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Paige Miner writesInternational Jukebox: How English Music is Changing the Scene Across the World

by Paige Miner

There were a few things that puzzled me when I first arrived in France in late May. First are the massive amount of roundabouts - they make up almost every intersection here, and there are about 30,000 in the entire country of France. Meanwhile, I can count on one hand the amount I know of in my home state of Illinois.

Among the things that I didn’t expect were the tiny dollhouse-sized mugs of espresso after every meal, and never quite knowing what to expect when ordering off of a menu in a language I barely speak. But as I hopped into my rental car -- stick shift only, mind you, which I left to my father to drive -- it was only natural for me to start fiddling with the radio.

After working for four years in radio while in college, I learned the ins and outs of the American radio industry. I can recite laws and regulations for radio in the States, and list radio stations I have loved and grew up with. As a self-proclaimed radio geek, the medium fascinates me.

In my new series, International Jukebox, I will explore how American and Anglophone music affects non-Anglophone listeners, how to discover new radio stations and music in a new culture, and how listening to new music improves a language, and finally, a playlist for all your language-learning needs.

Coming to France, I had no idea what to expect what music was popular in Europe. From my experience, a lot of music listeners listen to music in English, whether or not they understand the lyrics. And in France, it is legally required to have a certain amount of music in French to be played over the radio.

However, France’s Parliament voted to reduce the country’s quota of French music play over the radio. As reporter David Chazan at the Telegraph writes, in 1994, France placed a quota on radio stations to play 40 percent French music to combat the “Anglo-Saxon cultural invasion.” And as young French musicians are now creating music in English in order to attract an international audience, disc jockeys in France have resulted in playing the same “boring” French ballads. The French Culture Ministry stated in September of 2017 that only ten songs accounted for 74 percent of the French music played on the radio.

With the issue of playing the same songs over and over again plaguing French disc jockeys, Parliament has reduced the 40 percent quota down to 35 percent. However, for stations that play music in a language other than French, such as Latinx stations, the quota will only be 15 percent.

There is another solution to this issue: playing new French songs on the radio. According to the country’s culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, this is the “balanced solution” to this predicament. But with French artists now creating music in English to bring in an international audience, this is isn’t much of a solution.

Despite this new ruling, stations protested by defying the rules in place for 24 hours. Some radio programmers worry that they cannot find new titles and will have to play unpublished songs.

But others in favor of the French radio quota say that they fear that if the French language ever disappeared, French radio would be all that remained of the culture. This seems unlikely, as it is estimated that there are over 220 million French speakers in the world, including 72 million who speak the language partially. It is also estimated that the amount of French speakers in the world will rise to over 700 million by the year 2050. The French Diplomacy states that the French language is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish, and Arabic.

Overall, no matter the stance on how much American or English music played in a non-Anglophone country, one thing is clear -- American music is here to stay.

Coming up on International Jukebox: How to find new music while abroad in a new country, how to discover radio stations anywhere in the world, and how to use music to your advantage while learning a new language.

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