For a strictly oral language that dates back to the 18th century as we hear from the self-proclaimed “experts,” Louisiana French has a remarkably robust presence on the internet. While some are lamenting its passing and are filled with a melancholic nostalgia, others are launching that language into the future conveyed by YouTube, blogs and other podcasts, Twitter and Facebook pages associated. If we go looking for the presence of French in everyday life, it is true that we can return empty-handed if we do not know the right addresses.
Yet we can find them. With a few clicks of the little mouse, a whole world in Louisiana French appears on the computer screen. With a few hits of the thumb on an iPhone, you can access a virtual country where Louisiana French is the official language.
Though it is sometimes difficult to meet in the public square in French, social media provide places where activities and exchanges between Francophones of all levels can circulate freely. One site on Facebook in particular, the Cajun French Virtual Table Française, has established itself as an essential source for people who want to compare expressions, announce French events or simply ask how to say the name of this or that plant. The conversations are not unlike those people had around a cup of coffee at the kitchen table except this time, the participants are in Louisiana, France, New England and elsewhere. And, interestingly, members gather in real life from time to time.
“Prairie des Femmes” is another space that is both real and virtual, where a new generation of Franco-Louisianians is developing an authentic voice. Its creator, Ashlee Michot, recently launched a project, “Ô Malheureuse,” where she threw out a sort of message in a bottle, calling on Louisiana women to submit texts in prose or poetry. The extraordinary response has revealed amazing creative voices.
“Charrer-Veiller” is a podcast that can be found on YouTube. It is the idea of two young Franco-Louisianians, Joe Pons and Chase Cormier. Their goal is to chat in French Louisiana with other activists about various topics. Named in tribute to the last French newspaper “The Bee,” “The Bumblebee of Louisiana” is an online newspaper under the direction of Bennett Boyd Anderson III. “Télé-Louisiane” is probably the most ambitious project. It is the product of several collaborators whose main ones are Will McGrew, Brian Clary and Marshall Woodworth. They are currently working on children’s programs, in addition to short films that can already be viewed.
We will note the collaborative aspect of all these Francophone initiatives.
On the ground, the Francophone community is fractured and disparate. On the internet, it is a group of individuals passionate about and for Louisiana French. The beauty of the deal is that these young people choose to live their lives in French in everyday life and in the virtual world of the 21st century.