Preserving dialects : the example of the picard language

Although I am currently working in the Brittany region in France, I am not a native of Brittany. I was born in Amiens, the regional capital of Picardy, which holds one of the most famous cathedral on the french territory :

 

cathedral

 

Brittany is a region with a strong sense of folklore, and its touristic attractiveness largely gambles on that, but Picardy is also a very rich region, with a strong historical background. Going back to the 13th century, the Picardy region included all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands !

I am always happy to return to Amiens to meet my family and friends, and from time to time we speak a bit of picard language.

St-Leu

 

Picard language is very ancient, it’s old enough to find its origins more than a millenium ago. There are mainly two variants in “modern” picard language. One that prevails on the present Picardy region (the one I know), and one that is located in the most northern region of France : Nord Pas-de-Calais.

The presence of the picard language is quite scarce in popular culture, but in year 2008 it suddenly burst on french theatres with the comedy movie “Bienvenue chez les Chtis”. It was a huge success in France, depicting the northern region of France as a very friendly territory where most people are good-hearted and welcoming. Not exactly a masterpiece in the history of film (!), but it has its share of humor and self mockery.

I saw this one of course in french (and picard language !), but also by sheer luck in…german language during a trip in Berlin. There was another translation in italian language.

ch'ti

copyright grassrootsgroundswell – Image credit : https://www.flickr.com/photos/grassrootsgroundswell/

However, expressions of local traditions still exist in picard language, such as the marionette show Chés Cabotans in Amiens. It is the remaining heritage of the around twenty marionette troupes existing in Amiens at the end of the XIXst century. The show displays the adventures of three characters : Lafleur, Sandrine & Tchot (little) Blaise. Lafleur even has its statue in Amiens, you can see it on this webpage, the last picture in the page. Note that picture number 3 is very famous : it’s Jules Verne’s grave !

Last month, I was in Amiens for the week-end, and I was lucky to capture a performance from the Picaresk company. It is not the “official” Chés Cabotans troupe, but it stages quite the same characters and stories. Here is the video excerpt :

If you want to know more about Picard language, here is a page where you can find some very interesting resources !