CODOFIL Prepares for 50th Anniversary
by Charles Larroque, Directeur exécutif, CODOFIL
For almost fifty years, the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL) has managed to bring our heritage languages back from the brink of extinction. Along with many cultural guardians, we’ve come a long way from the 1921 banning of French in Louisiana schools. The visionary founder of CODOFIL, Jimmy Domengeaux, would be proud to see Louisiana French entering a new era—one of great expectations.
Thanks to this state agency for francophone affairs and its collaboration with myriad stakeholders and partners, French is back in the classrooms. A language once dismissed as a handicap may now add much-needed diversification and value to our state’s economy, disproving the myth that Louisiana French has no place in the American Dream.
Established by the state in 1968 and later moved into the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism, CODOFIL is well positioned to build the necessary connections between language and the tourism industry. Tourism data show that the largest number of international visitors to Louisiana hail from French Canada and France. Many of these visitors are culturally motivated, enticed by Louisiana’s French brand and searching for authentic experiences beyond the bumper-sticker Bon temps rouler. CODOFIL’s French immersion programs continue to expand the potential for a growing bilingual workforce that can capitalize on the interests of these visitors. This is serious economic lagniappe.
CODOFIL is now working to tailor the immersion programs to meet the needs of parishes that are investing in a bilingual vision for economic development. Tourism is, of course, the lowest hanging fruit, but there are no limits to the career opportunities for a Louisiana French linguistically skilled workforce. Agriculture? Think West Africa, with its twenty-four francophone countries. The energy sector? Faith-based missions? Amen. Defense? Humanitarian aid? Emergency preparedness? These diverse opportunities are open to French speakers. Our own Louisiana National Guard began a partnership with Haiti in 2010. With CODOFIL’s international partnerships in the francophone world—especially with France in the West Indies—Louisiana is strategically positioned to become a hub of international exchange with the Caribbean, akin to South Florida’s relationships with Latin America. We know that our children want to remain here in Louisiana, mainly for the wonderfully unique culture in which they were raised. By leveraging our cultural resources, such as heritage languages, for economic opportunities, we can create the jobs that will benefit future generations of Louisianans.
The expectations are indeed great and with them come even greater challenges. Our own communities have experienced rampant erosion of language and culture for decades. The development of French in Louisiana can hardly succeed without rebuilding our francophone communities where it will again be possible to “live, work and play” in a familiar culturally rich space. In 2018, CODOFIL prepares for its next fifty years. These are exciting times for our state’s renaissance men and women, from Mer Rouge to Baton Rouge, Cocodrie to Paradis—and the whole francophone world will be watching. Visit us at codofil.org, follow us at facebook.com/codofil, and join us. Chez nous . . . chez vous!