It’s one-way bilingualism, not immigration, that’s killing the Welsh language

Picture by Hefin Owen (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Abraham Somers Cocks

People often say that non-Welsh in-migration is, and has been, the downfall of the Welsh Language.

Certainly, if you were to compare the strength of Welsh in, say, Blaenau Ffestiniog to the strength of Welsh in, say, Barmouth, you will definitely reach that conclusion.

However, in-migration has not been the only factor in the collapse of Welsh as a living community language, and its importance, I think, is overstated.

You may think, that as an Englishman, I would say that anyway, but bear in mind that in Argentina, for example, some 52% of the country is of Italian descent, and yet Argentina is not an Italian-speaking country.

In London, where I am from, in-migration has in no way weakened the local language, English.

So why is the situation so different in Wales?  In London, everybody is expected to, and kinda has to, speak the local language, regardless of what country they’re from, and this what I have always considered to be the ‘normal’ situation.

Even in the most Welsh-speaking areas of Wales, however, people who aren’t Welsh generally won’t speak Welsh.

An obvious reason behind this difference is the fact that every adult and teenage Welsh-speaker in Wales can also speak English, meaning that if you are an English-speaking incomer, there is little obvious need to learn Welsh.

Bilingualism in Wales is hence very one-way, with 100% of Cymry Cymreig also speaking English, and only 10% of native-English speakers in Wales also speaking Welsh.  And it’s one-way Bilingualism that is the problem.

One-way bilingualism means that if you have three Welsh-speakers and one English-speaker in the conversation, all four will have to speak English together, even if they’re in the heart of the Fro Gymraeg.

One-way bilingualism means that if, in a Welsh-speaking area, the village shop is owned by someone who isn’t Welsh, then the rest of the village will not be able to shop in their own language, in their own country.

Where I live in London, the nearest bakery happens to be Romanian, but that does not mean that we have to speak Romanian whenever we want to get good quality bread.

One-way bilingualism has resulted in a situation where I have met countless locals in the Aberystwyth area who are non-Welsh-speaking merely because one of their four grandparents happened to not be Welsh.

As a result, English was the home language for the whole family from that point on.

In London, such a situation would be, quite rightly, inconceivable. one-way bilingualism has made the situation for Welsh much, much worse.

This wasn’t always the case. The Welsh language held strong periods of higher levels of in-migration.

Different

Indeed, when you did have English incomers moving into majority Welsh-monoglot areas, they did learn Welsh.

Providing evidence to the Royal Commission on Education in 1888, Beriah G. Evans noted that within a generation the families of immigrants into the Wales valleys would speak Welsh.

In the same way, T. Gwynn Jones wrote of how Denbigh was “completely Welsh” in the early 19th century despite the immigration into the town, because they were quickly absorbed into the community.

This was still true in the early 20th century in some areas, as I discovered when looking at the 1911 Census returns for Bethesda, Gwynedd.

The trouble was, however, that areas like Bethesda were no longer the Welsh norm, and that even in 1911, some 81% of Welsh-speakers in Wales also spoke English.

Therefore, when you had large waves of English in-migration, such as into the South Wales coalfield, the incomers had no need to learn Welsh.

English was, therefore, the common language, and factors such as inter-marriage diluted the Welsh-speaking population very quickly, and the rest is history.

The sad thing is, that this need not have happened, since Welsh-speakers at the time were much better at English than other non-state language groups were at their rulers’ languages.

For example, in around 1910, only around half of Czechs, Slovaks, and Slovenes, etc, were able to speak German was similarly around half.

If the Welsh had been more like those other groups at the time, then we would most likely have a very different Wales today.

Thus, we have seen how one-way bilingualism can lead to language death, and a situation where it’s the indigenous people who are being assimilated into the newcomer’s culture and not the other way round.

However, this is not the only disadvantage of one-way bilingualism; OWB can also have bad consequences for society in general.

Segregation

A Study of Language Contact And Social Networks in Ynys Môn, by Delyth Morris, published in 1989, showed that one-way Bilingualism, where it does not lead to all-out language death, can result in segregated communities.

Residents who don’t speak the local language feel excluded by, and resentful towards, the locals who do.

