What language is spoken in Corsica?

The question of the language spoken in a place we wish to visit is an ecotouristic matter. While many travelers will look for the opportunity to speak their own language, for obvious convenience, I’d rather do my best to embrace the local way of communicating. When someone comes to visit my island and tries to say some words in my language, I always feel grateful and happy. So I’m trying to do the same. No matter how many mistakes we will make: it is still better than nothing.

This is why I wrote this brief article. To inform you about the language spoken in Corsica and to invite you to try something new.

The official language of Corsica

The official language spoken in Corsica is French. Our island became a part of France at the end of the XVIIIth century and remained ever since. France only recognizes French as the official language of the Republic. So when Corsica became part of this country, there was no way for any other language to get a co-official status.

Despite the fact that the entire population was speaking the Corsican language and sweeping away the fact that Italian has been the official language for formal/official communication in Corsica for centuries, France has imposed its language as the one and only. After almost 250 years, 100% of the Corsican population is speaking French.

The Corsican language and the interest in mutual understanding with Italian

You understand that speaking French is the best way to communicate in Corsica. However, a significant part of the local population also speaks his original language. For some, it is even still a mother tongue. Get out of the tourist zones, make your way to rural Corsica or some old streets of the cities and you will hear some Corsica speaking.

The Corsican language belongs to the Romance family. It has a lot in common with the official Italian but is however a language of its own. The way we pronounce some words, written identically though, can be radically different. But despite those differences, knowing a bit of Italian can literally change your travel experience in Corsica.

Yes, you can try to speak some Italian in Corsica, even if it is some little things you remember from school. It could possibly help you more than English. This could seem harsh to say, but the average level of English in Corsica is pretty low. On the other hand, people who don’t even speak Corsican are accustomed to hearing some words, expressions, and ways to speak in Corsican. So there is some “natural” understanding of basic Italian that can help understand each other if you can not manage a single word of French.

The final say

So, let’s sum things up. The official language is French and it is spoken by 100% of the population. English is spoken mostly in tourist structures, by professionals, but is still a language poorly mastered by most outside. Finally, the Corsican language still exists and gives the population a natural capacity to understand (more or less well) Italian.

Now you know what language is spoken in Corsica. And if you want to push yourself to the limit, you can try some Corsican words during your trip!

Credit image : “The Tree of Languages”. Minna Sundberg, via Treefresno.org

Guillaume Bereni

Guillaume is the owner and editor of Sustainable Corsica. He runs a consulting agency, named Mare è Monti Conseil, which aims to support companies in their project for more slow, cultural, conscious and sustainable tourism in Corsica. You can visit the website https://maremonticonsulting.fr. Happy husband, happy father of three energic children, traveling lover, curious by nature and a bit nerdy too (nobody is perfect).

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