the beginning of the 20th century, Ambrose Jones contributed
towards the revival of the Welsh literature by emphasising the existence
of Welsh high quality prose since centuries. He was one of the founders of
the Welsh nationalism and recognized the language as an important part of
the mentality of people.
the First World War, people gave up Welsh language in the familial circle,
and some children, whose parents spoke Welsh, were educated in English. An
explanation was the assimilation of the Welsh with an inferior society. To
escape this label, some people wanted to “become English“.
1925, the Welsh nationalist party, Plaid Cymru, was founded by John
Saunders Lewis. The party fought for the recognition by the English
has its own problems
and needs which are not always the ones of
. It also worked to
improve the condition of Welsh language in the country.
1942, the Welsh Court Act allowed Welsh to be used in court. Before that,
only English could be used. However the Welsh language had deteriorated
and the number of people able to speak it had decreased, especially in
industrial areas and near the English border. It was then necessary to act
to reintroduce Welsh in schools. Two years later, the Education Act
permitted local authorities to open Welsh-medium schools.
1947, under the pressure of parents, the first Welsh-medium school opened
in Llanelli and in 1957 a first bilingual secondary school opened in Rhyl.
In 1988, the Welsh language had to be taught in all the schools of
1962, the Welsh Language Society, “Cymdeithas Yr laith Gymraeg” was
founded. It is one of the many strong movements fighting for the rights of
the Welsh language. Its actions especially led to the Welsh Language Act
in 1967 which was modified in 1993. This Act declares that public
bodies have to treat Welsh and English equally when they provide services
for the public. It gave the Welsh speaker the right to use Welsh in court.
And finally, it established a Welsh Language Board which has to ensure
that public bodies keep within the law and it promotes and facilitates the
use of Welsh.
1975, the television channel “S4C” (Sianel 4 Cymru) was created. It
offers programmes in Welsh for children, young people and adults.
1999, another big step was taken for
with the election of
a 60-member National Assembly.
1891, 54% of the population was Welsh-speaking. In 1911, nearly a million
people said they were able to speak Welsh. But since this census, the
number of Welsh-speakers gradually decreased until 2001, for different
reasons: movements of population from rural to industrial areas, the use
of English through media and leisure, a decline
of people going to chapel, which was a centre of many traditional
1991, however, more than 500,000 people (18.7% of the population) were
Welsh-speakers and the number and percentage of young people had
increased. For example, in 1981, 17.8% of 5 to 9 year old children spoke
Welsh wheras in 1991 the figure was 24.7% . The same increase was seen
with adolescents. (sources :
increase can be explained by the choice of many parents (Welsh-speakers or
not) to send their children to a Welsh-medium school which made them
the school year 2000-2001, more than 25% of schoolchildren went to one of
the 440 Welsh-medium schools, most of them coming from non-Welsh-speaking
families. Out of 229 secondary schools in
, 72 teach Welsh as a
first or second language while the other 157 teach it as a second
many businesses realised that bilingualism is useful and used it to
increase the quality of their customers’ services, attract new customers
and have an advantage over their non-bilingual competitors for some
markets. Some companies, like Cwmni Iaith Cyf, can advise them how to use
Welsh in marketing and they also offer translation services.
the beginning of the 20th century, the Breton language was
again in fashion in cultural, political and philosophical fields, and
people tried to separated it from the Church. However, schools, the army
and the movement of population to industrial areas did not help and French
was more and more used. In 1923, every language but French was forbidden
on the radio. In 1925, Anatole de Monzic, the minister of public
instruction said that for the Unity of France, the Breton language had to
Breton political parties became more radical and used violence to make
their claims heard. The collaboration of a tiny part of the Breton
movement with the Nazi occupiers during the Second World War was used to
discredit all the political and cultural patriotic movements until the
Breton intellectuals, like Roparz Hémon (1900-1978) published high
quality magazines. Unfortunately, the Bretons found it more and more
difficult to read and write the language and literary Breton discourage
others. In every day life, it became a handicap not to be able to speak
French. Feelings of shame and inferiority developed. Some parents decided
then to educate their children in French (this tendency grew after the
Second World War) and the Breton was again in decline.
