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“Pratiquer la gratitude”: A Debatable French Anglicism


an image showing someone expressing gratitude representing the article that talks about a potential french anglicism in choosing to translate practicing gratitude literally in French

The rich history and vibrant culture of the French language play a key role in Quebec's national identity and heritage. Its evolution over time reflects the evolution of society and human interaction. However, this progress raises questions about the preservation of the language and adherence to its rules and practises.


At the heart of this linguistic debate is the emergence of new terms and expressions, some of them influenced by English, the dominant language among our neighbours and on a global scale. Among such expressions, the translation of “to practise gratitude” as “pratiquer la gratitude” is gaining popularity, especially in personal development.


But is the literal French translation “pratiquer la gratitude” correct? Is it simply a linguistic adaptation, or could it potentially be a French anglicism that deserves our attention?


We aim to understand whether the expression “pratiquer la gratitude” can be considered a new anglicism in French. To do this, we will analyze its meaning, the context in which it appeared and highlight factors that might indicate an English influence on choosing to translate the expression in French literally.


By exploring this topic, we hope to provoke some food for thought as we delve into the intricacies of the French language and unravel the debate around the French literal translation of practicing gratitude.

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The meaning and significance of gratitude in French

Gratitude, that noble sentiment that drives human relationships, is an essential pillar of appreciation for others. Before exploring the French literal translation of “to practise gratitude” in greater depth, let’s take a moment to examine the meaning and significance of this concept in French.


Gratitude defined in the dictionaries


According to French dictionary entries, gratitude is “an affectionate feeling that one feels towards someone for whom one is indebted” (Le Robert). This feeling of sincere, warm recognition often arises in response to help received, a service rendered, or a favour granted by others.


Analysis of its use in different situations


Gratitude is expressed in many ways and can be present in various contexts. Whether in personal, professional, or social relationships, gratitude manifests itself when we feel the urge to sincerely thank someone for what they have done for us. It can be expressed verbally, through gestures, or with special attention.


Verbs and frequent collocations


The verbs that regularly accompany the term “gratitude” in French indicate how we express this feeling. Verbs such as express, witness, manifest, show and feel are frequently associated with gratitude, reflecting its emotional nature and the need to communicate it to others.


Considering the deep, emotional nature of gratitude, let’s think carefully about the idea of “practising” this feeling. After all, gratitude is not an action or activity that we can deliberately implement, but rather a state of mind that naturally emanates from our hearts in the face of others’ generosity and support.


Let’s take a closer look at the notion of “practising gratitude” and examine its appearance in personal development, considering the specificities of this sentiment in the French language. By taking a closer look at this expression, we’ll be able to better understand whether it can be an anglicism or simply an evolving linguistic trend.


The French verb “pratiquer”


To fully understand the expression “pratiquer la gratitude,” we need to look at the French verb “pratiquer” (to practise) to grasp its original meaning, its contemporary evolution, and the linguistic recommendations concerning its use, particularly with gratitude.


The verb “pratiquer” in French is defined as “to apply” or “to carry out an activity”, not to be confused with “to practise an activity” (OQLF).

The verb “pratiquer” has acquired a broader connotation and is used in various contexts. Its use has expanded to encompass fields such as personal development, well-being, and spirituality, where the idea of putting methods or approaches into practice is common.


However, the original meaning of “pratiquer” implies a concrete, measurable action, which can be at odds with gratitude's abstract emotional nature. The risk here is to distort the true meaning of gratitude by treating it as a simple action to be performed rather than a sincere and profound feeling.


The French verb “pratiquer” should be used cautiously, avoiding coupling it with subjective or emotional notions. For example, the expression “pratiquer la gratitude” raises questions about its relevance since gratitude is not originally an activity that can be exercised deliberately but rather a spontaneous state of mind.


Preserving semantic precision and vocabulary accuracy is essential to ensure clear communication that respects the richness of the French language. Nevertheless, let’s look at the emergence of the expression “pratiquer la gratitude” in personal development by questioning its origin and possible influence from English. This in-depth analysis will give us a better idea of the relevance of this expression in the French literal translation of practicing gratitude and enable us to assess whether it may be a new anglicism.


To practice gratitude in personal development


The field of personal development, characterized by the search for well-being and individual fulfillment, has expanded significantly in recent decades. To better understand the origin and emergence of the French expression “pratiquer la gratitude,” let’s explore the history of this movement, mainly rooted in the USA, and analyze how this expression found its place in this context.


Origins and history of the personal development movement in the USA


Personal development is a current of thought that emerged in the 1960s, particularly in the Californian culture of Esalen. This movement drew inspiration from various Eastern philosophies and spiritual practices, seeking to offer methods and tools to promote personal growth, emotional well-being, and the achievement of one’s life goals.


Personal development gained popularity in the USA and worldwide thanks to iconic figures such as Dale Carnegie, Tony Robbins and Louise Hay, who spread the teachings and practices associated with personal transformation.


Analysis of the emergence of expression in this context


It's plausible that in this context of personal development, the French literal translation of practising gratitude began to appear recurrently. The teachings of this movement often emphasize recognizing positive aspects of life, gratitude towards oneself and others, and adopting an attitude of thankfulness towards the Universe or a higher power.


The French verb “pratiquer” (to practise) is then used to express the need to deliberately and regularly implement exercises or rituals aimed at cultivating this state of mind of gratitude. This might include keeping a gratitude journal, meditating on gratitude, or sharing gratitude with others.


A simple online search reveals numerous examples where the literal French translation of practising gratitude is used. Personal development platforms, wellness blogs, life coaching sites and articles on positive psychology frequently refer to “pratiquer la gratitude” in French.


