French around the World

Published 21st May 2014
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In 1536, the Aosta Valley (present day Italy) became the first authority to adopt the French language as an official language, surprisingly, even before the French state had made that step.

It is estimated that around 75% of the population speak the French language, which has continued a long tradition, particularly in Collège Saint-Bénin, since the beginning of the XVII century.

Linguistically, the French that is spoken in the Aosta Valley is peculiar in the sense that it borrows equally from both Franco-Provencal and Italian. This is in part due to the evolution of language in the region, and the corresponding contact that has taken place due to domestic Italian immigration.

Bilingualism is in fact a tradition in the region. In 25 BC, the Romans founded Augusta Praetoria and began the process of the latinisation of the people. The Aosta Valley was positioned beside the Kingdom of Burgundy, where Latin evolved into French-Provencal, which became supplanted by French from 1200.

Year on year, there are various cultural festivals that take place in the region. One of the most famous, the Coumba Freida carnivals, is held in different locations in the Valle del Gran San Bernardo in February. The carnival features people dressed in traditional costumes, which retrace the footsteps that Napoleon’s soldiers took in May 1800.

Moreover, it has been rumoured that the origins of the carnival lie in the account of two elderly simpletons getting married in the town square. It is said that the townspeople had been reluctant to turn up in their “Sunday best”, and so decided to wear more extravagant clothes instead. This now takes the shape of the individuals wearing beads, sequins and small mirrors, along with revellers carrying the hair of a horse’s tail in their hands, supposedly, to help ward off evil spirits.

Have you ever visited the region or noticed any other peculiarities about the region’s culture or language? Do you know any other interesting facts about French around the world? Let us know!

*We’d like to thank Aostasera for the image used in this blog*

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French around the World
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French around the World
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French was first brought to the Aosta Valley by the Romans, and has undergone much upheaval during the Fascist regime. What is the current state of affairs?
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