For those of you who were upset by a recent television advertisement for a soft drink, which was played during a broadcast of an annual, rumbustious, sporting match and which depicted scenes of life in America while a beloved song that is not the national anthem of that country was sung by charming young girls in a few different languages, we say: Ho! Try France! For centuries, France has been determined to suppress the other languages spoken in the land, some of which, as in the little case above, were spoken here long before the now dominant language. The superficial rationale was that everyone needed to be able to speak the country's official language; the reality has been that that was not enough: all other languages -- and their cultures and possible use as code in rebellion -- were to be obliterated. It is ever so that dull is the opposite of diversity.
France has forgone empire and is now part of Europe and the European Union deemed as long ago as 1992, with its Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, that said languages should be protected, permitted and preserved. France ignored it. There were repeated slaps on the governmental wrist. At long last, at the end of January, a draft law of compliance pushed by two Breton deputies in the French National Assembly was approved by a large majority. Those of the extreme right wing party voted against it; the Minister for Culture explained it to a cynical journalist who asked: "Why bother? Why not just teach English?"
There are seventy-five regional and minority languages on France's list and another fifty-four for the overseas departments and territories. Many are discussed here. Their new liberation can only be good for your genealogical research on your French ancestors, Dear Readers. If your family insists an ancestor were French but all the old letters seem to have been in German, you may now have an easier time finding and checking Alsacien or Francique dictionaries for the words used and thus narrow the geographical range where you would search. With more publicity, classes and teaching materials in these languages, you might even be able to study the Saintongeais or Cauchois that your ancestors spoke.
©2014 Anne Morddel
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