A pervasive stereotype of the French is their disdain at foreigners butchering their beautiful language. Like any stereotype, this is certainly not unequivocally true, but it does point to the pride the French have about the purity of their culture.
L'Academie Francaise is an organization devoted to "watching over" the French language and carefully monitoring changes in the French dictionary. Established in 1635, the organization has put out nine editions of the comprehensive French language dictionary in the past four centuries [source: L'Academie Francaise].
What's the point, you may ask? (And please be sure to correctly conjugate if you're asking in French, lest the L'Academie Francaise give you a frown.) L'Academie Francaise does not exist solely to mark your papers with red pen; it was established to show unity in French society at the time. Not only were speakers confronted with different dialects, but a universal vocabulary across the arts and sciences was also in demand.
And the Academie has remained strict. In 2006, a French subsidiary of an American company was fined roughly $650,000 for providing English-only software to employees [source: Allen].
As for the French attitude toward the Academie, French cultural attaché Denis Bisson says the strict organization inspires mixed feelings. "They often make jokes about the Académie, but at the same time they respect it, and if it was to disappear, I'm sure the majority would be up in arms to protect it," Bisson says.
For a culture as varied and old as the French one, there's always more to be discovered. Visit the next page to find out lots more about France.