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 Home > News > Louisiana: The French Connection & Francomix
  28 August 2006  

Louisiana: The French Connection & Francomix


EXTRACT (The Independent Weekly 8/9/2006):

For some time, there have been dire predictions that the French language of Louisiana will be lost in this generation, but is it possible the student population can turn the tide? “What we are seeing,” Cheramie says, “is a leveling off in the loss of French speakers.” The 2000 census showed a stabilization of the French speaking population, 200,000, as it was in 1990. Of those counted in the 5-17 year old age group, 20,000 said they were bilingual. “There is very little immigration [of French speakers],” says Cheramie. “I think it’s fair to say those are all CODOFIL products.”

French immersion fourth graders from Prairie Elementary showed off their aptitude recently on “Francomix,” Olivier Marteau’s Thursday afternoon radio show on KRVS 88.7 FM. Marteau, a native of France and a doctoral candidate in the Francophone studies program at UL, was impressed. “Some of them are bilingual. They are really young and really motivated. It’s good for the future,” he says. Marteau arrived in Lafayette three years ago, without much English at his command. “I was struggling in English, and people, when they knew I really spoke French, they would speak to me in French. I met so many people the first year in Lafayette, I didn’t really develop my English.”

Many local French speakers were so traumatized by the experience of being punished for speaking their mother tongue in school that they suppress their linguistic knowledge in public. But most people will admit that French is still widely spoken in family settings. “For me, once they knew me, it became like family,” Marteau says. “If you speak to one person they introduce you to another, and after a while you will know hundreds who speak French. I see Lafayette as two cities. One is secret. Everyday, people are speaking English, but what you don’t know is that in private they speak Cajun and Creole.”

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