An advertising expert in Louisiana is hoping a website and a simple word — “Bonjour” — will give the state’s 250,000 Francophones more visibility.
Three weeks ago, Brian Clary was looking for a Francophone hairdresser in the Lafayette region. The Virginia-born advertising consultant moved to Louisiana at the start of the summer and could easily have patronized an Anglophone salon. “But by going to a hairdresser who speaks French I am encouraging the state’s Francophone economy while inciting other people to speak it, too,” says the Francophile.
With the help of a little word of mouth, he found a salon in Ville Platte, an hour’s drive from Lafayette. In an effort to make his future searches easier, Brian Clary has created a map of the administrations, companies, stores, restaurants, hotels, museums, and the state’s other tourist sites able to welcome the public in French.
Granting the “FrancoResponsable” label, a term invented in Quebec in 2009 for designating Francophone-friendly businesses and sites, was one of the objectives of the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL). But the organization was forced to put the project on hold due to a lack of staff. Fortunately, Brian Clary’s map already features 245 places and will be put online in the coming weeks. The website will also list cultural events and offer a messaging service and French classified ads. “It will be a hub for Louisianans and Francophone tourists,” he says.
But it still isn’t enough to “unite Francophones” across the state, according to Brian Clary. “They have a solid presence on social media, but almost none in real, day-to-day life.” Inspired by a popular practice in Quebec, the consultant has suggested Louisianans greet each other by saying “Bonjour-Hi.” Other hybrid expressions include “Bienvenue-Welcome” and “Merci-Thanks.” Brian Clary also likes to write “Au plaisir-Sincerely” at the end of his emails. “Since I started using these expressions I have met Francophones on a daily basis,” he says. “I spoke with a taxi driver a few days ago and I met three people in a cafe this morning.”
Students in dual-language immersion classes and their parents are quick to speak French in public. But older people who grew up at a time when speaking French was still forbidden in Louisiana are often more reluctant. Hearing “Bonjour-Hi” at the post office or the supermarket could encourage them to speak in French. And in an attempt to support his initiative, the adman founded the Parti Louisianais group (without any political affiliation) on Facebook in June.
“Our objective is not to force the Louisianans to speak French like they do in Quebec,” says Brian Clary. “But it is important that they have the option. These greetings in French and English could rally the state’s Francophones around a common cause.”