Health and Safety

French, Pierre de Coubertin and the Olympics

07 Feb 2018 french language

The 2018 Olympics are upon us and let me preface this blog post by saying that I am a huge Olympics fan. Being a naturally competitive person, I am drawn to competitions and what competition is more grand than the Olympics?

But don’t worry, I am not here to just talk about my love for sports, athletes and world-wide competitions. Although, if you want to geek out about the Olympics, come into the Alliance and we will chat about fun sports like curling and long ski-jumping (which still blows my mind… I mean how do you get into that?).

But no, let’s talk about the role of the French language in the Olympics. You might be surprised to learn that English AND French are the two official languages of the games. And there is a good reason for that! Firstly, English is used as an international official so therefore, the use of English makes sense for the Olympics.

But what you may not know is that the French language has a long history with the modern Olympic games. In fact, the “father” of the modern Olympics games was a Frenchman by the name of Pierre de Coubertin. He founded the International Olympic Committee (Comité International Olympique) in 1894. The IOC is also located in a French speaking city, Lausanne Switzerland, and guess what… the official languages for the IOC are English and French! So, as you can see, the French language has been closely intertwined with the modern-day Olympic games since their conception. In fact, the International Francophone Organization, that is dedicated to representing French speaking countries around the world sends a representative to each games to ensure that French is being properly used and represented during the competition.

Even though there are more Spanish speaking and Manderin-speaking people in the world vs. English and French speakers, more countries in the world list English or French as an official language (English: 54 and French: 29). Therefore, it only makes sense to have French and English be the official languages of the Olympic Games.

So, why does it really matter? Well, when you tune into les Jeux Olympiques in the coming weeks, listen to the announcers on the loud speakers. For instance, during any medal ceremony (like the one below), everything is announced in French, then English and then in the host country’s official language. In the video below from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, that happens to be Russian. So, for all you French speakers, gear up to use your language skills while you watch your favorite winter sports.

To start you off before the Opening Ceremony, let’s dive into some winter sport French vocabulary. And since I love lists, I made you a couple.

For you hockey fans:

  1. Hockey - hockey sur glace
  2. Offense - attaque
  3. Defense - défense
  4. Goal - un but
  5. Puck - un palet

For those who can’t get enough of skiing:

  1. To ski - skier
  2. A ski - un ski
  3. Ski goggles - un masque de ski
  4. Downhill skiing - ski de descente
  5. Ski jumping - saut à ski

For the curling enthusiasts (me):

  1. Curling - curling
  2. Curling stone - une pierre de curling
  3. To deliver (the stone down the ice) - lancer la pierre de curling
  4. Broom - balai de paille
  5. 12 foot circle - cercle de douze pieds

Let the games begin… Je déclare ouvert les Jeux de Pyeongchang célébrant les XXIIIes Jeux olympiques d’hiver !

Jane Eagleton


1.) 2.) 3.) 4.)