A socio linguist has published the results of his ten year study on the use of the Breton language and has found that the number of speakers in Brittany has fallen considerably.
Fañch Broudic, a former journalist at France 3 Ouest, reported that:
"Pour la première fois, dans la zone traditionnelle de la pratique de la langue, le nombre de locuteurs est inférieur à 200 000."
("For the first time in the traditional practice of language, the number of speakers is less than 200 000,")
The study – published by l'institut TMO in Rennes on 10th March 2009 – highlights the concerns that have been expressed about the future health of the Breton language by the Celtic League and others over several decades. According to Broudic in 2007 there were 172,000 people speaking Breton, compared to 246,000 people in 1997. He adds that even though there is a growing number of students learning Breton in schools, the rise does not compensate the fall in the number of speakers, saying:
"Nous avons perdu 80.000 locuteurs pour cause de décès et gagné seulement 9.000 nouveaux locuteurs." (We lost 80,000 speakers and gained only 9000 new speakers)
Unsurprisingly the study shows that among the current Breton language users, 70% are over 60 years old. Philippe Jacq, the Director of l'Office culturel de la langue bretonne (Cultural Office of the Breton language), believes that between 20 and 30 new schools need to be opened annually if the language has any chance of surviving.
Broudic's study shows further proof that without official support and funding from the French state, the Breton language is in danger of significant future decline, giving rise to "la hantise de la disparition du breton" (the fear of the disappearance of Breton).
According to predictions and current trends, the number of current speakers in ten years time could be as few as 122, 000 people.
The TMO survey shows that only 35 000 people speak Breton on a daily basis, with the typical Breton speaking profile being a married female, over 60 years old and living in the Finistère region of Brittany.
Broudic nevertheless argues that 200 000 "ce n'est pas un chiffre insignifiant et le breton se parle toujours" (is not an insignificant figure and Breton are still alive).
Also, the results of the study show that not all was bad news for the Breton language, because it was found that in the 15 to 19 age group, the number of Breton speakers had risen from 1% to 4%.
By choosing not to support the Breton language however the French Government continues to show its utter contempt for linguistic diversity and the people who use the language.
For further information about the results of the study, see "Parler breton au XXIe siècle" (Speaking Breton in the Twenty first Century), by Fañch Broudic.
(Article compiled for Celtic News by Rhisiart Tal-e-bot)
J B MoffattDirector of Information