Sadly, my own experiences appear to support her conclusions; I all too often heard Welsh-speakers being described as an insular and parochial group who lived in their own ‘bubble’, speaking their own language which ‘nobody else understands.’

In London, such accusations would never be made against the locals, since the ‘English world’ is something which every newcomer here is forced to join, and therefore, it is not a ‘bubble’ to them.

The Welsh example, therefore, shows that one-way bilingualism can lead to unforeseen consequences which, I imagine, no country would ever choose to have in their society.

The sad thing is, that despite this being a post-imperial and post-colonial world, one-way bilingualism appears to be becoming more common across the world, and not less common.

I have often heard a joke, that if, in Dubai, Qatar, Stockholm or Amsterdam, you want to find someone who speaks two languages (ie, the local language, and English), you should go to a ‘local’ school, while if you want to find someone who speaks just one language (ie, just English), you should go to an ‘International’ school.

I also read the story online of a lady from South East Asia who had moved to Finland as a twelve-year-old.

Naturally, she wanted to learn the language of her new home and become part of the society there, yet even though she tried, she didn’t truly become fluent as a teenager because her high-school classmates insisted on always practicing their English on her.

Why should she be denied her chance to integrate and become Finnish, despite her best efforts?

If her story is not enough, then the Welsh experience shows that one-way bilingualism does not end well.  Let there be a wake-up call.

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

42 Comments

  1. This is a good article, but I think one factor which deserves much greater attention is the ideology behind this one-way bilingualism. It’s too simplistic imo to say that most people in Wales could speak English while only half of half of Czechs and Slovaks could speak German. The dominant liberal ideology in 19th century Britain insisted that English was the global language of Empire and that Welsh was a backwards, useless language, and the faster the Welsh turned their backs on it, the better. In contrast, the countries that did keep their languages had strong national movements which instisted that their languages did have worth and needed to be preserved. Even today, the dominant narrative re: the Welsh language is that it’s fine to keep alive as a hobby but it has no real worth and that it would be an imposition to ‘force’ it anyone else, while in contrast forceing English on the rest of the world is doing them a big favour. I’m sure the usual trolls will be along to make that exact point very shortly. If we want to save the Welsh language we need to lose the post-colonial chip on our shoulder, realise its a language with as much worth and that deserves as much respect as any other, and take ownership of its future.

    • Robert Williams

      I agree with the points you make, Ifan, but would wish to add this to what you say about the contrast between 19th Century Wales & such countries as Bohemia & Slovakia – Slovenia also comes to mind: while non-conformist religion played an important part in preserving Welsh, didn’t the religious obsession also divert the Welsh middle class and intelligentsia from the kind of concern with preserving & perpetuating the national language & culture found in these countries? On top of this, concern to save the souls of ‘our English friends’ led to the creation of the destructive ‘English causes’. Would you agree with this analysis?

  2. As someone who has learned welsh ond of partial engish descent, i have to say i am horrified by the attitude of most english women and men in cymru. Even as a semi-proficient learner i would be treated to displays of imperial arrogance that left me fuming. Once, having got off the bus at Dolgellau, i asked a woman in my halting cymraeg about the connexion. The lordly jaw of this particular example of the master race rose imperiously, her bosom that had nurtured god-knows how many genocides and killings (just think of Amritsar and croke park) swelled. Her eyes burned with a racial self-righteousness worthy of cecil rhodes. ”I am english” was directed at me. How i didn’t beat the old bag of shit into another life is beyond me. How, why do they still make ’em like that?

    Having contemplated english history, i haave decided i want no part in it: it’s not pleasant, and since i was only half english have had to put up with all the jokes on account of my ancestry.

    Many of ‘e’m state , yn blwmp ac yn blaen, that it is impossible to learn a language. Since the informatation is given in language they are obviously liars. Additionally, a certain Noam Chomsky has stated that it is impossible not to acquire language.

    Of course as the piece states, if we don’t speak our language before people who consider us inferior, and themselves superior,they by never hearing it in context, will not gain the language. That is our fault.

