Language(s) and identity(ies) in French society


  • Henri Jeanjean



english language


Most discourses about France seem to imply that France is a homogeneous, monolingual, monocultural country. This is denying the cultural and linguistic diversity of the country. Regions were conquered throughout the centuries and the various regimes have always tried to eradicate regional languages and cultures, imposing French as the sole language, a powerful tool of colonisation. Resistance to the linguistic and cultural genocides have always been present. Until the second half of the 20th century this resistance was expressed only in linguistic terms. Recent events such as the Algerian war led to a new militancy and a political awareness slowly developed among the groups defending their minority languages and cultures. By denying their peoples, their rights to be educated and express themselves in their own language, French governments throughout the centuries have denied them their specific identity. Some attempts at improving the situation were made by Jack Lang, the then minister of Education, but his efforts to improve the place of regional languages in the Education system were thwarted by the State and Constitutional Councils. Regionalisation and the growing importance of the European Union may bring some changes to an otherwise bleak situation