Life Style

“The daily use of regional languages ​​remains a minority”

The cross : What are we talking about when we talk about regional languages ​​in France?

Jean-Paul Chauveau : There are about ten regional languages ​​in the country, such as Breton, Basque, Corsican, Occitan, Alsatian etc. And of course all the Creoles from the overseas territories! They are “real” languages, in the sense that someone who speaks only French will not necessarily understand them. But there are also dialects, that is to say forms of French which remain understandable but are not entirely French, as well as dialects of regional languages. Alsatian is not exactly the same depending on where you are.

The family transmission of regional languages ​​was interrupted in the middle of the 20th century.e century after the war. Parents preferred French to speak to their children because they felt that the future was no longer written at a regional level but at a national level. Regional languages ​​were deprecated, studies and marriages took place beyond the borders of the region. In my generation, many parents could still speak a regional language or dialect among themselves, but very few found it useful to teach it to their children.

Have regional languages ​​regained importance over the past twenty years?

J.-PC: I do not have that impression of it. Regional education is back in fashion in some militant circles, especially in Brittany and the Basque Country, but one should not confuse school learning with the perpetuation of a language. The daily use of these languages, even those widely taught, is restricted and mainly concerns elderly speakers.

→ CONTEXT. Regional languages: the bill partially censored

Corsican and Breton for example are very encouraged by local associations, and are accompanied by a form of prestige, regional pride. For those who learn them, it is a way of reconnecting with their territory and their history, with ancestors. But you will meet few people under the age of 60 who spontaneously express themselves in Breton or Corsican.

Why do you distinguish between school learning and language transmission?

J.-PC: You learned English at school. However, this is not the language in which you express yourself on a daily basis, and especially with your children. You are not transmitting English. Regional languages, to be preserved, must be spoken spontaneously on a daily basis or in a family setting. And this habit is still very much in the minority in France. It is more often found in bilingual families where the parents speak two national languages, such as French and English.

Not to mention that it is very different to understand a local dialect, especially when it is derived from French, and to know how to speak it correctly to transmit it. Children can understand when their parents speak because they have learned to decipher this language, but they will answer in French. This understanding is then not passed on to the next generation. A passive skill (understanding) is not an active skill (knowing how to express oneself) and an active skill is not everyday use. Only the latter ensures that languages ​​are perpetuated.


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