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Six good reasons to save Occitan, an ancient language less and less spoken


Boudu! If you were in the Southwest on your vacation, you've certainly heard it. This thousand-year-old language is, however, less

The millions of tourists who spent their last summer vacation in the South West have also escaped thanks to the Occitan displayed on road signs and very lively in local expressions.

But do not be fooled by appearances: despite public policies encouraging the practice, this thousand-year-old Romance language and its variants (Gascon, Limousin, Languedoc, Provençal, Auvergne, etc.) are threatened with extinction due to the drop in the number of speakers.

According to an ambitious survey by the Public Office for the Occitan Language (OPLO) recently unveiled and carried out among 8,000 inhabitants - over 15 years of age - of New Aquitaine, Occitania and the border territory of Val d'Aran in Spain , this regional language is only spoken by 542,000 people with an average age of 66 years.

They represent 7% of the population of these territories, ie “a drop of 3 to 4 points” in a decade.

Good news all the same: 70% learned about it from the family.

It is therefore the end of the "vergonha", this shame, very strong after the First World War, to pass on Occitan to one's children which, according to the State at the time, would have hampered their success.

What is certain is that in order to survive, it will have to recruit new speakers, in particular in schools, in order to compensate for the disappearance of bilingual elders.

A language is no longer in danger when it has at least 30% of speakers Occitan has no shortage of arguments to reverse the trend.

1-The language of love in the Middle Ages.

From the 11th century, the troubadours offered him very pretty poems bearing, among other things, on "fin'amor" or courtly love, this way of loving with respect and honesty.

"They invented the game of seduction", summarizes Charline Claveau, president of the OPLO and regional councilor (PS) of Nouvelle Aquitaine, delegate for regional languages ​​and cultures.

"By always leaving it to the other to join or not", specifies Hervé Couture, teacher-trainer at the Center for educational activities in Occitan in Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques).

2-Feminist before the hour.

For Charline Claveau, "Occitan culture is the bearer of relative values, in particular in the place of women".

"When you feminize a word, an object in Occitan, it is to enlarge it", she applauds.

The possessive is less applicable than in the French language.

"The people do not belong to us, there is a greater respect for the autonomy of each one", she notes.

3- A certain idea of ​​Europe.

Occitan has crossed borders to invite itself to parts of Spain and Italy.

“It has been the language of openness, commerce and sharing for more than 1000 years,” she enthuses.

A tradition of welcome and tolerance symbolized by "conviviality" or the art of living together.

"Occitan also invented the notion of citizen," greets expert Hervé Couture.

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4-French can say thank you.

The langue d'oc is extremely rich.

"Its lexical field allows much more nuance than the French language", he boasts.

She offered tons of French words that we use fluently.

"Some every day like salad", specifies this Occitanophone.

Other loans: castagne, poutou, décaniller, esquinter, pétanque, niaque or dodger.

5-Rich in picturesque expressions.

There are some crisp words that we only hear in the South and that amuse the ears of visitors.

Among them, rouméguer (moan), bouléguer (stir), gafets (children), s'escaner (choking), a bisto de nas (with the pifometer), escagasser (getting on the nerves), ensuqué (asleep), bader (to watch speechless) or to hope (to impress).

6-A passport for the foreigner.

Some 50,000 young people are learning Occitan on a regular basis in Occitania and New Aquitaine.

Mastering it allows you to become multilingual or almost.

“There are obvious links with Portuguese, Italian and Spanish,” notes Charline Claveau.

"English also has a lot of Occitan words", underlines Hervé Couture.

Richard the Lionheart, who was Duke of Aquitaine and King of England, obviously had his say.

The revival of Basque

It is a regional language that is an exception and reminds others in France that losing speakers is not inevitable.

Basque has indeed managed to stop the bleeding in our country.

According to a survey unveiled three years ago by the Office public de la langue basque (OPLB), Basque had 51,200 bilingual practitioners in 2016, i.e. 100 more than in 2011, which represented 20.5% of the population of the Basque Country of France.

To this percentage can be added the 9.3% of receptive bilinguals (23,000 people) who understand the language but do not speak it except for a few words.

There is almost stability in “active” bilinguals after years of decline.

In 1996, more than 56,100 people in the north of the Pyrenees spoke Basque very well.

Now, it is especially among young people that the practice is on the rise.

The massive development of classroom education, especially at the primary level, explains this still fragile renewal.

"For the first time, the young generations who learned Basque at school and the new learners came to compensate for the losses due to the aging of the Basque-speaking population", decrypts the OPLB in its report.

The Basque language, mastered by children and the elderly, is still little known to 25-50 year olds.

So in this September start, the urban community of the Basque Country has just launched the site “” intended to promote the action of training organizations in the learning of Basque.

Source: leparis

All life articles on 2020-09-20

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