Is the Breton Language Endangered ?

Breton is a  Brittonic language of the Celtic language family spoken in Brittany, in Northwest France. It is the only Celtic language still in use on the European mainland. It is still spoken by 200 000 people having declined from more than one million speakers around 1950.

Breton was brought from Great Britain to Armorica, the ancient name for this coastal region, by migrating Britons during the Early Middle Age. Breton is closely related to Cornish, another Brittonic language, almost extinct in Cornwall, and to large extent to Welsh.

Breton is classified as “severely endangered” by UNESCO, however, the number of children attending bilingual classes rose to 20,000 in 2022 (sources) The Diwan breton school system was created in 1972. Diwan schools are a network of associative, free and secular schools where education is provided in the Breton language. The schools get financial help from the Brittany Regional Council but are always short of funding. The regional Council is also funding the Public Office of the Breton language. An agency which main missions are the promotion of the Breton language and the development of its use in all areas of language use. There is no Breton TV in breton but the Regional Council does help a webtv called Brezoweb.

Despite all these, many advocates of the Breton language feel that the French state reluctantly supports the breton language and others regional languages, failing to form enough teachers. Under the first Macron mandat, the Education Minister has declassified regional languages in the baccalaureate french national exam curriculuma.

France has never ratified the The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, a Council of Europe European convention for the protection and promotion of minority and endangered languages.

In April 2021, elected breton deputy Paul Molac succeeded in securing cross-party support for a legislative proposal aimed at the protection of the heritage and promotion of France’s regional languages.  The education ministry subsequently appealed the so-called “Molac law” and the Constitutional Council ruled that it was out of line with article two (added in 1994) of the Constitution of France, which stipulates that the language of the French republic is French. Immersion teaching methods where outlawed but are still tolerated in the Diwan breton schools and others schools in the Basque country.

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