About 230,000 Louisianans claim to speak French: the largest French-speaking population in the United States. Banned by law in both 1916 and 1931, the French language was transmitted only orally for nearly forty years. The diversity of French speakers in Louisiana explains this long-term vitality, but also has meant a certain fragility: for a long time, French speakers—few in number—formed social groups who were unaware of the existence of other groups. Historians have distinguished three main categories of French: white Creole (close to standard French, almost completely disappeared), black Creole, a product of slavery (25,000 speakers), and Cajun (200,000 speakers). In the 1960s, French-speakers were an endangered species in Louisiana. The CODOFIL, a French organization created in 1968, manages some two hundred French teachers under international agreements.


The Cajun language

Cajun French (called cadjin in French and cadien in Canadian French) arrived in Louisiana with the Acadiens from Canada. It is related to the ancient rural language spoken in northern France. The lack of written usage altered the language over time: it borrowed a number of foreign words and, despite this lexical creativity, the grammar became simplified. Originally, Cajun was hardly a language for educated city-dwellers, but a intimate, family dialect, quite distinct from English that—as recently as fifty years ago—was thought to be the language of "the Americans". Nevertheless, standard French language instruction in schools today tends to modify the traditional Cajun dialect, and there is the risk that it will dilute its particular characteristics. Many words and phrases have been taken from a wide variety of other languages: Indian and African, and above all English, Spanish and Louisiana Creole.

Lexicon of Cajun Expressions


The Creole language

The word "creole" originally meant "of European origin, born in the islands and colonies". By extension, it means children of mixed African and European blood. The term "Creole language" applies today to the inheritors of a language spoken in Louisiana since the beginning of the 18th century on the plantations where the slaves worked.
The Creole spoken by whites in urban settings—which has almost completely vanished today—is very close to modern French. Louisiana black Creole has a vocabulary that comes in large part from French, but it also contains African, Spanish, Indian and English words. African languages do not provide the basis for its grammar, but their influence is felt particularly in the speech rhythms and idiomatic expressions. Those who still speak it today are older and speak it in a family setting and in the local community. It is commonly used in southern Louisiana. The terms used to describe Creole—"couri vini", "français nèg" [nig' French], or "nèg" [nig] —betray its lack of prestige.

Video : creole song
Dictionnaire créole