At the Diwan school, Breton in immersion

On the facade, a mosaic naively depicting children, hand in hand, in the peace of a rainbow. And then, below, this inscription in Celtic characters which attracts attention: “Skol Diwan”. Understand: “Diwan School”, a name that evokes germination. As a promise of new spring for the Breton language and culture.

This establishment in Lannion, one of the oldest in the network, has been practicing “immersion” teaching for four decades now. From kindergarten, learning is done in Breton. Each of the five classes brings together several levels, which allows newcomers to find themselves immersed in a linguistic bath in contact with other students, already seasoned. Like this curious boy who, at the height of his 4 years, sends us a volley of very exotic words to our ears. “It means, ‘What did you come to do in the classroom?’ “, he translates, savoring its effect.

→ MAINTENANCE. “The daily use of regional languages ​​remains a minority”

At the start of the morning, abandoning French in which he warmly welcomed us, Ludovic Le Rû immediately switched to Breton to make the call. The opportunity for his pupils of small and very small sections to revise the digital chain by counting the presents. Then the teacher and principal, in jeans and Converse shoes, puppet in hand, sings with the children a traditional nursery rhyme collected in the surroundings, an invitation to touch in turn by naming the parts of the body to better memorize the vocabulary.

“Each language carries within it its vision of the world”

The activities follow one another. A group tries to trace on the paper the name of the hero of an album that the teacher has read to them. Hero called Fañch, the equivalent of “François”, a first name known beyond the borders of Brittany since a legal battle started in 2017 by parents who had come up against a civil registrar refusing to keep the tilde , the diacritical mark that caps the letter N, when registering their child.

In the neighboring island, other students color geometric shapes in roz (“Rose”), in of (“Black”), in melen (“Yellow”), in death knell (” blue “). “Blue, but not only”, corrects Ludovic Le Rû. “Because this adjective also designates green, provided that it is natural, like that of grass or tree leaves”, indicates the professor, recalling that the cutting of the colors obeys a cultural logic, in connection with the immediate environment. “Each language carries with it its own vision of the world. Mastering several of them means developing your abstraction skills ”, he pleads.

Back to basics

Belonging to “A generation deprived of transmission”, Ludovic Le Rû was not raised in Breton. “Seeing only elders practicing it, I even believed, as a child, that this language came with age, as a sign of aging! “, he recalls. “At the time, many considered that the Breton language was a brake on social ascent, intellectual progression. It weighed heavily on the self-esteem of Britons… ”

Himself could have felt “Almost foreign” on its own territory, “Frustrated” for not having learned earlier this language spoken by his grandparents and in which he now exchanges with his father. “It’s as if I discovered another person in him”, slips Ludovic Le Rû, emotion on edge. “I finally feel like I belong to a story. “

At the Diwan school, Breton in immersion

Before returning to this source as the salmon go up the Léguer, the coastal river which stretches below the school, Ludovic Le Rû was a coordinator in holiday centers in Corsica. Then came the time of college, in Brest, the melodies of the bard Alan Stivell in soundtrack. He remembers studying psycho “Without much interest”, but a Breton option opened the horizon for him.

French introduced in CE1

Like Ludovic Le Rû, Françoise got involved very early in the Diwan network, in 1990. This professor does not see herself as an activist. She’s there “Above all for children”, for the sake of transmission. “But I couldn’t have taught in another language », She emphasizes. In his double-level class, the CPs learn to read in Breton. “It’s easier, because we pronounce everything that is written”, assures Marcellin, immersed in a travelogue.

Then in CE1, in the sole framework of reading training, French is introduced, with an emphasis on letter combinations that do not exist in the regional language. A gentle extension, especially since in the green courtyard, at recess, children happily juggle both languages. If the splash, learned in Breton, is systematically done in Breton, it suffices for a student to initiate the discussion in French for his friends to follow suit.

→ INFOGRAPHICS. Regional languages ​​in France

In any case, argues Marcellin, Breton has its uses at home. “When my parents don’t want me to understand, they speak English. When we don’t want them to understand, my sister and I speak Breton ”, he laughs. Her friend Terenn is less mischievous, she who has taken it into her head to teach her mother Breton. “She’s a good student”, weighs the girl seriously.

Immersion, linguistic bath

Among the parents, few are those who master Breton. Anne-Claire, two children in very small and large sections, is just beginning to familiarize herself with her basics thanks to an application on her phone. “Having grown up in Brittany, I still consider that she is part of my roots”, she opens. If this mother made the choice of this Diwan, secular and free school for her children (thanks to subsidies and the involvement of families who multiply the activities to raise funds), it is also that after having learned the English at high speed while spending two years in Canada, she knows that “Nothing beats immersion” to appropriate a language.

Unlike her, many parents come from other regions, even other countries, like Michal, who came from Poland to work at the Lannion telecoms center. Her three children attend the establishment. “Five years ago we came to the open house and immediately felt like part of the family”, he says. He speaks Polish himself at home with his wife. As for French, “They also learned it naturally by playing with friends, neighbors”, he says.

We also meet Corinne, originally from Normandy, two children, in middle section and CE2. “At the café, at the market, Bretonnants call out to them. It’s nice to hear my little ones answer in a language I don’t know. This represents an opening, an opportunity to take root in our territory. “

“Political issues never far away”

Even though she is aware that “The political stakes are never very far”, she who says to herself “Very republican”, does not see how learning in Breton would threaten national unity – something some have argued during recent debates around the Molac law, which envisaged extending the possibility of immersion education to public schools in regional language.

“Everyone has multiple identities, multiple ties”, she argues. With her children, she also cherishes a small ritual, a visualization exercise that sometimes replaces the evening story: “We are in the room, the house, the street, the neighborhood, the city, the region… And so on, to reach the planet Earth, the solar system, the Universe…”


Immersive education, the subject of heated debate

The principle of teaching the Breton language “in immersion” – either overall
of subjects and in the daily life of the establishment – is one of the foundations of the Diwan network.

It has 48 schools, 6 colleges, 2 high schools, mostly under contract of association with the State.

Voted in spring 2021, the Molac law on the heritage protection of regional languages ​​and their promotion intended to give public schools the possibility of using this practice as well.

But the Constitutional Council considered that this provision contravened article 2 of the Constitution, according to which “the language of the Republic is French”. This decision worries the Diwan network, which fears a questioning of the principle of immersion in its establishments.

In their recent report submitted to Jean Castex, MEPs Yannick Kerlogot (LREM) and Christophe Euzet (Agir) recommend the creation of a national council for the teaching of regional languages, while advocating a status quo as regards immersive teaching.


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