Friday, May 14, 2004

Celtic Culture in France

Several important French scholars and public figures (most notably historian Mona Ozouf, former European commissioner Yves Thibault, and musician Mano Chao) have put their signature on a petition "to safeguard the Breton Language". Brittany is in western France, situated on the Atlantic Coast. In the early Middle Ages it was settled by a mixture of Britain (indigenous and Roman citizens) fleeing the invasions of the Anglo-Saxons). The Breton dialect (patois bretonne) had its roots in Celtic languages, and their have been attempts to keep it alive for 150 years.

The petition protests the lack of support given to bilingual education and to education programs in Breton, specifically:
frequent refusal to open up bilingual classes, the constraining of the diffusion of the Breton dialect in the media, the precarious situation of the [Breton] schools, the discontinuation of optional paths of education in the Breton dialect in a number of institutions.

The signators claim that support and dispersion of Breton would enrich both French and European cultures and would help Brittany to come to international prominence.

One of the problems to which the petition refers is the lack of regional television in France. All programs a made in and come from Paris--all television stations are national. There is no news on television for the local level. Regional broadcasting is a problem that not only affects cultural survival, but the flow of information in general.


At 7:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting - I will have to talk to my Irish historian friend about this. Something I've noticed is that, while not caused by but coinciding with joing the EU, Ireland has had a real grassroots effort with generous state support to keep the Celtic language, culture, and placenames alive.
One of the primary differences between the Irish situation and Brittany is that there are local radio and television stations that cater to regional interests, even regional variations in Gaelic.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger Nathanael said...

Movements to preserve cultures often talk about tradition--it is very easy to miss the role of technology in that preservation. It is good to see that Ireland has allowed for diversification of traditions in its media.

The EU has not been as effective in these areas. It has programs like Lingua (to teach citizens a second language) and the European Bureau for Lesser Used Languages (EBLUL), but they are not used by these movements as one would think. The primary relationship is still between the region and the state. At best, the principles of the EU influence that relationship.


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