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lundi, 15 février 2016 16:35

I will not speak French in school

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Comment se peut-il que beaucoup de Franco-Américains et Acadiens du nord du Maine parlent assez bien le français mais ne peuvent pas le lire ni l'écrire?

The answer might surprise you.

From 1918 to 1967 it was forbidden to speak French on school property in Maine. So, two generations of Maine Franco-Americans and Acadians did not learn to read, write, or speak French in school. When it was taught, it was as a foreign language. So, French becamed a language that was okay to speak at home, behind closed doors, but never in public.


To this day, in many parts of Maine, someone who speaks French is considered stupid, ignorant, backwards, etc., etc., etc. The discrimination can be quite aggressive and being told to "speak white!" and "speak American!" is still heard. This is true in areas as close to us as Caribou or Presque Isle.

One-third of Maine residents are Franco-Americans, that is, more than 200,000 people. But most will not speak French in public. For many years I wore a tag that said, "Je parle français" when I went downstate but almost no one ever spoke to me in French. 

We Francos in northern Maine are lucky because we are still in the majority here but the times they are a changing and, although there are efforts to promote and preserve the French language locally, there is a serious lack of resources, funding, and volunteers. C'est quasiment décourageant des fois. 

Franco-Americans and Acadians in northern Maine are very proud of their heritage and their culture but, when it comes to the French language, we are at a serious disadvantage.

We know that we residents of l'Acadie des terres et des forêts have much more in common than we do differences. We share values, a sense of humor, family ties, foods, religion, and so on. But it is not very clear if French will survive in northern Maine after my generation passes on.

When I attended Lincoln Elementary School in Grand Isle in the 1950s and 1960s, if we were caught speaking French, we had to copy 500 times or 1,000 times "I will not speak French in school." I wrote a song about my experience à la p'tite école de Grand Isle. Here is the link to it:

In order to work together for the betterment of l'Acadie des terres et des forêts it is important to know why we are who we are. 

Lu 13814 fois
Don Levesque

He spent more than 30 years in community journalism, mainly at the St. John Valley Times, located in Madawaska, Maine. where he wrote a bilingual newspaper column, Mon 5¢, for more than 20 years. He has been inducted into the Maine Franco-American Hall of Fame ans into the Maine Journalisme Hall of Fame.

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