Macron pledges to protect France’s regional languages

Macron pledges to protect France's regional languages
A protest by Breton language speakers. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP
French president Emmanuel Macron has invited the government to find “methods of guaranteeing the transmission” of minority languages, after the rejection of a bill allowing schools to teach a large proportion of classes in a regional language.

In a post published on Facebook on Wednesday, Macron said, “France’s languages are a national treasure. Whether they are from our metropolitan regions or our overseas territories, each one of them continues to enrich our French culture.”

The President went on to praise the work of different associations which run bilingual community schools, teaching classes in French as well as in Breton, Basque, Occitan, Catalan and other regional languages.

The “Molac Bill” seeking to safeguard minority languages was proposed by Paul Molac, an independent MP from Brittany, and was adopted by parliament on April 8th. 61 MPs from the ruling La République en Marche party then appealed the decision, revealing deep divisions within the president’s camp.

On May 21st, the Constitutional Council approved most of the bill, but rejected the section which would have protected the “immersive teaching” method whereby a majority of classes are taught in a language other than French.

France’s highest constitutional authority “ruled that the bill was out of line with article two of the French constitution, which stipulates that the language of the French republic is French,” Reuters reported.

Macron has now responded by asking the government and parliament to ensure that immersive teaching is able to continue.

“The same colour, the same accents, the same words: that’s not what our nation is about,” Macron wrote.

“As President of the Republic, I am at once a protector of the French language, and a guardian of the richness that our regional languages represent.”

This is not the first time regional languages have proved controversial in France. In 1999, the country signed the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. However, the Constitutional Council blocked the ratification of the charter, again citing article two of the French constitution.

In 2015, the French senate thwarted François Hollande’s attempts to ratify the charter by revising the constitution.

France’s officially recognised regional languages are;

Language: Alsatian

Where it’s spoken: In the Alsace region in eastern France bordering Germany

How to say hello: Buschur

How to say goodbye: Adje

Language: Basque

Where it’s spoken: In the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department in south-west France

How to say hello: Egun on

How to say goodbye: Ikus arte

Language: Breton

Where it’s spoken: In Brittany in western France

How to say hello: Demat

How to say goodbye: Kenavo

Language: Catalan

Where it’s spoken: In the Pyrénées-Orientales department in south-western France, home to the city of Perpignan

How to say hello: Bon dia

How to say goodbye: Adéu / A reveure

Language: Corsican

Where it’s spoken: On the Mediterranean island of Corsica

How to say hello: Bonghjornu

How to say goodbye: Avvèdeci

Language: Occitan

Where it’s spoken: In the south-western Occitanie region

How to say hello: Adieu / Adieu-siastz

How to say goodbye: Adieu / Adieu-siatz


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