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Last weekend, the Princess went to a birthday party in one of Dublin’s more exciting suburbs. It boasts horses in front gardens (this is not a good thing in Dublin, you’ll have to trust me here) and, if you type this suburb + shooting into Google, then you get 26,100 results. However, she emerged unscathed.

That evening her father and I went to dinner at the houses of friends who live in a rather different Dublin suburb. For the hell of it, I typed “much nicer suburb + shooting” into Google and it reproachfully asked me whether I meant “much nicer suburb + shopping”.

Meanwhile, Mr. Waffle got a call from the childminder asking whether she could take the children to a party at the house of a little (francophone, North African) boy they regularly played with in the park. He said yes and I probably would have too but I had some qualms subsequently. This is the problem with having two working parents. While I was perfectly happy to drop the Princess off to gangland shooting suburb as the birthday girl was a classmate whom I had met, I was uneasy about them all going to a strange house where I didn’t know the child or his mother even though their childminder stayed with them the entire time. Sigh.

We also got invited to lunch by friends – she is French and he is Irish and her parents (who do not speak a great deal of English) were staying for a week and I think that they felt that it might be useful to have some other French speakers and French speaking children about. All very pleasant – they are French farmers from deepest darkest Brittany and I was fascinated to hear that his parents were native Breton speakers and hers spoke a local dialect but, of course, they all learnt French French at school. While both our friend’s parents understand dialect and Breton respectively, our friend understands neither. It has to be said that the policy of the French state seems to be a little hostile to languages other than French within its borders. My husband, who knows everything, told me that as recently as the first world war only one in five Frenchmen spoke French. Well, they’ve fixed that then.

4 Responses to “Socialising”

  1. ksam Says:

    I could write a book on this subject, but after the revolution in 1776, the French government found itself in dire need of immigrants for the work force. They absolutely did not want to let all of these foreigners come in and keep their language & traditions (ie. the anglo-saxon model), so they had to find a way to literally force them to become French. They also had to try to unify France itself, because each region had its own long history and language, and the people usually thought of themselves as first and foremost “Breton” or “Basque” etc, instead of “French”.

    So the way they went about accomplishing these two goals was to ban all other languages and force everyone to speak French. It’s also the reason the French school system is so strict today – it was designed to take children from all different backgrounds and churn them over and spit them out as an army of mindless French fonctionnaires. It’s quite genius really.

    Luckily though, they’ve eased up in the past 15 or so years, and in places like Bretagne, bilingual French-Breton schools are become more and more popular, and the people are really making a concerted effort to preserve the culture and traditions of les anciens.

  2. ksam Says:

    PS. Crap, just realized my typo – meant 1789, not 1776. I should not be leaving comments before having my morning caffeine!!

  3. katie Says:

    Mr Spouse’s late father only spoke Welsh until he went into the Army in WW2 – in their wisdom, the powers that be decided that he should be in the Scots Guards. Although he continued to speak Welsh to his siblings, he moved to England when he met my MIL and they only spoke English at home (it was in the days when, everywhere, they thought children would be confused if they heard two languages at home – those days only ending in the late 1980s I think).

    One of Mr Spouse’s enduring regrets is that he never learned Welsh as a child. The senior Mr Spouse never really became properly literate in English and still made some non-native errors even in later life, and I think partly he wanted to improve his English by speaking it most of the time.

    All of Mr S Senior’s education was in Welsh (pre-war) so this happened with families that didn’t have Majority Language Only education, too.

  4. daddy'slittledemons Says:

    the gangland birthday party reminds me of the joke about the Irish middleclass – in Ireland you know you’re middle class if you don’t have a horse. All the very rich have horses, all the poor have horses. The middle classes don’t. Look out the window – no horse? You’re middle class so.

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