Cajun Radio is Keeping Louisiana French AliveBreaking News
tags: linguistics, Louisiana, radio, Cajuns
VILLE PLATTE, La.— By 8:30 Saturday morning, the red-brick tavern called Fred's Lounge is already filled with rice farmers, bikers from New Orleans and wide-eyed French tourists ready to party. Some sit at the varnished bar sipping Budweisers and Bloody Marys, while couples waltz gracefully across the worn linoleum. A traditional Cajun band — accordion, fiddle, rhythm guitar, bass, drums and triangle — provides the soundtrack.
And the whole world can listen.
Saturday morning at Fred's is broadcast live on "The Legend" 1050 KVPI and streamed online. The radio announcer sits at a small table under a hand-written sign: "Please do not stand on the chairs or cigarette machine." The little station has been on the air for nearly 70 years doing everything it can to keep alive a dying language.
"Venez visiter D.I.'s Cajun Restaurant in Basile et écoutez Scotty Pousson et les Pointe-Aux-Loups Playboys!" intones Mike Perron into his microphone, plugging one of his sponsors between songs.
Perron is a 71-year-old city councilman, retired auto-body repair man, and part-time DJ who grew up speaking Cajun French.
"I do my sponsors mostly in English, but I do some in French," he says, standing outside as the morning warms and the cicadas pulse. "The people over here, a lot of 'em don't understand all the French words so I do it in English, too. We call that a Franglais — little bit of French, little bit of English. That's how we call it over here."
The Acadians, or Cajuns, who populate this region descended from Roman Catholic French Canadians who were expelled from the Nova Scotia region by the British in the mid-1700s. They made their way to the bayou country of South Louisiana and here they thrived, preserving their culture and folkways. But a number of factors worked against the language. Cajuns were punished for speaking French in school, Cajun GIs left the region to fight in the world wars and learned English, the discovery of oil ushered in more English, and television further diluted the language.
Radio is part of a broad movement to save Cajun French from extinction.
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