Podcast: Regional elections, France's local languages, first paid holidays

Audio 31:26
Spotlight on France episode 57
Spotlight on France episode 57 © RFI

The hijacking of France's regional election campaign, the fight to keep local languages alive and the first paid vacations for all in 1936.


French people head to the polls on Sunday to decide what the country’s 18 regional councils will look like. The regions are intended to spread power away from Paris, using substantial budgets to run high schools, universities and contribute to public health infrastructure and tourism. And yet the 2021 campaigns have been focused on national questions of security and immigration. Political scientist Bruno Cautres (@BCautres) laments the lack of debate around the role of regions, especially in the wake of the Covid crisis, coming on the heels of the Yellow Vest protests. The increasing influence of Marine Le Pen’s hard-right National Rally on French politics is just one of the explanations. (Listen @3'30'')

The French parliament in April approved a bill allowing primary schools to teach in one of France's 20+ regional languages alongside French. Finally getting state recognition for immersive teaching was warmly welcomed as an affirmation of regional identities, marginalised since the French Revolution imposed linguistic unity. But the bill has since been judged anti-constitutional because it breaches article 2, which states that the language of the Republic is French. Linguistic anthropologist James Costa (@seamasdubh) talks to David Coffey, host of the Paris Perspective podcast, about the thorny politics of language diversity in France. (Listen @18'36'')

France's generous paid leave has its roots in the Front Populaire, which introduced two weeks of holidays for all French employees on 20 June 1936. But workers did not pack their suitcases right away. France had to develop a tourist and leisure industry to accompany the time off. (Listen @13'50'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Google podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here), or your favourite podcast app.

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