect its root “homme” (man).
Both the new and old spellings remain acceptable, but the new ones are supposed to be taught in schools, so they will eventually in theory replace the old.
The problem? Few people seem to know about them, many are opposed, and most school texts don’t use the new spellings.