France

Regional languages: leap or last stand? – Mobilization for the defense of the Breton language

  • 1 What about immersive education in Brittany?
  • In Brittany, regional languages ​​are taught in three streams: Div Yezh (public schools), Divaskell (Catholic education) and Diwan (associative schools). The first two use bilingualism, teaching is done on an hourly basis in both languages. They bring together 9,583 and 5,463 students respectively. Diwan promotes the teaching of immersion, that is to say that the teaching is mainly done in Breton which is also the language of life of the establishment. In 2020, Diwan was educating 4,059 students and has experienced a decline in enrollment since 2018 under the chairmanship of Stéphanie Stoll, a first in its history, which began in 1977. “Immersion enables the training of complete speakers,” explains Fulup Jakez, director. of the public office of the Breton language. Today, the majority of students speak French as a family, and to acquire a second language, you need a very long exposure time. Immersion teaching is the most effective method, as many studies have shown, with students who have a better command of French than in traditional schools. Note that this is also the immersive method promoted by the State in French schools abroad. “

  • 2 How many students are enrolled in the Breton language teaching stream?
  • Today, around 20,000 students are educated in one of the three Breton teaching streams. An insufficient number to ensure the longevity of the language. The Molac law provided for several axes of development, in particular to extend the immersive method to National Education. On the basis of article 2 of the Constitution which explains that “French is the language of the Republic”, the constitutional council deemed immersive teaching unconstitutional, in particular in the fact that one can use a regional language “as language of instruction and as language of communication within the establishment ”.

  • 3 What possible solutions after the decision of the Constitutional Council against immersion?
  • The decision of the Constitutional Council provoked strong reactions which went far beyond the circle of defenders of regional languages. Many teachers thus see in it a questioning of pedagogical freedom. “Teachers could no longer speak Breton to each other or to their students in the courtyard”, underlines Fulup Jakez … In a message on Facebook, on May 26, Emmanuel Macron defended immersive schools, while his Prime Minister announced a mission to two deputies on the subject. A rather awkward announcement that sparked strong reactions from non-associated senators. However, the upper house had been at the forefront on the question of immersion when the Mollac law was voted.

    At this stage, the simplest solution would be a revision of the constitution which has been often promised since the 1990s and the signing, but not ratifying, of the European Charter of the Lesser Used Languages. The future 4D law, on the right to differentiation, would also allow regions to acquire skills in the linguistic field. Still, the decision of the Constitutional Council has made immersive education a political issue for regional elections, with a divide that goes beyond the traditional left-right. The heads of the list Loïg Chesnais-Girard, Claire Desmares-Poirrier, Isabelle Le Callennec, Daniel Cueff or Thierry Burlot said they were in favor of its development, while on the side of the National Rally or rebellious France, two parties of Jacobin tradition, if we say we are attached to the survival of regional languages, there is strong opposition to immersive teaching.

  • 4 Are the other French regions mobilizing?
  • The mobilization of May 29 should also be strong in other regions, particularly in the northern Basque Country, where nearly 50% of students are taught in Basque.

    For ten years, the immersive method has been used by National Education, as in the Pyrénées-Orientales for Catalan or, since this year, in Corsica.

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