Corsica is revitalizing its native language and restoring its national identity

Mayor Pierre Savelli fishes out a copy of rules once posted in every school of Corsica.

The first: students are forbidden to speak the Corsican language and spit on the floor.

I am part of the last generation that learned Corsican when it was a banned language,” says 57-year-old Mr. Savelli, speaking from his office in this northeastern Corsican city, as gulls wheel and swoop over the port below. “We weren’t allowed to speak Corsican in schools. The parents spoke it when they didn’t want us to know what they were saying.

Things are different now. Paris is slowly loosening its administrative straitjacket on local matters, from spitting to solar energy.

As a result, on the rugged Mediterranean island of Corsica, a region of France since 1796, roughly one in three children now studies Corsican, or Corsu.

Across Europe, regions are reviving old languages and customs in a broader push for self assertion.

But Corsica has gone further, electing nationalists to head the regional government for the first time.

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