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LANGUAGES

The official language of the French Republic is French (art. 2 of the French Constitution), and the French government is, by law, compelled to communicate primarily in French. The government, furthermore, mandates that commercial advertising should be available in French (though it can also be featured in other languages); see Toubon Law. The French government, however, does not mandate the usage of French in non-commercial publications by private individuals or corporations.

In April 2001, the Minister of Education, Jack Lang, admitted formally that for more than two centuries, the political powers of the French government had repressed regional languages, and announced that bilingual education would, for the first time, be recognized, and bilingual teachers recruited in French public schools.

The 1999 Report written for the French government by Bernard Cerquiglini identified 75 languages that would qualify for recognition under the government's proposed ratification of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. 24 of those languages are indigenous to the European territory of the state, while all the others are from overseas areas of the French Republic (in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean and South America).

The topic of the teaching of regional languages in public primary and secondary schools is controversial. Proponents of the measure state that it would be necessary for the preservation of those languages and to show respect to the local culture. Opponents contend that local languages are often non-standardized (thus making curricula difficult), of dubious practical usefulness (since most are spoken by a small number of people, without any sizeable corpus of publications) and that the curriculum and funding of public schools are already too strained. The topic also leads to wider controversial questions of autonomy of the régions.

Although ratification was blocked by the Constitutional Council as contradicting the Fifth Republic's constitutional provision enshrining French as the language of the Republic, the government continues to recognise regional and minority languages to a limited extent (without granting them official status) and the Délégation générale à la langue française has acquired the additional function of observing and studying the languages of France and has had "et aux langues de France" added to its title.

Certain of the languages of France are also cross-border languages (for example, Basque, Catalan, Picard, Norman, Franco-Provençal, Flemish, Occitan and others), some of which enjoy a recognised or official status in the respective neighbouring state or territory.

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