Since its inception, Louisiana has been a bastion of the French language and culture, a legacy that dates back to the 17th century. However, the number of French speakers in the state has drastically dwindled from about a million in 1960 to an estimated 120,000 in 2023, with only 20,000 speaking Cajun French. This decline threatens not only the language but also the rich cultural heritage intertwined with it. To understand how Louisiana plans to revive its French roots, we must explore the historical journey of French in the region and the efforts to preserve it amidst numerous challenges.

The Historical Journey of French in Louisiana

Early Colonization and the Louisiana Purchase

Louisiana was part of New France, claimed by the French in 1682 and named after King Louis XIV. The French colonized the region until 1803, when it was sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase. Despite American control, French culture and language persisted, evolving into unique dialects due to the diverse groups that settled in the region, including Colonial French settlers, immigrants from Haiti and Canada, and local Native American tribes.

The Influence of the Acadians

A significant influence on Louisiana French came from the Acadians, who were originally from rural France and settled in Acadia (present-day Nova Scotia) in the early 17th century. After the British took over Acadia in 1713 and began forcibly removing the Acadians in the mid-1700s, many of them found refuge in rural Louisiana, eventually evolving into the Cajuns. The Cajuns’ unique blend of culture and language heavily influenced the French spoken in Louisiana, creating what is now known as Cajun French.

The Decline of French in Louisiana

Discrimination and Legislative Changes

After the United States acquired Louisiana, efforts to Americanize the state included pushing out the French influence. In the late 1800s, French speakers began facing discrimination, often being associated with poverty and lower social classes. This stigma led to significant changes in state laws, which gradually shifted away from French inclusivity. By 1921, French was banned in all public schools, and even private schools were eventually required to teach in English.

World War II and Its Impact

World War II had a profound impact on the use of French in Louisiana. Many young French-speaking men from Louisiana had to learn English to serve in the military, further accelerating the decline of French as a primary language. Post-war American sentiments emphasized unity through the English language, further marginalizing French speakers.

Efforts to Preserve and Revive Louisiana French

Government and Community Initiatives

Realizing the cultural loss, Louisiana began taking steps to preserve French. In 1968, the state legislature created the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), aiming to preserve and develop French language, culture, and heritage. The state also introduced French immersion programs in schools and promoted French businesses and tourism.

Legal and Educational Reforms

In 1974, Louisiana removed the requirement that all schools instruct in English, acknowledging the right of French-speaking residents to preserve their language and culture. A significant legal victory came in 1980 with the Supreme Court case Roach v. Dresser Industrial Valve and Instrument Division, which recognized Cajuns as an ethnic group protected under the Civil Rights Act, prohibiting discrimination based on their heritage.

Modern Educational Efforts

Today, around 100,000 students are enrolled in French immersion schools in Louisiana. However, these programs often focus on formal French rather than Cajun French, posing a challenge in preserving the local dialect. Efforts are being made to adapt immersion programs to better serve the population and capture the nuances of Louisiana French dialects.

Challenges and Future Prospects

Environmental and Demographic Challenges

Environmental changes, such as rising sea levels and flooding, pose additional threats to French-speaking communities in Louisiana. The loss of land and forced migration further fragment these already small communities. Additionally, the shift towards Spanish as a more practical second language in the United States complicates efforts to revive French.

Cultural and Community Efforts

Despite these challenges, community-driven efforts to preserve the language persist. French-speaking groups meet regularly in public spaces to converse in French, normalizing its use and inspiring others to learn. Media projects like Télé-Louisiane, which produce podcasts and videos in Louisiana French, help raise awareness and connect younger generations with their heritage.

Economic and Touristic Incentives

Tourism organizations have played a vital role in advocating for the preservation of Louisiana French, as the unique cultural heritage attracts visitors. Emphasizing French in the state enhances its international appeal, drawing tourists from French-speaking countries and boosting the local economy.


The struggle to preserve Louisiana French is an ongoing battle against numerous obstacles, including historical discrimination, environmental changes, and the dominance of English. However, there are reasons to be optimistic. Educational reforms, community initiatives, and media projects are helping to keep the language alive. While it may not return to its former prevalence, Louisiana French remains a cherished part of the state’s cultural identity, with ongoing efforts to ensure its survival for future generations.


