Saturday, May 2, 2009

French Speakers Here and There

When Nancy and I were on our bicycle journey in 1987 we rode north across Belgium. One day we crossed some invisible line. The landscape abruptly changed from the French l'aissez-faire to the incredible tidiness of the Netherlands. We weren't aware we were crossing a border, and we weren't, at least not a well defined international border. But we had crossed the border between the Flemish and the Walloons. There were no signs or customs stations, but we were aware we had crossed a cultural border of some significance. And here is a map that shows the regions as defined by heritage and language, which I had never seen before. We rode from the town of Mons on the French border, where we got off the train from Paris, south and east of Charleroi, and then almost due north to Holland. On this map you barely notice that the country of Luxembourg is included as if it were part of Belgium. And I didn't know Brussels is a "statutorily bilingual area". What a concept.

Here are maps showing French heritage and French speakers in les Etat Unis. No surprise that the heavy concentrations of both are in French Louisiana and near Quebec. I would not have suspected that French heritage is so evenly spread across the U.S. other than the aforementioned areas. What is puzzling to me is the small concentration of French speakers in Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota and Alaska. What the map below doesn't say is whether they are native French speakers from abroad, or it is their second, learned language? Any ideas?
These maps should enlarge if you click on them.


Anonymous said...

Just an observation. There are in fact TWO Luxembourgs. One is on your map and is a province of Belgium. The other one is to the east of the one on your map. This second Luxembourg is the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and is an independent (but small) country, with Luxembourg City as its capital.

North of Andorra said...

Thank you for your comment. Interesting. I did not know that there was a Duchy and a province of Lumembourg. I'm glad to see someone is reading the blog entry.