    Having said that, i have been dragged and laughed out of shops for speaking y gymraeg. I have been arrested and detained for doing so. I have had inferior medical attention on occasion because i am a speaker of y Gymraeg. Nearly all of my complaints have been neglectd. Were a gay woman, or a Sikh man treated the same way, the pc welsh labor party would be onto the perpetrators in flash.

    One of the factors that makes this ‘anglicisation’ so damaging is that our people not only lose their birthright, their timeless plug-in to an alternative world, but they imbibe the racist mindset of their imperial masters and end up hating their mother’s language (or grandma’s etc), but also hate everything about Cymru, and in so doing hate themselves of course. They learn to love a caricature of Cymru – wales – a place that hates sub-human indigines,, and its aim is to remove, actively, or by neglect the ‘primitive culture.

    I accept that many people in south wales have lost their language through colonial interference, and have the greatest sympathy with them. But a point is reached in the journey of anglicised and assimilated welsh women and men where, not only in their refusal to accept history, but in their active persecution of us the remant, that makes me wonder if the process is complete: that undergoing this degree and intensity of anglicisation has had the desired effect. And we as the remnant who triy to preserve a fantastic culture and tradition and language have to realize that anglcisaton may mean making englsihmen and englishwomen out of the aborigines of Cymru.

    Now, not all people in the valleys, or other parts, feel that way, but little is been done to help them back into the fold. The welsh labor party is much to blame here. They having picked up on the anti-cymraeg sentiment that does resied in anglicised areas,and milk it in their usual Marxist-Leninist lust for political power.

    Whilst i hate conventional schools (bully pits), even within the ‘paradigm’, we still hear of parents who are thwarted in their fundamental human right to give their children the education they the parents choose. And then, the simplistic notion that education through y gymraeg will make a speaker of y gymraeg for life is not challenged. We need to create places at work and at leisure where our language is nutured to nurture our tender new plants.

    • Wow – you wanted to beat a woman to death, for stating that she was English and therefore did not understand you? How did you manage to read so much into two words? I really don’t think your blind hatred helps the Welsh cause.

      • Right Janet, pick out the very eloquently put angst that was felt but only written, not acted upon. Yet you don’t ask anything of WHY THE F*CK this person would be “dragged and laughed out of shops” and being “arrested and detained for” speaking Welsh.
        Argue the theory but have no issue with actual oppression. YOU, my dear, are a hinderance to the Welsh cause.

        Siani, can you elaborate on the above quotations for me please, I’m disgusted that you would be treated so!

        • The author gives no other reason for his violent feelings towards the woman other than she simply stated that she was English – all his elaboration on her background and attitudes (unless he has omitted details) are based on his preconceptions – the very definition of racism. As to his claim of being arrested and detained for speaking Welsh – I don’t believe that for a moment, unless again, he is leaving out salient facts.

          • She.

            • Nicely put, Marc (Janet Pike hasn’t yet worked out what you meant, I’ll wager).
              It’s a pity we have to be distracted by such ignorance and bigotry, when we should be applying our minds to working out wider solutions to the real problems facing our language. I shall, however, allow myself to be further distracted by pointing out to her that for a settler to contrive to hide behind the ‘R’ Word in a country whose people have been so ruthlessly exploited by a powerful neighbour only demeans her and makes her sound ridiculous.
              I mean YOU, Janet Pike!

    • Well, in Dolgellau, there is a high influx of self righteous anglo-centric ignorantes hanging around. Like one I saw with a fag in her mouth at the uib “Everyone’s speaking Welsh! Goh! What did she expect? They speak French? Or the ones that feel Welsh is a foreign language from another planet.

      “Back in school, they would complain “why do we need Welsh it’s boring” “or it’s sh** ” or “nobody speaks it” even though it’s heard a lot, and many are also born in Wales, I think most was about the Welsh lessons than the language, or maybe both, but that attitude goes through school into adulthood. Not all are like that, but they still prefer English, as I guess English being “cool” and the language everyone speaks, from the people around you or influence you, to the media.

      There are Welsh speakers who are fluent in Welsh but prefer to speak English, because the majority of people around them speak English or maybe being a preference for them.

