Drivers in the southern US state of Louisiana — many of whom trace their colonial roots to France — may one day soon find themselves stopping at bilingual signs that warn: “Stop-Arret.”
A new law passed last week by local lawmakers authorizes parishes — the state’s version of counties — to translate their road signs into “Louisiana French.”
The law now passes to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, a conservative Republican, for his signature or veto.
Jindal has thrown out previous versions of the bill, but Louisiana Representative Stephen Ortego, a Democrat who authored it, urged the governor to sign this time.
“My grandparents used to speak French in the schoolyard, hidden behind trees, because they didn’t want the teachers to hear,” the 30-year-old said, speaking French.
“It’s really shameful and unfortunate. But we are at a moment where it’s becoming a right for children to have a bilingual education,” he said, referring to another measure adopted last week instating that right.
Ortego was inspired after a trip to New Brunswick, in eastern Canada, where road signs are bilingual.
He has support from about a dozen of his colleagues from Acadiana, a large region of Louisiana where French colonists settled.
“Our Acadian cousins in New Brunswick were the model for this legislation,” Ortego said.
In the 18th century, a group of French-speaking colonists moved to Louisiana from New Brunswick after refusing to pledge allegiance to ruler Britain.
Earlier versions of the proposed new law were vetoed by governor Jindal because they were not limited to French. This time, the law only allows French translations, a proposition more popular in a region that embraces its French cultural history.
Ortego said at least 22 parishes in Acadiana are interested in putting up bilingual road signs.
Louisiana’s most famous city, New Orleans, is not planning to change its name.
However, parishes could decide to point drivers to “La Nouvelle Orleans” on their road signs, Ortego said.
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