Five years ago today / Pemp bleiz zo

Madeleine and classmates - Malarde

Five years ago today, I completed my six-month Breton language immersion program at Stumdi, in Plañvour, Brittany. Although I’d had some Breton under my belt when the program began, I felt I had very limited skill in the language–especially when I tried to speak it or understand it in conversation. My desire to be able to really speak the language had been one of the major motivators for me to pack up and move to Brittany to participate in the immersion program. And so, at the end of the six months, it was quite satisfying to know that–not only did I have a solid basic knowledge of the grammar and vocabulary–I could now hold my own in a conversation in Breton!

Skill in the Breton language was not the only thing that I gained. After six months of studying together, five days a week, 8 hours a day, with my 9 classmates, and the 10 students in our sister class next door, and the teachers who guided us through the process, I felt that I had gained a new community of friends. When I had shown up for the first day of classes, I’m pretty sure my classmates did not know what to make of me: why would an American adult pull up roots and move to a small town in Brittany, France, just to learn their local language? By the end of our six months together, they seemed to have decided I was okay, and I found myself spending my free time with a number of them. And since moving back, I’ve kept in touch with many of them to one degree or another– via mail, phone, and facebook. I’ve gone back for visits and seen some of them, which has been great, but I never have enough time on my trips to see everyone I’d like to. But to paraphrase Bogart in Casablanca, we’ll always have Plañvour.

After those six months of sweat and struggle–and laughs–we did create a bond of experience, and I feel very lucky to have gotten to know my classmates and my teachers. (The picture above is of me and a few of my classmates, dressed up for Malarde, known in the U.S. as Mardi Gras. I’m not sure who took the photo for me on my camera. The photo below is of me and some classmates and teachers, taken by Michel Thierry at the end of our graduation day hike along the Intel/Etel river.) I’m glad that at least some of us have been to be able to keep in touch. And even visit occasionally, even if it never seems to be often enough or long enough. It was an incredible time for me, and I’ll always have fond memories. Thank you, and happy anniversary, to my classmates and teachers! Bloavezh mat deoc’h, an holl stummerien hag an holl stummadurien!

Stumdi graduation day hike

 

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Madeleine Adkins

I'm a linguist and a writer, with a passion for the Breton language, Celtic languages in general, and endangered language communities who engage in revitalization efforts. I've published some articles about the Breton language situation in some academic journals, and I'm planning to publish more in the near future. I spent most of the last decade moving around--first to Santa Barbara (grad school), then Colorado (teaching), and then Brittany (researching the Breton language revitalization movement and improving my Breton speaking skills)--and now I'm in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even though I am living far from Brittany at this point, I still keep in touch with my friends and colleagues in the Breton-speaking world, and I'm still involved in language revitalization issues.

4 thoughts on “Five years ago today / Pemp bleiz zo”

  1. This is such a happy and ENCOURAGING story. It’s often complicated when “outsiders” learn an endangered or otherwise minority language. I’m so glad for you and all your friends that this has been a bonding experience for you all — and especially that there is now one more Breton speaker in the world. WUU HUU! 🙂

    1. Thank you, Britton–I’m glad to be able to give an encouraging example to folks. It can be complicated when outsiders want to learn an endangered language. But in the case of Breton, people are certainly open to it. They’re just surprised sometimes.

  2. If you want additional photos to decorate this blog, it’s possible. I can send them to you via WeTransfer !
    I still remember the first meal we took with Matyas ! It was a good way to welcome you on your six-month Breton language immersion program at Stumdi !
    Michel

    1. Trugarez, Michel. Yes, if you have a few nice photos from the course you’d like to share, that would be great. I remember you took a lot of pictures! I’m very self-conscious about pictures of me, but if you got one or two that are flattering of me, I’d be really happy to have them.

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