Thomas speaks Walloon, one of the Romance languages, related to French and the other langues d’oïl, including Norman and Picard. It is spoken primarily in Wallonia, Belgium, as well as northern France and French Canada.
Walloon is spoken by about 600,000 people. It is a Romance language in the langue d’oil family, which includes French, Picard, and Norman, among others. It has a rich literary and linguistic history, but since Wallonia was annexed by France in 1795 its use has decreased significantly in both writing and conversation. Despite Belgium becoming independent from the French Republic, the language of Belgium’s aristocracy, government, and monarchy were all still French as recently as the 1930s. Walloon was at one point considered a dialect of French by the linguistic community, but thinkers such as Jules Feller (who created the Walloon writing system) asserted that because French speakers cannot easily understand Walloon, and it has since been relabeled and recognized as its own language. Furthermore, Walloon was broken up into its own four dialects, so geographical region as well as distinctiveness contributed the evolution of the language’s classification.
Walloon is recognized legally as an indigenous regional language (langue régionale endogène) and therefore it is encouraged nominally by the government to be taught and used; it is not, however, formally taught in schools yet, and instead is dependent upon cultural instruction. There is now an organization called the Union Culturelle Wallonne, meaning the Walloon Cultural Union, that connects artists, educators, and performers who work in the language, and there has been a resurgence of use and cultural pride of the language in recent years. There is still work to do for a full revitalization of the language, however, since a majority of fluent users are older adults.
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