Definitions

louisiana french

Council for the Development of French in Louisiana

The Council for the Development of French in Louisiana, or CODOFIL — known in French as le Conseil pour le développement du français en Louisiane and Konséy pou Dévelopmen di françé en Lwizyàn in creole — is a state agency created in 1968 by the Louisiana legislature. The state formed CODOFIL in response to the decline of French in Louisiana and a growing activism among its French-speaking population (particularly the Cajuns). The organization has since spearheaded the state's effort to save the local French language and culture.

Origin

The legislative act that created CODOFIL empowered the organization "to do any and all things necessary to accomplish the development, utilization, and preservation of the French language as found in the State of Louisiana for the cultural, economic, and touristic benefit of the State.” The state authorized CODOFIL to cooperate with and advise other state agencies, as well as to receive donations and grants from individuals, corporations, and governments.

Early years

James "Jimmy" Domengeaux, an attorney and former U.S. Congressman from Lafayette, Louisiana, served as CODOFIL’s first chairman. Overseeing the organization from 1968 until his death twenty years later, Domengeaux exerted a huge influence on CODOFIL's development. During that period he used CODOFIL to introduce French education in public schools from elementary to high school levels — a major shift in the Louisiana educational system, which for decades had punished Cajun children for speaking their native French dialect in the classroom. He also used the organization to combat what he perceived as misrepresentations of, or affronts to, Cajun culture. For example, he condemned use of the epithet "coonass" as a synonym for "Cajun," and he criticized humorists like Justin Wilson, whom he thought portrayed Cajuns as ignorant.

CODOFIL attracted the support of numerous state legislators over the years, such as Allen Ray Bares of Lafayette, who himself spoke French.

Recent history

After Domengeaux's death in 1988, CODOFIL continued to coordinate French education in Louisiana's public schools, and to serve as a cultural watchdog group.

CODOFIL originally consisted of a chairman and an advisory committee, all appointed by the governor of Louisiana. Today, it is administered by a president, an executive director, and a board of directors. A supporting organization, the non-profit Fondation Louisiane (formerly the Fondation CODOFIL), accepts memberships from the general public and oversees CODOFIL's fundraising activities. CODOFIL sponsors several scholarship and student exchange programs, and serves as a clearinghouse for information concerning the French language and culture in Louisiana. It actively promotes cooperation between Louisiana and other French-speaking regions and nations, and recruits French-speaking teachers from around the globe to serve as instructors in Louisiana's public school system. CODOFIL places much emphasis on French immersion, a highly successful method of instruction, which it introduced to Louisiana schools from Canada in the 1980s.

Criticism

CODOFIL's early efforts to introduce French language education in public classrooms were criticized by many observers. Complaints centered around the organization's emphasis on continental French instead of Louisiana French, and its use of imported Francophone teachers from France, Belgium, and Quebec, instead of local teachers. Furthermore, some accused CODOFIL of snobbism toward the very Cajun culture it claimed to be saving. Eventually, however, the organization became more grassroots in its outlook and membership, and embraced Cajun French and other forms of Louisiana French.

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