Breton language on BBC Radio 4

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Mon Aug 29 15:12:51 UTC 2005

Breton language gets worldwide attention on BBC Radio 4
Boulvriag / Bourbriac, Sunday, 31 July 2005 by Yann Rivallain

Several million listeners of the prestigious Today programme on BBC Radio
4 got a taste of the Breton language and music on Saturday morning. The
BBC crew were broadcasting live from Bourbriac, in the Breton-speaking
Tregor area of Brittany. While the original idea was to cover the issue of
the integration of hundreds of English-speaking newcomers to Brittany, the
BBC journalists broadened the perspective by inviting several Breton and
English participants to talk about Breton language and culture. Roy Eales,
a former journalist at The Economist, who has published several poetry
books and now resides in Brittany, read a poem called Fest-Noz.  This poem
about the traditional Breton dance evenings and the Breton language was
then read out to BBC listeners in Breton by Fach Perru, a Breton teacher
and poet, making history as the longest text in Breton read to such a wide

As French radios were busy covering the huge traffic-jams that clogged
French roads up on a busy holiday week-end, the BBC team alternated
between breaking news on the London bombers and interviews in Bourbriac.
When asked about the feeling of the general public toward English-speaking
incomers, as editor-in-chief of the magazine ArMen, (also our Eurolang
correspondent and author of this article) explained that the waves of
newcomers is certainly a striking phenomenon, but to the vast majority of
Bretons it is not a problem. Newcomers to Brittany, whether they are
British, French or whatever are welcome here. If they respect and take
interest in our Celtic identity, culture and the Breton language, most
will actually find that they are doubly welcome.

Most English-speaking people interviewed by the Today team said they had
never experienced any hostility from Breton people, including those who
staged a demonstration against speculation and empty second homes in
Bourbriac a few months ago.  Most people concentrated on the quality of
life they enjoyed, while one English participant welcomed the new Breton
language development plan and bilingual education. While asking a
participant to say "goodbye" in Breton, Carolyn Quinn, the presenter
suggested that Breton education could be better integrated into the local

The very popular Thought for the Day item written by Rev. Rob Marshall, a
Yorkshire man who lives in Brittany, also refered to cultural and
linguistic diversity :  Cultural diversity was, of course, always God''s
purpose in creation. Many different peoples in a variety of lands. The
gift of languages. The natural local world in all its splendour and
diversity. Regional foods and delicacies to give real pleasure and
enjoyment The two hour programme, half of which concentrated on
Britto-Breton matters, concluded with a two minute Breton gavotte, played
live on the biniou (Breton bag-pipe) and bombarde (ancestor of the oboe)
by the Cornic brothers, two young Breton speakers and acclaimed
traditional musicians.

As the well-known BBC beeps marked the end of the programme at 9.00 am,
the pipes faded away leaving many participants thankful to the BBC for
allowing a seriously endangered language such as Breton to become global
for a short while. (Eurolang  2005)

To listen to Roy Eales poem in English and Breton on today, click on the
following link to the BBC Radio 4 web site

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