      When everyone will start conversing in English, then the more you use English the more your Welsh becomes weird, the accent goes and you start speaking Wenglish. I try to use Welsh as much as possible, when possible, I wanted to get someone to do a bilingual sign for me in town for my business, the guy got the Welsh spelling wrong, he could easily have Googled it.
      I tried asking for something in the siop, “you what mate?”.

      Another town Barmouth, is the new Birmingham by the seaside, and Dolgellau has a strong cockney/Manchester accent, in fact there’s a weird Welsh cockney brummie mixed accent among some.:-p

      How can we make Welsh the norm?
      Maybe use more Welsh as we go around, use more Welsh in the media, even social media like YouTube videos blogs and etc.

      There are some times when you really don’t need bilingual signs, an English friend onced asked when he came to visit, why Wrecsam is called Wrexham when they both sound the same? And why Swansea Or Holyhead? Why not just Abertawe or Caergyb?i, he didn’t get the point of bilingualising, as some Welsh words are obvious even when you don’t speak it.
      But there are those, like the anti Welsh Taliban we have seen who find Welsh the language spoken in the country they live offensive or distracting.

      • Hey there Dyl, I was just wondering if I could quote some of your message here for a blog article that I plan to write about the decline of Welsh in Meirionydd? Some opinions on the ground would be great to include.

  3. Interesting piece, well placed in the wider (historic and geographic) context.

    I’ve long been deeply suspicious of blanket bilingualism as the default position. It may well have been the right thing to fight for in the 70s and 80s, but not now. It means that determined English monoglots can develop a 50% blindness/deafness and Cymraeg speakers have to suffer everything twice. No-one wins.

    Absolutely, let there be more Welsh monolingualism, in events and roadsigns alike (really, if they can’t work out ‘Aberdyfi’, they shouldn’t be allowed to drive). Total immersion is a far more effective way of raising people’s standards in a language than endless piecemeal titbits. But by the same token, there must also be a place (and not an embarrassed or reluctant one) for things only in English. Let both languages sing – that’s what real beneficial bilingualism is.

  4. My grandchildren attend the local Welsh medium school and I know many Welsh speaking parents/ grandparents who take their offspring to the same school. Yet strangely,they will not converse in Welsh to them,thus probably encouraging the children’s belief that Welsh is the language of the classroom only. This happens regularly outside the school gates and cannot be good for them in the future

  5. Benjiman L. Angwin

    Ddiwedd y dydd, mae am ysgwyddo cyfrifoldeb.

  6. Thanks for the article, it does make you think.
    My wife and I came to Wales a few years ago and have been learning the Welsh language on an internet course. Although I would like the opportunity to speak Welsh.
    dw i’n siarad cymraeg nawr.
    many native welsh speakers do still speak to me in English; I am sure that is polite-ness and we are still not that fluent.
    I am sure it will take us a further 2 to 3 years to become more fluent.

    About national identity, language is important, however it will not totally define or determine whether we become an independent nation.
    Australia, New Zealand, Canada and USA among others speak English as their first language through from empire days but that didn’t prevent them from defining their own country and achieving independence.
    In fact, some even say that the USA is the boss of Britain’s foreign policy through NATO.

    Speaking English will not stop Scotland’s drive for independence, even the SNP conference is in English.

    Restoring the Welsh language as a part of Welsh culture is important and may actually only be achieved after Welsh independence. It is confidence in Welsh identity that matters.

  7. This is a thoughtful and well-researched article, but it leaves me feeling uncomfortable because it seems ultimately to be arguing in favour of ignorance – that we should aspire to go from a situation where nigh 100% of Welsh-speakers can also speak English, to one where some Welsh-speakers can’t speak English. That would be a backwards move.

    A more constructive approach is to stress that people who know Welsh as well as English are by definition better-educated – because they know more – than their monoglot compatriots, and that therefore knowing Welsh becomes something to be aspired to, with high social status. Hand-in-hand with this there needs to be a vibrant Welsh cultural scene which is attractive to outsiders (perhaps even more so to the non-Welsh speaking population of Wales), so that they see a tangible benefit from gaining a knowledge of the language. Unfortunately governments have a dismal record of imposing this sort of thing from above (the example of the Republic of Ireland looms large), so the key to it is to generate some real prosperity within Wales so that young people remain and the culture flourishes. This would imply a 180-degree reversal of Welsh Government policy since devolution began, so it’s not going to happen without significant political change.

