I grew up in Southern Louisiana. I am what is considered a Cajun, which means that my ancestors were once Acadian's who were exiled from Canada. My dad's side of the family only spoke French, just like everyone's family who lived in our small town. When my dad started going to school, all the teachers spoke French too. Then, when my dad was 10, the schools decided that students could no longer speak French in schools. The problem was, they didn't know how to speak English. Their parents did not speak English either. Did this deter the schools from slowly integrating English into their studies while still teaching them in French until the crossover could be made? No. They beat any student who spoke French at school. French was "bad". So my dad and his younger brothers and sister learned the language, while their parents only learned a little bit over the next 40 years. My dad's grandparents never learned English, although the both of them were still living, until I turned 30.
I remember being a little girl and my dad would tell us something in French sometimes, then have to repeat himself in English. We never learned French because my father learned that it was "bad" and in turn, he did not want his children learning the "bad" language. As an adult, I feel such a tremendous loss of my heritage and knowing that it has taken only one generation to kill the Cajun French language. My dad is only 58. He and his friends still speak French to each other but their children can only stand there and nod when we hear a familiar word here and there.
I guess this was all just on my mind this morning as I was fixing myself a cup of coffee and pouring in some milk and Splenda. And I just thought "Grandmere' used to make me cafe' au lait when I was a little girl". She used to make me what you'd call "coffee milk". It's more milk than coffee, with a lot of sugar. And I used to be able to sit at the table with the grownups who were drinking their coffee and they'd converse in French. I really miss my grandparents and always wished I'd have learned French so that when I was older and visiting them early in the mornings, that they wouldn't have to struggle through English to converse with me.