It’s raining cats (or dogs)

Breton class has been a pleasure to attend. Six hours of lessons a day and my reading skills are developing well. It doesn’t take me a long time to figure out what the instructors are asking as the questions they ask can be predictable, not to mention quite easy to translate for a beginner. I do translation exercises for homework.

Here are some interesting observations I have made about the language: the word for dog is ki (pronounced “key”) and its plural is chas (pronounced “shass”). The Breton word for “cat” is kazh (pronounced “kass”) and its plural is kizhier (KEYS-yare).



I can imagine that a lot of newcomers to the language mix up the plurals all the time since the plural of “dog” resembles the singular of “cat” and the plural of “cat” resembles the singular of “dog”.

We learned a tongue-twister to develop our pronunciation of the sound represented by the digraph c’h, which constitutes one single letter in Breton, and is a voiceless velar fricative (pronounced like the ch in the Scots word “loch”):

C’Hwec’h merc’h gwerc’h
War c’hwec’h marc’h
Ha war o lerc’h
C’Hwec’h manac’h.

This translates to:

Six virgin girls
Astride six horses
And on their path
Six monks.

Nouns in Breton are masculine or feminine yet the definite or indefinite article does not indicate gender. The article you use, whether it is definite or indefinite, depends solely on the initial letter of the noun. Thus nouns beginning with L have the definite article al or the indefinite article ul since the L’s blend together. Nouns beginning with D, H, N or T as well as all nouns beginning with a vowel have the articles an or un. All other nouns have the articles ar or ur. You cannot tell the gender of the noun by its article as you can in French, German or Romansch. Breton dictionaries therefore have a code, which my instructors also use, to indicate gender: an asterix next to a word means it is feminine.

The food has improved since yesterday’s lunch and I ate all of my dinner yesterday as well as all of today’s lunch, and even had seconds (and that’s because I was very hungry). We must have eaten all the zucchinis in Plésidy because they were nowhere to be seen during these two meals. Let’s see if they resurface at dinner.

The school I am at is also holding dance and music lessons and the student population doubled overnight. I was expecting the bunkbed in my room to be occupied by the time I returned to the dorm after yesterday’s class, but so far I remain on my own. That’s how I’d like it to be and I’m definitely not complaining about it, but I was expecting that bunkbed to be occupied by now. I wonder if any students entered my room, saw my Canadian-flag luggage tags and hightailed it. I have met a Scottish musician named Mike whom I have been chatting with. Seems he knows Mississauga quite well: he’s got friends there and they live on Windjammer Road!

My last day of lessons is tomorrow, then I will leave for Guingamp early Saturday morning to visit the post office and all three town bookstores before embarking on my tour of northern Brittany, where I will see St. Brieuc, Morlaix and Roscoff (Sant-Brieg, Montroulez and Rosko in Breton). I will head for the libraries in each town to use the Internet so I can continue these Breton Bulletins.

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