Occitan in everyday life

Songs

Present in all Occitan regions with approximately fifteen versions, Se canta asserts itself as a federating song, celebrating the fin’amor, love from afar, sung by the troubadours.

Dejós ma fenèstra

I a un aucelon

Tota la nuèch canta

Canta sa cançon.

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Repic :

Se canta que cante

Canta pas per ieu

Canta per ma mia

Qu’es al luènh de ieu.

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Aquelas montanhas

Que tan nautas son

M’empachan de veire

Mas amors ont son.

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Repic

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Baissatz vos montanhas

Planas, levatz vos

Per que pòsque veire

Mas amors ont son

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Repic

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Aquelas montanhas

Lèu s’abaissaràn

E mas amoretas

Se raprocharàn

Attributed to Gaston Fébus, 14th Century

(Under my window / There is a small bird / All night he sings Sings his song.

Chorus : If he sings, he sings / He sings not for me / He sings for my loved one / Who is far from me.

These mountains / Which are so high / Prevent me from seeing / Where my loves are.

Lower yourselves, mountains / Plains, stand high / That I may see / Where my loves lie.

These mountains / Will soon lower / And my loves / Shall come closer).

What is the difference between occitan and patois ?

Occitan is often called “Patois”. In truth it is a pejorative term. Indeed some dictionaries define this term, often used to speak of Occitan, as a “poor, rustic or even vulgar language”. This language is, however, taught up until university, nowadays and was sung by troubadours across Europe. Occitan is spoken and officially recognized in Val d’Aran, in Spain and Piedmont in Italy.

These French expressions are of Occitan origin. You see, you may already know some words ! (Occitan form in italic).

Bidasse : Vidassa : bad life, dog’s life (vida + augmentative and pejorative suffix). The word appears around 1914. In order to get round censure, soldiers wrote home that all was well and that bidasse didn’t leave them.

Bouffer : Bofar/bufar : to puff, to gobble : because of the way a person’s cheeks would swell up when eating a lot.

Cramer : Cremar/cramar : to burn. The introduction of this word into the French dictionary is quite recent.

Ensuqué :Ensucar : to hit someone on the top of the head (le suc). To knock out and consequently to to stun.

Fada : Fadat : Crazy. Literally charmed, possessed by fadas, fairies. It is an idiot, and virtually sacred. The term holds a certain dose of feeling.

Mèfi ! Beware ! Marseille slang which has become international. Panade : Poverty. Derived form : panadeux. From panada : a soup made of bread and eggs, a pauper’s dish.

Pétanque : Petanca : From the Occitan pè tancat, both feet together.

Que dalle : Que d’ala : Almost nothing or even nothing at all. Litterally : just wing. Indeed there is not much to eat on a poultry wing.

Racaille : Racalha : Scum. From racar, to vomit.

Raquer : Racar : To pay up. From racar, to vomit.

From Florian Vernet’s book, Que dalle ! Quand l’argot parle occitan, IEO edicions, 2007.

Traditional games and sports

Sports are vectors of Occitan culture in the same respect as music or literature. In Toulouse, Marseille, Bordeaux or Nice, some football supporter clubs proclaim their Occitan identity in the stands, through their slogans and chants

Occitan traditional games and sports are still popular. You may know of nautical jousting, Languedoc tambourine or Camargues or Landes races. People also play skittles in almost all Occitan villages with 6, 8 or 9.

From playgrounds to board games, numerous Occitan folk games have been handed down over generations. They are the result of exchanges between culture and their diversity is the mirror of their wealth.

Occitan in place names

Strong links between a language and its territory, place names enable the understanding of a region’s history. In our regions, almost all of these names are of Occitan origin and became more French over the centuries.

Here are some examples. The occitan form is in italic, followed by its meaning.

Bagnères-de-Bigorre : Banhèras de Bigòrra, the baths of Bigorre.

Baigts-Chalosse : Vaths de Shalòssa, valleys of the Chalosse country.

Castagnède : Castanhèda, chestnut grove.

