Though traditionally reluctant to teach languages other than French, the national idiom, schools in French Polynesia and New Caledonia have gradually made way for vernacular languages in response to the rise of indigenous identity claims, first articulated in the 1970s. The decentralization policy of France and especially the transfer of jurisdiction over primary and secondary education to local administrations have contributed to this linguistic and cultural acknowledgment, at least at an institutional level. However, territorial education practice remains strongly homologous with the metropolitan teaching model and, because of demographic, sociolinguistic, and political factors, the two French overseas collectivities display contrasting situations with different conditions of resistance to the “all in French” ideology. Following a presentation of their contemporary sociolinguistic contexts, this dialogue piece traces the main phases of education and language policy implemented in these two countries from the missionary period to today and identifies their ideological underpinnings. It details the current major differences between the two territories in their promotion of local languages in schools. As institutional recognition of local languages is not enough, in itself, to revitalize their practice and transmission, it also uses quantitative indicators to consider the role of families in language transmission. The essay concludes with a reflection on the ultimate objectives of teaching indigenous languages.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 433-462
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.