We appreciate this article from David. If you have a child entering kindergarten or first grade next year, please visit our Louisiane Francais French Immersion project website.
First, we should teach French because it is our heritage language. Our French-speaking families in Jeff Davis Parish have spoken French from generation to generation since French became differentiated from Latin more than a thousand years ago. Are we going to throw away a thousand-year heritage?
French has been a native language of Louisiana since the first colonists arrived in 1699 and it is still a native language today, not a foreign language. Although there is no law that says that French is an official language of Louisiana, in many ways it is treated as an official language. For example, your official car license plate can read, “Louisiane, Chez Nous-Autres” (Louisiana, Our Home). Louisiana is the only state in which the official license plate can be in a language other than English. For fifty years, Louisiana has had a state agency, CODOFIL that promotes the study and use of French in our state. The big welcome sign at the Texas border says, “Bienvenue en Louisiane.”
Jeff Davis Parish has a particularly strong French heritage that we should cherish and preserve. Of the more than 3000 counties/parishes in the United States, Jeff Davis Parish ranks 11th in the
percentage of French-speakers. Our Jennings radio station, KJEF, has broadcast music sung in French for over 67 years, probably longer than any other radio station in the United States. Cajun music is alive and well in Jeff Davis Parish. Jeff Davis is home to CajunMusicRadio.com, a French-language Internet radio, as well as to many wonderful Cajun and Creole musicians who sing in French.
And we are blessed that our heritage language is one of the most important languages in the world, particularly as a diplomatic language. There are over 6000 languages, but only six working languages at the United Nations. French is one of them. There are only three languages on the U.S. passport, and French is one of them.
French has a particular prestige as a world language because it is spoken in so many countries. It is an official language of twenty-nine countries and is widely spoken in many more countries. Fifty-eight countries are members of the International Organization of French-speaking countries, IOF. It is estimated that 274 million people speak French today and the number is expected to grow to 700 million by 2050 because of rapid growth of the language in Africa.
Spanish is a beautiful, useful language. But it is not our heritage language.
As Sheila Smith, a Jennings Daily News columnist recently wrote, “We now live in a global society. We need our up-and-coming generations to be academically prepared for a workforce that regularly interacts with and services cultures around the world. Part of this means learning a beneficial second language.”
In Jeff Davis Parish, and in Louisiana in general, that language should be French.
David E Marcantel