By Pat Donnelly
Who knew that at the time of the French Revolution, the vast majority (about 75 per cent) of the population of France did not speak fluent French?
Apparently, Catalan was big in those days. So was Breton. As one French official wrote in 1794: “Federalism and superstition speak Breton, emigration and hatred of the Republic speak German, the counter-revolution speaks Italian and fanaticism speaks Basque.”
These surprising historical details are among many that jump off the page while reading Jean-Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow’s The Story of French, an ambitious work that places our own French-vs.- English language squabbles within the context of the 1,000-year history of the French language. Read more »