"Preserving Louisiana French as Living Language"

Donald Z. Osborn dzo at bisharat.net
Fri Oct 10 16:01:42 UTC 2008

FYI, from the Tulane University paper, New Wave:

Preserving Louisiana French as Living Language
September 19, 2008
Fran Simon

[photo inset: "Tom Klingler, associate professor of French, is  
collaborating with a member of the faculty at Louisiana State  
University to develop online tutorials for people to learn Creole or  
Cajun French. (Photo by Paula Burch-Celentano)"]

Tom Klingler, an expert in linguistics and French spoken in Louisiana,  
receives beaucoup e-mail inquiries from people around the world who  
want to learn how to speak Louisiana Creole. To help meet the demand  
for instruction in language that isn?t commonly taught, Klingler is  
developing an online tutorial program.

An associate professor of French at Tulane, Klingler speaks Louisiana  
Creole French fluently, though has never taught others how to speak it.

?There is no textbook,? he says. ?So I have to create the materials.?

With funding from a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents,  
Klingler is collaborating with Amanda Lafleur at Louisiana State  
University, who is an expert in Cajun French.

According to Klingler, Creole and Cajun French are not simply dialects  
of traditional French; they differ in vocabulary and grammatical  
structure as well as pronunciation.

There are perhaps fewer than 200,000 people who speak these languages,  
says Klingler, who chairs the Tulane Department of French and Italian.  
In contrast, more than seven million people speak the Creole French  
that is spoken by Haitians. Tulane offers courses in Haitian Creole.

Klingler considers himself a preservationist, but documenting  
Louisiana Creole French is more than an academic interest. He says the  
loss of any language is a significant loss of cultural heritage.

?They should be saved because there?s a demand to learn these  
languages,? Klingler says. ?Many people of Creole background are  
people of color who live outside of Louisiana because of outmigration  
due to discrimination in the South. They want to reconnect with their  
Louisiana roots. They remember their grandparents speaking these  
languages, and they want to get their heritage back.?

Developing self-paced tutorials in Creole or Cajun French is a massive  
task. Klingler and LaFleur are in the third year of the project. Clay  
McGovern and Gina Allen of Tulane?s Innovative Learning Center are  
taking the materials produced by the professors and designing the  
technology for the tutorials. Part of the tutorials will be audio  
recordings of Louisiana natives speaking their languages, accompanied  
by photographs of the people who are talking. Once the tutorials go  
?live? they will be free to anyone who wants to learn these languages.

?I?ve made my career by studying Louisiana French,? Klingler says. ?I  
feel an obligation to take what I?ve gathered from the Louisiana  
Creole community and make it available to the general public and  
people of Creole heritage.?

Klingler is the author of If I Could Turn My Tongue Like That: The  
Creole Language of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana and coauthor of the  
Dictionary of Louisiana Creole. He has received grants and fellowships  
from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council  
of Learned Societies, the French Cultural Services and the Louisiana  
Endowment for the Humanities.

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