    • article doesnt suggest that Welsh only speak Welsh..where did you interpret that? 🙂

      • OK, I admit, implied rather than stated, but provoked by the Finnish example. This reflected my experience when trying to learn German in Germany: anyone who spoke a little English wanted to practise it on me; anyone who spoke really fluent English found it much less effort to converse with me in English rather than trying to decipher my halting German. The only way I could make real progress was to find people who couldn’t speak any English, which wasn’t too difficult once I got far enough away from the University (this was Berlin Technical University in the 1990s).

  8. Here in Catalunya a monolingual school system helps. Even the letters to parents are in Catalan only. Perhaps Gwynedd should try that.

  9. Well said Abraham. Some additional notes on the same theme…

    One of the reasons that I have – several times over – given up on learning Welsh is the propensity of many allegedly fluent Welsh-speakers to switch into English at the slightest excuse. In the first wlpan class I went to, I was assured that nobody would mind me using English words in Welsh sentences in the event I didn’t know the right word. I felt that in essence I was being encouraged to put on a fake accent and talk loudly, just as English-speakers abroad are famous for doing. Although I questioned it, the tutor was insistent that ‘everybody’s ok with loan words’. She’s largely correct.

    Sadly, there’s a punishing compound interest on every new loan word that’s accepted into Welsh, because the sole language of origin is English. On my local bus journey in Ceredigion I hear elderly Welsh-speakers on my local bus habitually use English place names even when the Welsh is well-known (“rwy i’n mynd i Swansea ‘fory”) and tell the time in English (“mae’n half eleven rwan”).

    But simply ‘taking ownership’ of the future of Welsh ain’t gonna do much to save it. Nor will talking emptily of ‘respect’. Here’s some more concrete responses:

    1. Stop translating in only one direction. I’ve attended a lot of ‘bilingual’ events, and the fact that the translator puts down their equipment when the language being spoken is English – and is never called out on the fact – would demonstrate to anyone with a malicious intent that there was no need for Welsh to be used. In fact, given that translators are supposed generally to work into their native language, recruiting translators specifically for translation into Welsh /seems like a good idea.

    2. Tell Welsh-speakers who move out that they are harming the Welsh language. If you are a committed Welsh nationalist who believes fervently in keeping the language and nation alive, then why are you taking a job in a monoglot English office in London, Newcastle, Geneva or Azerbaijan? This may seem harsh – but I don’t think it is. If your language is not even worth a pay cut to you, then that’s a bit less reason for me to learn it.

    3. Create alternative institutions where Welsh monolingualism could happen, and that have the potential to safeguard it for future generations. Nope, I don’t just mean bookshops, chapels, pubs or departments at the universities proudly competing to serve the British State. I mean things like (for instance) computing companies devising programming languages based in Welsh vocabulary and grammar, independent building training schemes teaching specialised Welsh for plumbers and delivery drivers, broadband updating services that communicate internally in Welsh (and are based in Wales, rather than in Cheshire), and colleges that are not part of British State education.

    4. As various groups have proposed, build housing in majority Welsh-speaking areas that is specifically for Welsh-speakers. But also, build some for reduced-price sale or rental in working-class areas that are not majority Welsh-speaking. These ideas are always interpreted as racist – but they would not be if accompanied by a contract between the new occupant and the seller to learn Welsh to an examined standard within a given time, with the necessary tuition provided.

    5. Tuition. Everybody learns differently – as contemporary educators say far too often. Logically, these means that you need a lot of people to teach, and tutor, Welsh. (For specialisms like engineering, computing, sound recording, architecture, political science, legal advice and nursing, as well as simply for beginners). And to test a whole load more methods than simply the demonstrable failure that is ‘wlpan’). Within a national independence movement, if it is to result in an independent Wales where the Welsh language grows rather than disappears, there will need to be a serious commitment to teaching the language, by a variety of methods and with great focus, within that movement. Perhaps some of those Welsh-speakers returning from elsewhere would be willing to make that effort.

