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 speakersfew in numberformed 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.
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 thatas recently as fifty years agowas 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.
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