1941, the government of
removed the department of Loire-Atlantique from
At the same time, it promoted the Breton culture by encouraging
regionalism, without supplying the resources needed. The same year, a
common “unified” spelling
was established. This can be used by the four dialects of the Breton
and Vannetais) because it considers the most important characteristics of
1951, the Dexionne law allowed Breton to be taught in schools if the
children and the teacher are volunteers. But the Breton language had
deteriorated through lack of teaching over a number of years and it was
necessary to enrich the language to avoid the use of French words. It was
necessary to turn again to other Celtic languages, to look for old words
and to create new words.
1977, the first primary Breton-medium school, organised by Diwan (the
germ) was opened in Plourin-Ploudalmezeau. Three years later, thirteen of
these schools existed. In 1981, the president of the
François Mitterrand, allowed the creation of a Breton licence in
universities. But it was only in 1985, that
in Breton (teacher training) was established. In 1983, bilingual schools
were opened. The teaching of Breton in schools made necessary the creation
and publication of books. Breton
also began to appear on road signs.
1992, the Council of Europe adopted the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages. The same year, a new article 2 was added to the French
Constitution stating that the language of the Republic was French. On
24 September 1996
, the State Council declared that the recognition of
the regional languages was unconstitutional.
1999 a Breton language office (Ofis Ar Brezhoneg) was created to adapt the
language to the actual world, study its evolution and try to unify it.
speaks Breton today?
call Basse-Bretagne, the west part of
the original Breton speaking area. About 1.5 million people live there. At
the end of the 20th century, in Basse-Bretagne, an estimate
based on a poll shows:
were 240 000 Breton-speakers over 15 years old (16% of the people).
than 120 000 people used it regularly.
than 70 000 people used it every day.
people declared that they were able to easily read and write in Breton.
number of Breton-speakers under 20 was still insignificant.
of Breton-speakers were over 60.
poll of the “TMO-Régions” institute in 1997)
1863, 86% of the people were monoglot Breton speakers. This number was of
60% in 1902. In 1952, 67% of people are bilingual. In 1997, 84% of people
can only speak French. (Source: catalogue of the touring exhibition
“Parlons du Breton” (Speak about Breton)
the majority of people understood only Breton in the middle of the 19th
century, they do not understand it at all at the end of the 20th
century. In less than 150 years, the tendency has been totally reversed.
most people are not born Breton-speaking, but they can learn the language.
The lack of a support structure favoured the abandonment of Breton in the
family circle during the last century. The grand-parents spoke Breton, the
grandchildren speak French. However, the Breton culture is still inside
them and more and more want to retrieve the roots which have been taken
from them and regain the right to their and their ancestors’ culture.
There is not the same interest in the Gallo, which has been the language
of Haute-Bretagne for centuries.
the school year 1999-2000, in total 20245 children studied Breton in
Brittany, ranging from initiation (one hour a week) to total
immersion in the language. The Diwan schools are 100% Breton-medium
schools. A few state schools and private Roman-Catholic schools offer bilingual
classes - half Breton, half French.
"Div Yezh" and "Dihun" are societies raised up by
parents of respectively bilingual state classes and bilingual private
the number of children going to bilingual or Diwan schools grows, the
global number of children studying Breton decreases, especially in
initiation classes. Some schools are even deciding to close this option.
schools teaching Breton (like those teaching other regional languages) are
confronted by a lack of bilingual teachers and too often have to use
supply teachers. It is necessary to have more posts in the
and in the concurs recruiting teachers for private schools.
is sometimes difficult to establish classes in Breton due to various
reasons like lack of students, lack of teachers or the refusal of
permission to open classes and the National Education system plays a weak
role in the encouragement of bilingualism. This task is essentially left
to societies, which do not have the resources of the National Education
system. Positive support and promotion of its benefits would alert new
parents to the importance of regional languages.
is vital to return Breton to everyday life, allowing those who speak it
and are learning it to practice and hear it. Bilingual road signs are now
developed, some banks offer cheques in Breton and some Breton programmes
are heard on the radio and television but unfortunately they are very few
compared to those in French. Involved societies, although very active, can
not cover all fields and the State has to play a part, starting by the
recognition of the regional languages and the ratification of the European
Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.