Parental choice of minority language education in language shift situations in Brittany and Scotland

Goalabré, Fabienne (2012). Parental choice of minority language education in language shift situations in Brittany and Scotland. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis addresses issues associated with the impact of bilingual education (immersion and language maintenance programmes) and the vitality of minority languages. It explores multiple factors, including parental expectations, that influence the decisions of parents who have chosen to educate their children through the medium of the standard variety of minority languages, specifically Breton and Gaelic. The thesis considers parental choice in terms of their socioeconomic profile, their language background and their patterns of language use. It is anticipated that this will contribute to explaining how educationally-based interventions work at different levels, including the sociolinguistic impact on the vitality of minority languages. The fieldwork was undertaken for Breton in western Brittany and for Gaelic in the core Gaelic-speaking area of Scotland (Western Isles), and was principally conducted by means of a semi-structured interview schedule administered to 51 sets of parents. In both locations, results indicated that most parents were highly qualified compared to the surrounding population and that they were attracted by early bilingualism and its educational benefits. Most parents had a basic level of skill in the minority language. This was especially the case in Brittany, where parents' skill levels were insufficient to sustain use of the minority language within the family unit and outside the home as an everyday language of communication. For most children, their first contact with the minority language was through school, and the language did not appear to be used outside the classroom. In the Western Isles, the majority of the parents were fluent in Gaelic, although Gaelic was seldom the main household language. For the overwhelming majority of children, parents reported Gaelic as being rarely spoken outside school either within their family or among themselves. This suggests that knowing the minority language does not automatically lead to its use outside the formal classroom setting and that bilingual education does not provide a way to produce active speakers when intergenerational transmission is failing.

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