Aug 07, 2015

Brittany: SNCF Treats Breton as a Foreign Language in Brittany

Michael Chappell, Assistant General Secretary for the Celtic League, in a letter to the director of the railway French public company SNCF, expressed his concern over the unequal treatment of Breton language in Brittany, as it is placed under the same category as English, a foreign language. SNCF claims that this unequal treatment is due to existencing of rules of visibility, which require signs to be visible to all.

Below is an article published by Agence Bretagne Presse


Activists have been peacefully targeting railway stations in Breizh calling for equality in the usage and display of the Breton language. There has been considerable upset over signage which displays the French language in large letters with Breton written in smaller letters beneath. One campaigner has noted, 'Just as with English, Breton will be relegated to the rank of foreign language in its own territory. It is an insult to our language.' Another language activist calling for complete equality between Breton and French pointed out, 'This is done in Catalonia, the Basque Country and Wales. Why not us?' Coraline Corlay, Director of Brittany's SNCF stations who has met with demonstrators said, 'We have been approached again and we agreed to a meeting. This is not the first. We are in a process of listening and engaging in dialogue on the issue of bilingualism.' 'We are a public institution that puts to the foremost the Breton language. We have taken into consideration the request of the Breton language supporters but also the rules of accessibility for users. We need our panels to be visible to all.' Accordingly, the Assistant General Secretary, Mike Chappell, has written to the Director representing the French State at SNCF, M. Guillaume Pepy in French calling for equality between the Breton and French languages at railway stations in Breizh. The letter (English translation) appears below:


Dear Monsieur Guillaume Pepy,


The Breton Language I write to you and SNCF in my capacity as Assistant General Secretary of the Celtic League. One of the Celtic League's primary aims is encouraging work towards the restoration of the Celtic languages, which are essential characteristics of nationality for each Celtic country, as ordinary means of communication. Our Non Governmental Organisation with roster consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council views Brittany as a distinct Celtic Nation with its own Brythonic language. This diversity of languages is a matter for celebration and we trust that SNCF will afford equality to both French and Breton at its railway stations situated in Brittany.


Yours sincerely,


Michael J Chappell

Assistant General Secretary

The Celtic League



Image courtesy of Agence Bretagne Presse