France is a nation known for its language and linguistic purity, with its main language standardized by the Académie Française, and its minority languages suffering the consequences.

Over history, languages such as Basque, Breton and Corsican have been not just ignored, but actively legislated against. This year we had a glimmer of hop, after the French parliament passed a law on the protection and promotion of minority languages.

The 'Molac bill', named after MP Paul Molac from Brittany who championed the legislation, would have made it possible for children to be educated the majority of the day in languages such as Breton, Catalan, Occitan, Basque, Corsican and Alsatian.

It would have also boosted funding for schools teaching the languages, as well as encouraging the languages to be seen as a rich part of France’s national heritage.

It would have been France’s first law in support of regional languages since the fifth republic way back in 1958, passed by 247 votes to 76 in the French national assembly, though opposed by the then French education minister.

Many people, including in Wales, celebrated the Molac bill victory prematurely. In a mere matter of weeks, France's Constitutional Council struck down the bill, saying the plan was unconstitutional.

The legislation had been referred to the Council by 61 MPs, fervent backers of Macron, and it was massive blow to language campaigners in France and across Europe.

The ruling cuts deeply into minority languages and cultures in France. While they were meant to rule only on this one issue, they sent shock waves; it also ruled on two other key principles.

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Firstly, immersive teaching cannot be directly funded. Secondly, the use of letters not in the French alphabet (e.g. ñ, used in Breton and Basque) cannot be used.

Now it is impossible for parents to give their children traditional names that use “foreign” letters, all of this on the grounds of Article 2 of the Constitution which states: “French is the language of the Republic”. 

Macron himself, cited that his grandparents were not proud to be minority language speakers, dreaming of attending a good state school to ensure proficiency in the French language.

Sadly, many people outside of France mistake him for a Liberal, but being a Liberal is about championing the freedom, dignity and wellbeing of all.

Wales has not only a chance, but a responsibility, to play a role in educating France about what she could lose. We have successfully campaigned to have the right to live our lives through the medium of Welsh.

The Welsh Government and our minister for education, Jeremy Miles, should be in direct communication with his French counterpart.

Wales has underused intellectual capital we can export in the field of minority and low-resourced languages.

Our government must recognise this and act. There is room for the French to learn from us, how our languages co-exist, and while it is not yet a perfected art here in Wales, the Welsh language is not in danger of dying out in the same way as the minority languages spoken by our continental neighbours.

We have a chance to open a new avenue of discourse and prove we are not an archaic inward looking nation, but a knowledgeable and innovative outward looking one, ready to influence pivotal historical events on the world stage.

Leena Farhat is Masters student in Language Technologies and a board member of the Institute for Welsh Affairs.

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