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  • Laura Vuillemin

22 February 2022 is Global Language Advocacy Day

22 February 2022 is 𝗚𝗹𝗼𝗯𝗮𝗹 𝗟𝗮𝗻𝗴𝘂𝗮𝗴𝗲 𝗔𝗱𝘃𝗼𝗰𝗮𝗰𝘆 𝗗𝗮𝘆. As per the website of the Global Coalition for Language Rights, this event is “designed to inspire a change of attitudes, behaviors and beliefs around language rights and linguistic justice”.


On that occasion, I’ve decided to talk to you about regional languages in France.


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We all know that French is France’s official language. However, several regional languages are also spoken in this country, among which:


👉🏻 Alsatian (Elsässisch), derived from German

👉🏻 Basque (Euskara), an isolate whose origins are still a fascinating mystery today

👉🏻 Breton (Brezhoneg), a Celtic language

👉🏻 Catalan (Català), also spoken in Andorra and Spain

👉🏻 Corsican (Corsu), close to Italian

👉🏻Various creoles (Kréyol Mat’nik, Kriyòl gwiyannen, etc.), spoken in France’s overseas territories


The number of speakers has yet been decreasing and decreasing which, unfortunately, endangers these languages.


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Why this decline?


France’s policy towards languages has consisted, for centuries, in giving priority to French only.


The Ordinance of Villers-Cotterêts, signed by Francis I of France in 1539, prescribed the use of French in all judicial acts, notarized contracts, and official legislation.


Initially, the point of this set of articles was to discontinue the use of Latin in official documents. Sadly, it also had a negative impact on the use of regional languages, which were subsequently seen as mere “dialects” whose practice was no longer encouraged.


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Luckily, various initiatives were taken over the years to promote and protect them:


🏫 Opening of immersion schools, like Diwan schools in Brittany and ikastolas in the Basque Country


📔 Integration of regional language courses in the standard curriculum, e.g., in Corsica where students are taught Corsican a few hours every week


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Regional languages are an integral part of France’s heritage and culture. Their extinction would be a huge loss for the country and we should do anything we can to prevent it!

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