For example, you can find posts encouraging readers to “practice gratitude on a daily basis,” videos explaining how to “practice gratitude to improve your emotional well-being,” or guides to “practice gratitude in difficult times.”

examples of sentences showing the misuse of the french literal translation of practising gratitude

However, despite its widespread use in this context, the question remains about the relevance and appropriateness of this expression to the intrinsically emotional nature of gratitude.


Arguments in favour of a potential anglicism


The French expression “pratiquer la gratitude” (to practise gratitude) has given rise to a linguistic debate about its conformity with the French language and its possible influence from English. Let’s take a look at the arguments in favour of the hypothesis that this expression could be considered an incipient anglicism.


One of the main reasons for the potential French anglicism lies in the very nature of the English expression. The French verb “pratiquer” (to practise) in the sense of “to apply” may reflect an influence of the English language on French, where to practise gratitude is commonly used in the field of personal development, which originated in the USA and spread throughout the world. The expression gradually found its way into French speech and writing, prompting the desire to adopt a literal translation in French.


The omnipresence of English in the media, social networks and popular culture has also played a role in adopting certain Anglophone terms and expressions in other languages, including French. Practising gratitude can thus be seen as an example of this linguistic influence.


Online research reveals that the literal French translation of “practising gratitude” is quite common, especially in personal development, where it is used extensively by bloggers, life coaches, and authors in their publications and writings related to positive psychology, meditation, and emotional well-being.


Given these factors, it’s legitimate to wonder about the possible emergence of the French anglicism “pratiquer la gratitude.” However, we should remember that language evolves, and certain expressions can become part of everyday language without being considered anglicisms.


Counterarguments and critique of the French translation


Faced with the debate on the possible French anglicism of “pratiquer la gratitude,” there are arguments against this idea, highlighting linguistic and semantic aspects that merit consideration. Let’s look at the opposing arguments and critique of using the literal translation to convey practising gratitude in French.


Examining the arguments against the idea of an anglicism


Some advocates of the literal French translation “pratiquer la gratitude” argue that it isn’t an anglicism, but rather a natural linguistic adaptation. They point out that certain terms and expressions fit into a language without being considered anglicisms, for example, by arguing that gratitude can be practised as a rigorous method or process or that it is akin to practising charity. Now, let’s remember that gratitude is a feeling that cannot be the subject of a method, whereas charity is an act that can be practised.

These arguments highlight the evolving nature of language and how we appropriate words according to their context and usage. However, the main critique of the French literal translation “pratiquer la gratitude” lies in its irrelevance to the emotional nature of gratitude. Indeed, gratitude is a sincere and spontaneous feeling that emanates from the heart in response to receiving help or a benefit.


As for the French verb “pratiquer” associated with notions of tangible actions and applications, expressing this intimate, personal feeling seems appropriate. The idea of applying or practising gratitude can seem artificial and out of touch with the emotion’s reality. What’s more, while to practise something means to exercise oneself in doing something, the French equivalent verb “pratiquer” used in the same sense is considered an anglicism (OQLF).


As for gratitude, verbs like express, testify, manifest, demonstrate or feel are more in line with the nature of this feeling, so they’re better suited to expressing emotions and feelings, contributing to more accurate and authentic communication.


Indeed, choosing verbs that faithfully reflect the semantics of gratitude preserves the richness of the French language and avoids any distortion of meaning.


The evolving French language


The debate surrounding the expression “pratiquer la gratitude” reflects broader questions about the evolving French language, its adaptation to modern society, and its role in preserving our cultural identity and linguistic heritage in Quebec. This reflection raises issues essential to the survival of our language and communication within our community.


Like all vibrant languages, French is constantly evolving to adapt to social, technological, and cultural changes. New expressions, terms borrowed from other languages, and neologisms are all part of this natural evolution.


However, we should closely monitor these developments to preserve the French language’s integrity and clarity.


The role of language in cultural identity


The French language conveys Quebec’s society's history, traditions, and values. Preserving our language means preserving our heritage and our ability to express ourselves with nuance and authenticity. By adopting expressions that respect the semantics and specificity of French, we also preserve our ability to communicate effectively and pass on its culture to future generations.


Renowned for its richness, precision and refinement, French has many verbs, adjectives and expressions that enable it to express various ideas and emotions. By choosing appropriate terms and avoiding anglicisms that could alter the meaning of expressions, we can preserve the clarity and beauty of French.

examples of sentences showing how better terms were chosen to replace the french literal translation of practising gratitude

Conclusion: linguistic adaptation or anglicism?


The expression to practise gratitude has emerged in personal development, particularly in the USA, where it’s associated with practices aimed at cultivating a grateful state of mind. However, there are arguments against the idea of anglicism, pointing to the natural evolution of language and the adoption of terms over time.


Our position on this expression leans towards the idea that it’s essential to remain vigilant against the influence of English on French. While languages inevitably evolve, let’s preserve the specificity of French, choosing from the many appropriate verbs to express the emotional nuances of words like “gratitude.”

We aim to encourage a reasoned approach to the evolution of the French language while remaining open to linguistic contributions and preserving the richness and precision of French vocabulary. After all, French in Quebec is a pillar of our cultural identity and heritage, and its enlightened use contributes to effective communication and the transmission of Quebec’s heritage to future generations.


In conclusion, let’s keep an eye on the evolution of our language while encouraging reasoned adaptation so that French continues to reflect our identity and diversity while opening up to the needs and realities of modern society. By staying aware of the importance of French in Quebec, we can contribute to its preservation and influence in an ever-changing world.

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