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The Legacy of Linguistic Chauvinism: THE LAST LESSON


Language discrimination, the idea of favoring one language over others, has been a tool of oppression used by rulers throughout history. This oppressive practice not only suppresses linguistic diversity but also erases cultural identities and perpetuates social inequalities. Examining historical examples as well as literature like “The Last Lesson” sheds light on the widespread impact of language discrimination on communities.

Colonialism and Linguistic Suppression:

During colonial times, powerful European nations like Britain controlled many parts of the world, including India. They imposed their language, English, instead of the local languages like Hindi, Bengali, or Tamil. This meant people had to learn and speak English in schools, government, and other official places. As a result, the native languages were sidelined, making it difficult for people to maintain their own culture and traditions. For example, in India, English became the language used in schools, courts, and government offices, while languages like Hindi, Bengali, and Tamil were not given the same importance.

This type of language dominance helped colonial powers control the people they ruled over and spread their own culture and ideas while suppressing local languages and cultures.

Nazi Occupation and Alsace-Lorraine:

During World War II, the Nazis, led by Adolf Hitler, occupied many countries, including Alsace and Lorraine in France. When the Nazis took over Alsace and Lorraine in 1940, they enforced a policy called language discrimination. This meant they made everyone use the German language and tried to eradicate the French language and culture. One way they did this was by making German the only language used in schools and changing the language used in government and official documents to German.

By imposing German as the dominant language, the Nazis aimed to make the people of Alsace and Lorraine feel like they were part of the German Empire, not France. This was part of their strategy to control and suppress the people in the areas they occupied. For the people of Alsace and Lorraine, this meant they couldn’t freely use their own language and express their French identity. It also made it harder for them to access education and participate in society because they had to learn and use German.

Impact on Communities:

The imposition of language discrimination in Alsace and Lorraine had terrible effects on the local population. People faced discrimination and marginalization for speaking French, experiencing social and economic challenges as a result. In “The Last Lesson,” we witness the pain and loss felt by townspeople and students as their French language and cultural heritage are erased. The protagonist, Franz, represents the pain and struggle of the entire community as they faced the loss of their linguistic identity.

Will they make them sing in German, even the pigeons?”

The line demonstrates how the oppressive rule enforced by the Prussian authorities extends its influence to every facet of existence, including the natural environment. In this context, the pigeons cooing on the roof symbolize a sense of independence and sanity unaffected by man-made conflicts and ideologies. The protagonist, Franz, wonders if the oppressive regime will go so far as to force the pigeons to sing in German, reflecting the absurdity and cruelty of language discrimination. This line underscores the pervasive nature of the language oppression faced by people of Alsace, where even the innocent cooing of pigeons is seen as a potential target for cultural assimilation. This line serves as an emotional reminder of the profound impact of language discrimination on individuals and communities, highlighting the loss of freedom and cultural identity in the face of oppressive regimes.

“Vive La France!”

M. Hamel wrote “Vive La France!” on the blackboard to show his love and support for France, his homeland, during a difficult time of occupation by the Germans. He wanted to remind his students and the townspeople of Alsace and Lorraine of their French identity and the importance of preserving their language and culture even in the face of fascism.

By writing this phrase, M. Hamel sought to evoke a sense of nationalism and resistance in the hearts of the French people. He hoped to inspire them to resist the German occupation and hold on to their French heritage. This simple act of defiance symbolized the resistance against language discrimination and cultural assimilation.

In doing so, M. Hamel aimed to instill a sense of pride and determination among his students and the community, reminding them of the importance of standing up for their language, culture, and national identity even in difficult times.


It’s evident that language discrimination has left a lasting impact on communities worldwide. From colonialism to oppressive regimes like the Nazi occupation, the imposition of dominant languages has marginalized indigenous languages and cultures. By exploring historical examples and examining “The Last Lesson,” we’ve witnessed the devastating effects of language discrimination on people’s identities and freedoms. The story reminds us of the importance of preserving linguistic diversity and resisting efforts to eradicate languages and cultures.

Let’s remember the resilience of communities facing language discrimination and the importance of language in shaping our identities. Let’s continue to advocate for language equality and celebrate the rich tapestry of languages and cultures that make our world vibrant and diverse. Together, we can work towards a future where every language and culture is valued and respected.

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