National Identity: Is France in Crisis?--Mr. Siegfried Fau Gave a Lecture at SIS



National Identity: Is France in Crisis?

--Mr. Siegfried Fau Gave a Lecture at SIS


April 1, 2010


On the sunny Friday, March 12th, Mr. Siegfried Fau, the University Commissioner from Consulate of French in

Shanghai, was invited to Zijingang Campus, Zhejiang University by Institute of French Studies, SIS. Not only did he

give a wonderful lecture on French society, but also a heated discussion with the French majors and teachers on

the hot issue of French nationality and culture identity. Ms. Zhou Wanwen who is the director of Hangzhou office

of French Education Service Center also participated in the lecture and gave suggestions to the students

who want to further their studies in France.


After a fluent Chinese introduction, Mr. Siegfried Fau started his lecture with a seemingly simple question “What is French?”, thus leading the students into a critical way of looking on the French society and the country so as to have a deeper understanding. In his opinion, the language of a certain nation is both open and closed, which is

not only a channel to convey its national value to the eternal world but also a fence to protect its national

identity. Mr. Siegfried Fau recommended last year’s national discussion on the French identity in France and

raised two questions “Have France had really been in the crisis of national identity? What is the cause?”


To better understand these questions, Mr. Siegfried Fau reviewed the splendid culture of France. In the 17th and 18th century, France was under the rule of Louis XIV, the Sun King, and had been the center of European

civilization. After the French Revolution, freedom, equality and fraternity have formed the fundamental values of

the French nation and have been widely accepted across the world. However; with the advent of modern society,

immigration, unemployment as well as the supremacy of science have caused people’s alliteration and lack of

common belief. These have, to some extent, undermined the basic value of a nation. That people no longer have

faith results in the national identity crisis. This has greatly influenced the European continent. Later he raised

three more questions which lead all people into further consideration. “Does the European Culture exist? How to

maintain the national unique culture in the process of cultural diversity? What will be the effect of the

development of EU on France?”


Mr. Siegfried Fau quoted General Charles de Gaulle at the end of his lecture “Si la France est médiocre, ce n’est

pas la France.” (Commonplace France cannot go by the name of France.) We must confess that modern people

are facing the national identity crisis. The French national discussion on this issue has provided a reference and

the French People’s spirit of criticism and their openness will contribute to the modern value system.


After his wonderful lecture, many students and teachers expressed their own opinions and asked several

questions. Mr. Siegfried Fau’s humorous answer added to the liveliness of the lecture. Later Ms Zhou Wanwen

talked about the current situation of higher education in France, the process of applying for the further study in

French and answered several related enquiries.


The two-hour-long lecture ended with warm applause but the exploration of the French culture and the deeper

thought of it will never end in the students’ mind. The implication of a language is far more significant than the

words and grammar themselves. Only by having a better understanding of the related social and cultural

background will we really master the language.


(Translated by ZHAO Dantong)



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