written by Jasmine Grace -high school Intern
Every year in March Francophone (French-speaking) nations across the globe celebrate French language and the diverse cultures that speak it. There will be thousands of events in 77 countries around the world.
The origins of this holiday lie with an organization now called the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). The idea for this group was proposed by Léopold Sédar Senghor, president of Senegal at the time. It was officially formed on March 20, 1970 when more than 20 Francophone nations signed the Treaty of Niamey. African countries including Senegal, Niger, and Tunisia assumed leadership positions in the organization, because there is much French spoken across Africa.
Since the beginning of the OIF, March 20 has been celebrated as Francophonie Day (Journée Internationale de la Francophonie). All festivities aim to promote French language and culture, but the OIF does more than just share language. They promote understanding between people, and also stand for values such as peace, human rights, and sustainability.
This year, Francophonie month will be coordinated by the French Ministry of Culture and will focus on the spoken word. Dozens of organizations, libraries, schools, and nearly 500 bookstores in France will host events in addition to the many events taking place in other parts of the world. The President of France, Emmanuel Macron, has said that one of his priorities will be to promote French language and multilingualism.
One of the many nations that plans to host events in celebration is Thailand. Although they have no direct French heritage, there are 500,000 Thai people who speak French fluently, and 30,000 more students who are learning at school or university. Throughout the month, concerts, conferences, and educational events will take place across the nation. And on March 20, La Fête de la francophonie will celebrate students who chose to study French.
The U.S. will also have francophonie festivities. Although we are not a member of the OIF, many communities will celebrate their French heritage and language. Last year, Washington D.C. was home to several events, including museum tours in French, a presentation of Van Gogh paintings, and a film festival.
The Franco-American Centre (FAC) will be celebrating this month too! We promote French language, culture, and heritage year-round, but this month there will be several special virtual events, including a bingo night, a French Canadian Expressions event with Henri Vaillancourt and Robert Perreault, and a musical performance by Franco-American singer Josée Vachon. Check out our web page to register!