    All of these things are hard. But probably no harder than, as a monoglot adult, seeking to learn a new language to the point of fluency.

    • Red Dragon Jim

      This really does my head in. I know some Welsh speakers in Carmarthenshire who drop in vast numbers of English words, or who habitually switch to English. Place names, numbers. There’s loan words then there’s odd substitution. It is their own choice but I wish there was a way to stop them, other than ignoring it or brushing it off.

      • Oh boy, you’re not the only one. People are free to speak in whatever way they want to and can make themselves understood, but this ‘bratiaith’ or Welsh pidgin is painful on the ear and embarrassing to listen to.

  10. A thought-provoking article which raises some valid points. You are right about English settlers becoming Cymricised in the past – my mother’s family moved from Derbyshire to Flintshire in the 17th Century and became monoglot Welsh-speakers within a generation or two.
    Why didn’t this happen in the 20th Century? Well, you are right that the host community was in some areas already bilingual. Why was that? Answer: the Education Act that made English the legal medium of education, reinforced by the Welsh Not and other stigmas. Secondly, English, not Welsh, was the language of commerce and industry in Wales.
    Now that the legal impediment has been removed from education, why do English settlers and non-British immigrants still fail to integrate in Welsh-speaking areas? Since the 1960s, the problem has been exacerbated by the all-pervading dominance of English-language mass popular culture and the lack (notwithstanding S4C and Welsh-language radio) of a Welsh-language equivalent, thereby increasing the Anglicisation of the country. Furthermore, the majority of businesses, large and small, are owned by non-Welsh people; Welsh needs to become the language of business and commerce here.
    Individuals can fight back by SPEAKING WELSH in mixed company and increasing the obligation on non-Welsh-speakers to learn, but on a macro level it will take Senedd legislation to restrict the number of in-migrants and to give priority to the setting up of businesses by Welsh-speakers, reinforced by the extension of Welsh-medium education.
    One-way bilingualism needs to be turned over on its back so that both the momentum and the imperative get transferred to the Welsh language. Settlers must be educated into no longer seeing it as the tongue of a dying peasantry but of a re-emerging nation.

  11. Radek Piskorski

    The end of your article answers your questions. The “English world” is not joined only when you arrived in London, UK. Everyone is already in the “English world”.

  12. I understand that my comment will show that I haven’t fully read the article and it may be a bit controversial. I don’t think the Welsh Language is dying to any extent. In fact, there are more Welsh speakers than ever before. I believe that the use of the Welsh Language is changing. The reason why that you may not hear the Welsh language being spoken in friendship groups even though they are able to speak Welsh is because the Welsh language is dying as a language within the family unit. If people don’t speak Welsh in the family then we can’t expect the community or our country to speak the language either. Also I may be wrong to assume that Welsh Medium Education is a form of escapism from the under nourished English Language state schools in Wales.
    We cannot expect our country to become fully bi-lingual unless we endorse the language within the family unit.

  13. Funnily enough, just recently I wrote this on the IWA site:-

    “Any separate language exists to convey meaning to other people. In Wales 11% of the population, those fluent in Welsh and English, have a complete choice of which language they use. They may prefer to communicate in English, 20% of fluent Welsh speakers are more comfortable using English, they may be more comfortable using Welsh (40%) or they may have no preference either way (40%)
    http://gov.wales/docs/statistics/2016/160301-welsh-language-use-in-wales-2013-15-en.pdf

    Page 50.

    The point is that those 11% have choice but there is no necessity. For the remaining 89% there is only one language through which they can completely express themselves and in Wales they need no other.
    Over the years there has been a wilful blindness in this regard; there has been a pretence that Welsh is “necessary” in Wales. It isn’t.
    Instead we have substituted a whole host of spurious justifications and those justifications have led to Welsh being made compulsory in schools and parents being misled into putting their children into Welsh medium schools. Young people who learn Welsh have actually gained little; whether they have the language or not they can communicate with every person in Wales. Those from Welsh speaking homes were always likely to keep their family and community language and use it. The rest may as well have learned any other world language and the benefit to be derived from learning a World language is greater than that derived from learning Welsh.
    At least amongst adults there is freedom of choice when it comes to learning Welsh and just under 1% of adults make that choice. A fraction of that number achieve fluency and some of those say that they feel that they “belong” more by learning Welsh. The 89% of people who live here and are not fluent Welsh speakers apparently miss out on this sense of “belonging”.
    My feeling is that what we do in Wales concerning the Welsh language is mostly a sop to the political requirement to establish Wales as a place that isn’t England. At worst it is a conscious effort to deny a fair opportunity to any working age people who might move to Wales and seek employment in the public sector. Welsh has been “weaponised” in a national identity struggle and until we can break away and bring honesty and proper analysis to the question of the “survival” of Welsh, or if Welsh needs to “survive”, then the Language will remain a divisive issue.”

