There’s only one way to save Breton…
Currently, 200 000 people speak Breton/Brezhoneg, mostly in Brittany but also elsewhere around the world. It is spoken mainly by people who are in their 50s or 60s. And no-one lives forever. Every year, the Breton language suffers a net loss of around five thousand speakers, the difference between native speakers who die and people who decide to learn their own language.
Get your calculators out!
In forty years’ time, the Breton language will have completely died out in Brittany once and for all.
In the 1950s, there were around half a million Breton speakers in Brittany. That was as many as there were Welsh speakers in Wales. Seventy years later, right now, over 750 000 Welsh people speak their language, whereas there are only around 200000 of us.
There are several reasons for this difference between the two nations and their sister languages.
One of them is the lesser desire of the central government in London to eradicate Welsh, whereas here in France the extinction of original languages has been a perfectly clear and organised intention for a very long time.
But the main reason is that for our Welsh cousins and neighbours, their language is compulsory at school.
In 1891, 50% of Welsh people spoke their own language. Only 19% of them did in 1981.
Then there were the Welsh Language Act in 1993 and the Government of Wales Act in 1998.
Welsh is compulsory up to the age of sixteen in schools …
And has the same rights as English. In 2004, 21.7% of the Welsh population spoke their own language. This number has continued to rise since then.
The teaching of Welsh is compulsory everywhere up to the age of sixteen.
Up to 20% of students choose Welsh as their first language.
Since 2011, Welsh has been an official language on the same level as English.
We know what we need to do to save Breton from extinction.
Until Breton is compulsory in school it will continue to die, slowly but surely. This is the only solution to keep our language alive for future generations. Anything else is just make do and mend, end of life care.
Any Breton speakers, any cultural activists, any politicians male or female and anyone who loves Brittany who does not support the compulsory teaching of Breton is more or less complicit in its planned extinction.
On the one hand, central government wants to eradicate our language. On the other, the administrative Brittany region and its President dedicated a mere 0.47% of the region’s overall budget for 2021 to this end of life care. Of course, it is impossible to save the Breton language in the face of this destructive intent.
Most politicians in Brittany are complicit in central government’s desire to eradicate our language.
By keeping them in power, even in exchange for grants and other trinkets, we are helping to kill off the Breton language. It is time for many activists in Breton cultural associations to ask themselves the question clearly in these terms.
Moreover, and the past shows us clearly, we have to achieve a very high level of autonomy to save our language. No language can be saved if its people does not control their own autonomy or is independent. None. We must distance ourselves from this central government which is organising this linguistic genocide from Paris. It is up to us as Bretons to take the fate of our language into our own hands. Today, we are leaving it in the hands of murderers.
Without autonomy from London, Welsh would most certainly have continued to wither away.
Any Breton or Welsh speakers, any cultural activists, any politicians male or female and anyone who loves Brittany who does not advocate for Brittany’s autonomy or its independence is complicit in the planned extinction of Breton/Brezhoneg.
Think about it … there is no other solution but compulsory education.
If you can think of another, let me know.
By JML for NHU Brittany
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