The French language in Louisiana

Published 12th May 2014
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cajun-300x199The French language became established in Louisiana following The expulsion (1755-1764) of the Acadians by the British from the modern day Maritime provinces of Canada (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island along with the US state of Maine), which occurred during the French and Indian War.

Ultimately, this was a sign of their defiance in relation to the British colonization of the Americas, and their ultimate new beginning in the south alongside their French compatriots.

Louisiana has since moved on to form a unique French entity within North America, in one of the most unlikely places. Not only is their population made up of both Cajun French and French Canadian descendants, much like the other states, it serves as a boiling pot of culture throughout the continent.

Today’s speakers

Today, it is estimated that some 150,000 to 200,000 people of Louisiana’s 4,601,893 population speak the French language. Some 3.5% of the population. The grammar and syntax of Louisiana French is largely much the same as standard French, however there are some archaic features that have been maintained. For example, the difference between je étais après manger and j’étais après manger . This is a key difference in terms on the use of contractions.

Equally, depending on your social standing, and whether you tend to speak a more informal or formal version of French, place names can either be in French or in English. Furthermore, there are cases in which speakers of Louisiana French and Creole code switch between languages, due to the multilingual makeup of the state.

The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), is a state agency that is tasked with developing opportunities for the use of French in various facets of life. Their self-proclaimed goal is to: “work toward the creation of an eco-system that permits the development of French in the economic, educational, cultural and professional sectors and in which Louisiana’s French and Creole speakers are valorised in their cultural and linguistic identity.” It seeks to “provide access to economic, educational, cultural and professional opportunities in French to all Louisianans.”

It is interesting to note that there is a concerted effort to ensure that the French language is being used in daily life in Louisiana. There is certainly a wider recognition of its importance in the state’s culture.

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The French language in Louisiana
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The French language in Louisiana
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The French language was brought to Louisiana by the Acadians and Creole people, but how do they fare? Read more in our translation blog.
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