All Things Maine
All Things Maine

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Maine's Second Language

An article in today's New York Times discusses the stigma once attached to speaking French in Maine, and recent efforts to "recapture" the language.
Frederick Levesque was just a child in Old Town, Me., when teachers told him to become Fred Bishop, changing his name to its English translation to conceal that he was French-American.

Cleo Ouellette's school in Frenchville made her write "I will not speak French" over and over if she uttered so much as a "oui" or "non" — and rewarded students with extra recess if they ratted out French-speaking classmates.

And Howard Paradis, a teacher in Madawaska forced to reprimand French-speaking students, made the painful decision not to teach French to his own children. "I wasn't going to put my kids through that," Mr. Paradis said. "If you wanted to get ahead you had to speak English." [Link]


At 10:46 AM, June 06, 2006, Blogger T. Oklahoma Bandwagon said...

Great Blog. I am happy to have found it. I post from Rockland and look forward to checking in, and linking to your posts where appropriate in the future.

The dirty secret of French suppression in Maine is largely unknown to the rest of the country. I've tried to describe how the Dunkin' Donuts in Auburn used to feature bi-lingual menus, with the other language being French, and folks await the other shoe to drop.

I'm an anglo-irish guy who grew up near WASPY/Irish-dominated Portland, so my interest is purely sporting ... but it seems that Maine needs to account for its French connection if it is truly going to tap into its history as a means of building a viable intrastate community.

At 8:44 PM, June 06, 2006, Blogger Chris said...

My maternal grandfather was a Frenchman from Presque Isle, though I only ever heard him curse en Français.

As this map shows, Maine is a bilingual state, on a par with Cajun Louisiana. I, for one, hope it stays that way.


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