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10 Breton phrases to take with you to Brittany

Breton is the only Celtic language still widely spoken in mainland Europe

Morbihan Bay in Brittany, where you may hear locals speaking their own language Pic: Boris Stroujko / Shutterstock

France is a large country so it is perhaps unsurprising there are many dialects and minority languages used across its different regions.

One of the most distinctive is Breton. It is a regional Celtic language that is much more similar to Welsh, Scottish or Irish Gaelic, than to French. 

It is spoken in Brittany due to emigration from south-west England in the first millennium. 

It is spoken by around 250,000 people in Brittany and is the only Celtic language still widely spoken in mainland Europe.

There are concerns over its future, considering most native speakers are aged over 60. 

Like many local languages, Breton historically suffered due to the French government’s wish to impose the use of French as the standard.

Read also: Provençal pronunciation: How does it differ from standard French?

In a bid to keep the language alive, bilingual ‘Diwan’ schools were launched in the 1970s to promote the language among the young.

Upon first seeing the language, it is hard to believe that it is spoken in France, as it looks very different from French. 

Here are some simple phrases you can try with Breton speakers.

1. Demat 

Demat means hello in Breton. 

However, often to start a discussion you will hear mat ar jeu? or penaos emañ kont? which are equivalent to comment ça va? (how are you?)

2. Ya, mat-tre 

This is a good way to reply to mat ar jeu? or penaos emañ kont?

It is the equivalent of responding ça va to the question ça va?. It means, ‘yes, I’m fine’. If you are in a really good mood, you can respond with dreist, which means excellent or very good. 

3. Pegement eo?

This means ‘how much is it?’ If you want to be polite, you can add, mar plij, which means please. 

4. Komz a rez brezhoneg?

Komz a rez brezhoneg? means ‘do you speak Breton?’ to which you can respond nann (no) or, after reading this article, Ya, un tammig hepken (yes, a little). 

5. Trugarez

The first word you should learn in any language – trugarez is Breton for thank you. 

Anywhere you travel, everyone should ideally at least be able to say ‘thank you’ in the local language, so this could show locals in Brittany that you have made an effort.

Read also: 14 words that change dependent on where you are in France

6. Yec'hed mat!

And for the second most important phrase… Yec'hed mat! means ‘cheers!’ in Breton and is used when making a toast. 

7. Ne gomprenan ket

On the subject of important phrases… it is always useful to be able to say ‘I don’t understand. In Breton, this is Ne gomprenan ket.

8. Komz a rez saozneg? 

If you find yourself in a situation where everyone is speaking Breton – perhaps unlikely, but you never know – you can ask if they speak English. In Breton, this would be Komz a rez saozneg?

9. Kenavo

On departure, you can bid farewell to your new Breton friends by saying kenavo meaning goodbye. 

10. Chañs vat!

As we leave you to practice your Breton, we will bid you kenavo and chañs vat! which means ‘good luck!’.

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