    • The Welsh language was destroyed by imperialism and colonialism….this is why people still fight for it…..they hate the reasons that it was weakened

    • John Jones you still have a massive chip on your shoulder. You got left behind and now you spend far too much writing to the Western mail etc.
      Accept that we are in Wales and Welsh is one of our languages. We will try to increase Welsh and from what I can see Welsh has really increased its presence and here in the South East people are hearing it more than over on the streets. Once your generation gets out of the way.

      ‘The rest may as well have learned any other world language and the benefit to be derived from learning a World language is greater than that derived from learning Welsh.’
      ‘Young people who learn Welsh have actually gained little’. That’s simply not true, but the wingeing of a bigot.
      Yesterday I watched Bang- an S4C drama. I was able to go to see a Welsh language band last week. I go down to the Welsh pub quiz every now. I saw the rugby on the tele in Welsh. These events are to packed houses in Cardiff at times. Complain all you want but you are in the minority.
      There is only one education that will give a child the following- learning with Roald Dahl and Mihangel Morgan. Singing English and Welsh nursery rhymes. Competing in the Eisteddfod and the English speaking union. (BTW a pupil from Ysgol Bro Morgannwg-a Welsh medium school- won the competition…..just saying). A Welsh medium education.

      I do Welsh will survive and thrive….Its a shame you wont be here to see it. The country is happy for <1% to be spent on our language. Long may it thrive

    • It’s so obvious that you don’t speak another language from the way you write about learning Welsh. Of course Welsh should survive just like Icelandic, Finnish or Swedish.

      Colonialism runs so deep in the Cymro Saesneg. It’s tragic. Thankfully their ambivalence means that Welsh can be given the platform it deserves.

  14. Brian ap Francis

    John – that is a lot better than I would have put it so thank you for a sensible,balanced posting

  15. The White Elephant in the room:

    Wales not being an independent state led to this.

    A colony will eventually lose its language to its’ coloniser

    • Red Dragon Jim

      And when Wales was Welsh-speaking its Liberal party, clergy and authorities looked to England instead of getting self-rule. Being Welsh-speaking was not sufficient as we had no control over our future.

  16. The fact of the matter is that Welsh speakers are too ‘polite’ in this way. They need to stop switching back if one non Welsh speaker is present.

    I’m studying in my undergraduate degree and have learnt welsh for the last 2 1/2 years and am almost fluent.
    Quite simply the cultural reason was enough for me and should be for most. Being able to read Welsh books written in Welsh and English. Watch Welsh actors on the tele in Welsh and English. Support local talent in bilingual dramas. I can go into restaurants and pubs wit Welsh speaking friends. The Welsh speaking culture is very distinct. It’s rustic, it musical. A full understanding of Wales cannot be attained. Theres a reason why most history professors speak or learn Welsh- like the one on my course. You just cannot understand half of Wales without it. I’m learning another European language too. That language I can’t speak every day and enjoy that language like Welsh and receive that cultural benefits of it like I do with Welsh.

    What sort of Wales do we want? The language is one of our assets that differentiates us from England like nothing else. The cultural argument for the Welsh language has been won. It was won in the 60’s. This is enough to implement further laws protecting our rights and get more people learning.

  17. Visiting France, my Finnish wife demands we avoid anglos, who have their own `ladies´ circles, newspapers etc. Some of them have hardly any french, even after living there
    for years. Case is the same in Spain, Tuscany, just like in Wales. More sensitive english people also avoid them, though. At the doctors a few weeks ago, he said `Oh, you speak
    suomi well , english people rarely speak finnish´. I replied that I don’t, but also I was not english, but welsh. `Ah´, he burst out laughing, `you are of the colonies´.

