France's National Assembly is planning to give constitutional recognition to the country's regional languages for the first time in history. Members of France's Germany-speaking minority said they were thrilled.
Bilingual education is still not the rule in Alsace
According to the plan, which was submitted by a member of the conservative UMP party of President Nicolas Sarkozy, Article 1 of the French constitution would be amended to include the following phrase: "Regional languages are part of the cultural heritage" of the nation. "French is the language of the republic."
Representatives of France's German-speaking region of Alsace described the proposal as a "victory" for all those, who have fought for more linguistic diversity in France.
"This is a first, very important step," said Francois Schaffner, the president of Alsace's Culture and Bilingualism Association, according to AFP news service. Schaffner added that much -- including legislation -- still needs to happen in order for regional languages to receive more recognition in the public sphere, including French media and French classrooms.
According to the French National Assembly, France has about 75 regional languages. Apart from Alsatian, these include Basque, Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Occitan and Flemish.
The constitutional amendment is expected to be passed in July.