Lacaune : La Cauna, the cavity, the cave.

Mazamet : Mas Asamet, farm of Asamet (diminutive of Adam).

Le Ségur / Montségur : Lo segur / Montsegur, the safe place / the safe mountain.

Bourganeuf : Borgon Nuòu, the new town.

Oradour : Orador, oratorical.

Lavaudieu : La Vau Diu, the valley of God.

Montusclat : Mont Usclat, from the Occitan usclar (to burn).

Les Baux : Lei Bauç, steep slopes.

Rioupéroux : Riu Perós, stony stream.

The Institute of Occitan Studies (IEO), and the Southern and Occitan Resource Centre (CROM) offer their advice to collectivities wishing to implement Occitan bilingual signposting or to carry out a toponimic study. More information on : www.ieo-oc.org.

Which media for Occitan ?

A language’s presence in the media is a key factor for its socialisation and for passing it on to the younger generations.

Written press

Since the 19thC several purely Occitan periodicals have originated, such as the literary magazines Oc or Reclams, or the weekly news La Setmana. However, Occitan often has a limited range in large press groups.

Developing written press remains difficult as long as the teaching of the language does not allow a larger readership.

Radio

Facing the interruption of families passing on the language, radio is the service which enables the reintroduction of Occitan into households. Associative radios such as Ràdio País, Ràdio Occitània or Radio Lengadòc build their editorial grid around Occitan on radio waves and on Internet.

Place left to Occitan on public service radios in France is minimal.

However the mutualisation of antennas and programmes in some regions should increase the time devoted to Occitan on radio waves.

Television

In Midi-Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and Aquitaine, France 3 has programs which last between 6 and 26 minutes per week. Most minority languages in Europe enjoy substantial programmes if it is not one or several channels.

This situation reflects a flaw in French cultural diversity.

Internet

Media circulation via Internet requires few resources and enables wider Occitan communication. Digital papers, web-tv, websites, blogs and forums around this culture are abundant on the Web.

An Occitan economy

Little by little, since the 80s, jobs related to the Occitan language are developing. Speaking Occitan is an interesting skill nowadays, especially if it is combined with extra know-how.

Most positions where this skill is required are related to teaching but also to media, cultural animation, tourism, artistic creation or jobs connected to books.

There are even more jobs being created in these areas than there are graduates leaving university and having studied Occitan.

Promotion of the language in economy is one of the best socialisation vectors.

Various initiatives promote Occitan in public life such as the Òc per l’occitan label which encourages the use of the language in professional activity and economy.

Emplec.com is an agency for recruitment with Occitan as a professional skill. The language is not yet recognised in general job agencies, therefore the Institute of Occitan Studies and Viure e Trabalhar al País created this website.

Paginas-occitanas.com is a directory of Occitan artists and cultural protagonists, an Occitan culture version of the yellow pages.

From collectivities to companies, culture and local identity are put forward nowadays in terms of tourism as of economy.

Computing in Occitan

Websites, blogs, forums and social networks… Written exchanges in Occitan had never been so numerous before Internet’s development.

Whereas Occitan is still not fully put forward in public life, more and more associations, festivals, e-businesses or institutions use the Web to communicate either totally or bilingually in Occitan.

The aim now is to be able to supply occitanophones with tools in their language.

Services have been instituted for and around Occitan. Lo servici de l’emplec (emplec.com) centralises job offers and requests promoting Occitan. La Pòrta d’òc (laportadoc.eu) is a portal which indexes Occitan Websites, news and events. Las paginas occitanas (paginas-occitanas.com) is a directory which lists Occitan artists and cultural protagonists. And several free and participative projects such as Wikipedia have their Occitan version (oc.wikipedia.org).

Lots of free downloadable software on Internet has an Occitan interface. The free Ubuntu operating system has been translated into Occitan by Tot en òc. This system offers a large range of software which can also be set up and used with Windows or Apple. It is also possible to use Occitan versions of Firefox, Thunderbird, Openoffice, VLC, and many more...

Cédric Valmary, Totenoc.org

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