As part of our ongoing series highlighting the work of activists promoting European minority and regional languages in digital spaces, we would like to feature the Academie du Gallo (@AcademieduGallo) an organization working to promote the Gallo language, a recognized minority language in Brittany, France.
Rising Voices interviewed Gwenaëlle Lefeuvre, one of the Academie's members to learn more about their work.
Rising Voices (RV): Tell us about your organization and its language-related work.
Gwenaëlle Lefeuvre (GL): The Academie du Gallo is an informal collaboration of Gallo and minority language enthusiasts and advocates. We want to give Gallo online visibility and recognition.
In order to increase visibility, the first imperative is to ensure that all our resources and tools in and about Gallo are free for everyone, whoever and wherever they are.
In order to improve its recognition, we promote those tools through shouting on social media and collaborating with other regional language advocates.
These tools are language lessons, a huge trilingual Gallo-French-English dictionary, a forum where people can ask for help in translation… but also games and a growing corpus of reading material in Gallo on a wide range of topics: the history of Brittany, science and technology, excerpts of classics of literature and of other regional language authors.
RV: What is the current state of your language both online and offline?
GL: Gallo is in a dire state. The UNESCO Atlas of the World Languages has it under “severely endangered”… and their last update was in 2015. There are very few native speakers: Numbers are hazy but under 30,000, and those tend to be the older generation. The younger generation struggles to see the point of learning what they think is a dying language not fit for modern life.
So that's exactly what we fight against online. A website and social media presence allow us to reach out to a younger and more diverse audience and to show them that any language can be a modern language if given the chance.
As other advocacy organisations focus more on live interaction (which is great too), the Academie du Gallo is the main online resource for Gallo. We see that through the high number of monthly: more than 10,000 each month, which is huge for such a small language.
RV: What are your motivations to see your language present in digital spaces?
GL: We believe that any language is a modern language, it just needs to be given the chance to prove it, that's our main motivation. Words are invented all the time, and France/French has actually a wonderful tradition of making up words to keep up with technological progress. We propose a modern corpus adapted to the world we live in, but still respectful of the etymology and history of the language.
RV: Describe some of the challenges that prevent your language from being fully used online.
GL: The lack of speakers!
But let's be positive: We collaborated with the passionate Julien Baley, who constantly adds languages to the Swiftkey keyboard, so at least now a Gallo dictionary is freely available on your smartphone.
RV: What concrete steps do you think could be taken to encourage young people to start learning your language or continue using it?
GL: It's not about the lessons, it's about the pride. We want to give back to Gallo speakers and their younger families, the pride of speaking a language anchored in their own region, a language that is part of their history. It is crucial that the older people are proud of Gallo again and want to transmit it.
At the national level, it would be great to finally see regional languages recognized as part of the cultural wealth of the country. The country leaders only ever pay lip service to linguistic diversity.