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Photo Friday: I Will Not Speak French in Vermilionville

A brief history lesson: Acadians came from French-speaking parts of Canada during the Louisiana Purchase. Before that, they’d been in France. So the French language permeated for decades in Southern Louisiana. Only, as it is prone to happen, people began to decide that this “backwoods” language shouldn’t be tolerated in America, and so efforts were made to squelch the language.

I knew all of this, but learned even more when Mom and I visited Vermilionville, a living history museum dedicated to early Cajun culture. This photo illustrates how, if students in school in the late 1800s spoke French, they were disciplined. Writing “I will not speak French” hundreds of times would surely knock it out of them, right?

Since then, Cajun French (the much-modified dialect of what they speak in Paris) has come in and out of vogue. When my mother was young, it was out, and only poor folks spoke it. My cousins, a few years younger than me, were able to study it in school. So it’s ebbed and flowed over the years, but currently is finding popularity as people realize that it’s not such a good idea to let such a regional dialect die.

My uncle’s father pretty much only speaks Cajun French. That fascinates me. I tried speaking to him once, but my college-trained ear couldn’t understand his country dialect, and vice versa.

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