Q: What is the current state of French speakers in Louisiana?
A: As of 2023, there are an estimated 120,000 French speakers in Louisiana, with only 20,000 speaking Cajun French.

Q: How did Cajun French develop?
A: Cajun French developed from the French spoken by the Acadians who settled in Louisiana after being expelled from Nova Scotia by the British in the mid-1700s. It incorporates influences from other French-speaking immigrants and local Native American tribes.

Q: What role did World War II play in the decline of French in Louisiana?
A: During World War II, many young Louisiana French men had to learn English to serve in the military, which accelerated the decline of French as a primary language. The war effort also emphasized American unity through the English language.

Q: What are French immersion programs in Louisiana?
A: French immersion programs in Louisiana are educational initiatives where students are taught in French to preserve and promote the language. However, these programs often focus on formal French rather than the local Cajun dialect.

Q: What challenges do French immersion programs face?
A: Challenges include the focus on formal French rather than Cajun French, the difficulty in capturing the nuances of local dialects, and the lack of opportunities for students to practice French outside of the classroom.

Q: What are some community efforts to preserve Louisiana French?
A: Community efforts include regular meetings of French speakers in public spaces, media projects like Télé-Louisiane, and cultural events that celebrate and promote the use of Louisiana French.

Q: How does tourism contribute to the preservation of Louisiana French?
A: Tourism organizations advocate for the preservation of Louisiana French because it attracts visitors with its unique cultural heritage. Emphasizing French enhances the state’s international appeal, drawing tourists from French-speaking countries and boosting the local economy.

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By Ryan Hite

Ryan Hite is an American author, content creator, podcaster, and media personality. He was born on February 3, 1993, in Colorado and spent his childhood in Conifer, Colorado. He moved to Littleton in 2000 and spent the remainder of his schooling years in the city. Upon graduation from Chatfield Senior High School in 2011, he attended the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated from the university in 2015 after studying Urban Planning, Business Administration, and Religious Studies. He spent more time in Colorado in the insurance, real estate, and healthcare industries. In 2019, he moved to Las Vegas, NV, where he continued to work in healthcare, insurance, and took his foray into media full time in 2021. His first exposure to the media industry came as a result of the experiences he had in his mid to late teens and early twenties. In 2013, he was compelled to collect a set of stories from his personal experiences and various other writings that he has had. His first book, a 365,000-word epic, Through Minds Eyes, was published in collaboration with Balboa Press. That initial book launched a media explosion. He learned all that he could about creating websites, marketing his published works, and would even contemplate the publication of other works as well. This book also inspired him to create his philosophy, his life work, that still influences the values that he holds in his life. Upon graduating college, he had many books published, blogs and other informative websites uploaded, and would embark on his continued exploration of the world of marketing, sales, and becoming an influencer. Of course, that did not come without challenges that would come his way. His trial-and-error approach of marketing himself and making himself known guided him through his years as a real estate agent, an insurance agent, and would eventually create a marketing plan from scratch with a healthcare startup. The pandemic did not initially create too many challenges to the status quo. Working from home did not affect the quality of his life. However, a series of circumstances such as continued website problems, social media shutdowns, and unemployment, caused him to pause everything between late 2020 and mid-2021. It was another period of loss of momentum and purpose for his life as he tried to navigate the world, as many people may have felt at that time. He attempted to find purpose in insurance again, resulting in failure. There was one thing that sparked his curiosity and would propel him to rediscover the thing that was gone from his life for so long. In 2021, he started his journey by taking on a full-time job in the digital media industry, an industry that he is still a part of today. It was at this point that he would also shut down the rest of the media that he had going at the time. In 2023, he announced that he would be embarking on what has become known as PROJECT30. This initiative will result in the reformation of websites, the reinvigoration of social media accounts, the creation of a Youtube channel and associated podcast, the creation of music, and the continued rediscovery of his creative potential. Unlike past projects, the purpose of this would not expound on the musings of a philosophy, the dissemination of useless news and articles, or the numerous attempts to be someone that he was not. This project is going to be about his authentic self. There are many ways to follow him as he embarks on this journey. Most of all, he wants everyone to be entertained, informed, and, in some ways, maybe a little inspired about the flourishing of the creativity that lies within the mind and soul of Ryan.

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