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France

Thousands march for regional langue d'oc in Toulouse

Over 20,000 people demonstrated in the south-western French city of Toulouse in defence of the local language, Occitan, on Saturday. Supporters of Socialist François Hollande pledged that he would act to endorse Europe-wide actions in defence of regional languages if he becomes president in May.

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Green presidential candidate Eva Joly and MEP José Bové joined the demonstrators, as did the Socialists Senate president Jean-Pierre Bel and Toulouse mayor Pierre Cohen.

“In many places regional languages are threatened,” Joly said, calling for them to be taught in junior schools.

Hollande will ratify the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages if he becomes president, Bel promised.

Demostrators decked themselves out in gold and red, the colours of the Occitan flag, and pupils from calandretas, schools where the language is taught, marched alongside their parents.

Occitan, so-called because its speakers say “oc” instead of “oui” for “yes”, is a language that evolved from Latin separately from what is now known as French, which is based on the language spoken in the Ile de France region around Paris.

At one time pupils were banned from using it and the country's 75 other regional languages in school and French authorities did all they could to stamp them out.

The Académie Française, which polices the French language, in 2008 refused to recognise them, judging them an attack on national identity.

Nevertheless, about one in five inhabitants of the Midi-Pyrenees region can hold a conversation in Occitan, according to a poll taken in 2010.

Breton (North-West)
Language group: Celtic
Number of speakers: 250,000 (out of 1.5 million)

Alsacien (North-East)
Language group: Germanic
Number of speakers: 900,000 (out of 1.7 million)

Francique (North-East)
Language group: Germanic
Number of speakers: 400,000 (out of 2.3 million)

Flemish (North-East)
Language group: Germanic
Number of speakers: 20,000-40,000 (out of 1.4 million)

Langues d’oïl (North)
Language group: Romance
Number of speakers: 204,000 (out of 35 million)

Basque (South-West)
Language group: Basque
Number of speakers: 40,000-100,000 (out of 260,000)

Franco-provençal (South-East)
Language group: Romance
Number of speakers: 150,000 (out of 6 million)

Catalan (South-East)
Language group: Romance
Number of speakers: 126,000 (out of 370,000)

Occitan (South)
Language group: Romance
Number of speakers: 3 million (out of 13 million)

Corse (Corsica)
Language group: Romance
Number of speakers: 150,000 (out of 250,000)

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