Who is a legitimate French speaker? The Senegalese in Paris and the crossing of linguistic and social borders
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Just as the distinction between “French” and “Francophone” has implications in French literary studies, the boundaries that position certain groups as outsiders also exist in French society at large, where just because one speaks French, one is not necessarily a legitimate French speaker. For instance, while linguistic legislation in France stipulates that one must demonstrate a certain level of language proficiency in order to be granted citizenship as a means to foster social integration, experiences of discrimination and exclusion evoked in interviews with 24 Senegalese immigrants and French citizens of Senegalese origin call into question the link between proficiency and acceptance. Through an Applied Linguistics perspective, this article demonstrates that linguistic competence is often determined by more than just one’s ability to use a language; one’s linguistic competence depends on the ability to prove cultural legitimacy, which is directly tied to understandings of race, nationality, and language ownership.