Oui Je Sais Parler Français
(Yes, I Speak French)
Last week, to help kick off the New Orleans Tricentennial Celebration, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Orléans, France Mayor Olivier Carré signed a sister city agreement.
“Our cities have always been historically linked and this formal agreement, 300 years in the making, finally recognizes that,” said Landrieu. “We look forward to collaborating on issues and working together to enhance tourism, water management, cultural economy, education and economic development across our cities.”
Joseph Dunn, owner of Louisiana Perspectives Marketing & Consulting, was there, front and center, to translate the mayor’s message for a delegation comprised of French community and business leaders. In fact, Dunn was instrumental in putting the plan together as he translated all the event’s meetings from first to the last.
Dunn’s roots in Louisiana date back to the 1740, but his passion for all things French began in the 4th grade when a teacher with the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana. (CODOFIL) came to his Greensburg public school to teach French.
“I just took to it. I guess it was in my genetic memory,” he says.
CODOFIL’s mission is to support and grow Louisiana's francophone communities through scholarships, French immersion and other community and language skill-building programs. The state agency’s mandates include developing opportunities to use the French language in tourism, economic development, culture, education and international relations.
“In 1921 the state Constitution banned the speaking of French in the public schools,” says Dunn. “This was a bad decision because we lost a vital connection. French is woven into the fabric of our culture. Without our language we don’t fully understand who we are.”
So in 1968 CODOFIL began efforts to develop a linguistic identity that could add value to the local economy. Now the Louisiana public school system has 32 programs of French Immersion with almost 5,000 bilingual students.
Before starting his public relations firm in 2014, Dunn served as the executive director of CODOFIL. He’s also held positions at the Consulate General of France in New Orleans; the Louisiana Office of Cultural Development; the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association; Laura: A Creole Plantation; and the Louisiana Office of Tourism.
He now claims many of the above as clients and his time is spent presenting at conferences, workshops, and political and economic trade missions. And he’s often featured in francophone print and broadcast media and documentaries as a leader in the French language movement in Louisiana. He spends his days writing articles, translating, putting together a wide variety of cultural events and guiding tours.
“Today I am taking the French delegation from Orléans to UNO and then to Audubon Charter School and Lycée Français de la Nouvelle-Orléans, two French Immersions schools. It’s a great life,” said Dunn.
Dunn posted on his Facebook page about the sister city announcement: “Meilleure citation de la soirée... le Maire d'Orléans au Maire de La Nouvelle-Orléans : "Votre ville à 300 ans... la mienne... à 2000 ans."
Translation: “Best quote of the night... the Mayor of Orléans to the Mayor of New Orleans : 'Your city is 300 years old... mine... is 2,000.'"