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  • Laura Vuillemin

22 February 2022 is Global Language Advocacy Day

22 February 2022 is ๐—š๐—น๐—ผ๐—ฏ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐—Ÿ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ด๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฒ ๐—”๐—ฑ๐˜ƒ๐—ผ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐˜† ๐——๐—ฎ๐˜†. As per the website of the Global Coalition for Language Rights, this event is โ€œdesigned to inspire a change of attitudes, behaviors and beliefs around language rights and linguistic justiceโ€.


On that occasion, Iโ€™ve decided to talk to you about regional languages in France.


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


๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿป Alsatian (Elsรคssisch), derived from German

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿป Basque (Euskara), an isolate whose origins are still a fascinating mystery today

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿป Breton (Brezhoneg), a Celtic language

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿป Catalan (Catalร ), also spoken in Andorra and Spain

๐Ÿ‘‰๐Ÿป Corsican (Corsu), close to Italian

๐Ÿ‘‰๐ŸปVarious creoles (Krรฉyol Matโ€™nik, Kriyรฒl gwiyannen, etc.), spoken in Franceโ€™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?


Franceโ€™s policy towards languages has consisted, for centuries, in giving priority to French only.


The Ordinance of Villers-Cotterรชts, 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 โ€œdialectsโ€ whose practice was no longer encouraged.


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


๐Ÿซ Opening of immersion schools, like Diwan schools in Brittany and ikastolas in the Basque Country


๐Ÿ“” 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 Franceโ€™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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