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Regional identities, such as Provencal and Breton have coexisted with political units of state control.The degree to which France is today a homogeneous nation is a highly contested topic.
Regional languages and dialects such as Breton, Catalan, Corsican, Basque, Alsatian, and Flemish are still in use, and some are taught in regional schools.
The law of 11 January 1951 permitted the teaching of regional languages in regions in which they were in use.
The most recent update of national language policy regarding education came in 1995, permitting the teaching of regional languages at the primary and secondary levels. The nation historically has been divided into two linguistic regions: that of the langue d'oeil to the north and that of the langue d'oc to the south.
National identity is closely identified with the French language.
The population has more than doubled since the mid-nineteenth century, when it was 28.3 million.
The post–World War II period saw fertility increases in the French version of the baby boom, but the birthrate began to drop in the early 1970s. At the turn of the twentieth century and after World War I, migration accounted for half the total population growth. The official language is French, which is by far the majority language, having been imposed on the regional populations since the nineteenth century.While tied to the mainland of Europe, the country is open to the Atlantic to the west.It also has coasts on the Mediterranean Sea to the south and the English Channel to the north.The purity of the language is officially protected by the Académie Française established by Cardinal Richelieu in the seventeenth century, whose forty members rule over the inclusion of new words in the language.In 1966, the government instituted a further safeguard by establishing a commission on the French language whose role is to discourage borrowings from English and franglais (the combination of the two languages).Political and linguistic unification, especially through mass education, has been an ongoing project of nationalism.The immigrant population comes mainly from Portugal and northern Africa, although there has been increasing immigration from eastern Europe.While most of the country is in a temperate zone, the Mediterranean area is considered to have a subtropical climate.The four main rivers are the Seine, the Loire, the Garonne, and the Rhône. France has a low population density compared to other countries in Western Europe.France takes a highly assimilationist approach to its immigrant populations.The social position of Beurs (the children of North African immigrants) is an ongoing issue.