Breton Language Act

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon May 24 18:16:31 UTC 2004

Forwarded from Eurolang

UNESCO Forum. Wanted: Breton Language Act
Naoned / Nantes 5/20/2004 , by Davyth Hicks

UNESCOs first forum on human rights, held in Nantes and ending yesterday,
turned its attention to language rights on Tuesday with politicians
calling for France to help reverse the decline of Breton.

The politicians, speaking at a round table meeting on language rights as
part of the Forum, all called for France to ratify the European Charter
for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML), to sign the Framework
Convention for National Minorities (FCNM), to work more closely with the
Welsh Language Board, and, more generally, how protecting cultural
diversity may, in turn, help the French language. Christian Guyonvarch
(UDB) from the Breton Regional Council said that if you go against
diversity you go against humanity.

However, despite talk about working together more closely with the Welsh
Language Board there was no mention of the cornerstone that underpins all
Welsh language development, the 1992 Welsh Language Act. As has been seen
in other countries with minoritised languages, such an Act is crucial to
underpin any language development strategies, as has been proven in
Catalonia, the Basque Country and Wales. Similarly a Breton language act
could prove to be the basis for meaningful Breton language development in
the future and certainly protect the language from any future hostile
French government.

Breton native speaker, Yann Ber Thomin, from the ruling socialist group,
Vice President of the Breton regional council and responsible for Breton
language development, outlined how meetings were being held with
representatives from the Alsace to develop joint strategies, how a working
group had been set up to devise a Breton language strategy, and how all of
Brittany would be included in the strategy, including Loire Atlantique.
This department was administratively sectioned off from the rest of
Brittany in 1941 under the Vichy government.

Eurolang spoke to Mr Thomin after the meeting about the regions plans for
Breton. He said that a strategy for Breton will be voted on before the end
of the year, and that: First we want the government to sign the ECRML.
Then we need a language plan to cover all of the domains such as schools,
evening classes, books and radio and TV.

We will also be looking at Welsh language development policy, meeting with
the Welsh Language Board and looking at the Welsh language channel S4C, he

Eurolang asked whether legislation would be needed in order to underpin
Breton language strategies. I hope that we can have this, but we cant wait
for legislation, he said referring to the dire linguistic situation that
Breton is in.

And what about the Diwan schools, Eurolang asked, what can the regional
council do? I think that the French government cannot stay as it is now on
this issue, it has to ratify the Charter.

But will the current French Government sign the ECRML, especially
considering that this would require a modification of Article 2 of the
Constitution? With this government I dont know, and for a new government
well have to wait for another three years, replied Mr Thomin.

On the Breton reunification issue Mr Thomin told Eurolang that: There
should be a referendum, the people should decide.

Patrick Mareschal, the new president of the Loire Atlantique department
and campaigner for reunification, also spoke to Eurolang on encouraging
more children to learn about Breton language and history in the department
and started his talk to the forum by defining Loire Atlantique as part of

Language law specialist Fernand de Varennes also outlined the need for
language laws in France otherwise any strategies for language will have
the grass cut from under their feet. Wales and Catalunya all have such

The round table was convened by the Unity for Diversity group which
comprises different Breton NGOs and EBLUL. (Eurolang)

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