Last night some actual French people came to the French conversation group – a couple (Giles et Carmen) from Saint-Étienne in the southeast of France who are friends of a friend.

One interesting thing they said is that there is a local form of speech unique to Saint-Étienne and the surrounding area which they refer to as patois. Apparently it doesn’t have any other names they’re aware of.


The city of Saint-Étienne is part of the Loire département and is home to about 174,000 people, and the metropolitan area it’s part of, Saint-Étienne Métropole, has about 497,000 inhabitants. It was an industrial city and a major coal mining centre, and has become a centre for design [source].

The population apparently comes from many different places, so the local speech includes words from various regional forms of speech. The city is named after Saint Stephen, a.k.a. Sanctus Stephanus de Furano (Saint-Étienne of Furan) [source], and the local people are known as Stéphanois (masculine) and Stéphanoises (feminine). So perhaps the local dialect could be called Stéphanais (Stephenish)?

I should have done this before, but I just searched for “patois de Saint-Étienne” and discovered that it does have a name (several, in fact): le gaga, le parler gaga, le parler stéphanois or l’arpitan stéphanois in French, and Parlâ Gaga in the language itself. These refer to a variety of Franco-Provençal / Arpitan spoken in the area, and a regional form of French spoken there that has influences from that language [source].

Here’s an example of Parlâ Gaga:

Lou rat de villa et lou rat dos champs
Djins lou tchion, ün rat de villa
Doutà de noblous ponchants,
Fit dj’una façonn civila,
Mandâ soun frâre dos champs.

Un repas de bateyailles
Serre fat djïns sa meissoun ;
Par assures les voulailles
Vou’erre dounc bion de seisoun.

Here it is in the original French:

Le rat des villes et le rats des champs
Autrefois le Rat de ville
Invita le Rat des champs,
D’une façon fort civile,
A des reliefs d’Ortolans.

Sur un Tapis de Turquie
Le couvert se trouva mis.
Je laisse à penser la vie
Que firent ces deux amis.


Here are examples of spoken Parlâ Gaga:

More information about Parlâ Gaga:

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