  18. Anarchist and Welsh Nash

    John Jones- do keep up at the back there.

    “Survival” or ” Achub yr Iaith” are no longer the operative words when it comes to describing the Welsh Language context in Wales.

    The key words now are Developing and Promoting the language as every other nation in the world seeks to do with its own national language.

    See the difference? The first presupposes a defensive, backs to the wall mentality which is not all that appealing to people.

    The second presupposes a more vital and dynamic frame of mind which can prove attractive to people.

    It says to the world in a loud and clear manner that Welsh can be a winner for Wales- culturally, politically, socially, economically and spiritually.

    I agree with the premise outlined here by the author and a Developing mentality rather than a Saving mentality when it comes to Welsh should be able to insist on more monolingual Welsh contexts.

    I’m going to the launch of the new national party at Aberystwyth on Saturday.

    It will be interesting to see whether this party is willing to sign up for such an approach as part of a new Wales wide language strategy.

    Personally, I would like to see a three pronged approach within a One Wales mindset.

    Welsh first in the Welsh speaking areas,.Incremental Welsh in areas with between 20 and 50 per cent speakers, and Introductory Welsh in areas below 20 per cent speakers.

  19. Oops – esgusodwch fi!

    i am prone to purple prose:”The lordly jaw of this particular example of the master race rose imperiously . . .”

    Actually, body language (for what that is worth?) says a lot more that words – certainly in that case. Her jaw really did rise and jut, before the imperial utterance. I was wildly angry and was left speechless, by this display of rank arrogance. I did actually look at her midriff and contemplate jamming my fist in – but of course i didn’t.

    My mother, god bless her soul was uceless as a mother (it happens sometimese, one of those things, too old to worry about it now) told me to always learn the language of a country i go to. Often on holidays, this means learning the dienkuje, ‘spasibo’, bonjour, Gute Nacht, ‘yasu’, and gdje jest WC? etc. But i have lived here for years and now swim in two seas. (Have to admit that whilst ‘our’ one is smaller and less convenient, it is nicer, and jollier and has a mind-warping historical connectedness that blows my mind: just read with care Gruffydd ap Cynan’s Marwnad: ”your far wandering wrecks my mind”; Or the legend of cantref y gwaelod: perhaps a folk memory of the sea level rise following the end of the ice age.).

    i had to learn mother’s language: she couldn’t be bothered to teach us . . .But then i got to know my Austro-Hungarian oma/nain – wow! Horizons blown into hyperspace.

    English lady, English man: you need to learn a bit more about the world you find yourselves in: otherwise, i know, by experience you are narrow minded and ignorant – in both underclass and mc sense; don’t go around sticking your long bayonets in things you neither understand nor wish to understand.

    Are those specimens of the human race without curiosity, fully people . . .? (rhetorical question).
    I
    f you cannot hoick yourselves out of your self-imposed ignorance and arrogance, at least leave us to live as we choose, and most certainly don’t break our beautiful things.

  20. Well then. It’s certainly true that one-way bilingualism is a problem. But from a government perspective we certainly need to come up with better ammunition to progress to a plan for increasing the numbers of Welsh speakers and the use of Welsh in the public sphere. By this I don’t mean having bilingual signage. Mike parker is right, if you can’t work out Aberdyfi then you probable shouldn’t be driving at all.

    The conversation I’ve had with an AM about this shows that it’s not within their imagination to increase the use of Welsh as a first use language.

    Dim bai arnynt. Yn hytrach maent yn ffaelu gweld sut i gyrraedd cynydd yn niferoedd o bobl i ddefnyddio’r Gymraeg fel rhywbeth y byde llywodraeth yn gallu gwneud. Felly cawn cynlluniau fel miliwn o siaradwyr. Maen nhw’n golygu miliwn o bobol sydd wedi dysgu’r iaith- nid miliwn o bobol yn defnyddio’r iaith. Iddynt nhw mai ysgolion, canolfannau dysgu a. y. y. b. sydd yn gyfrifol am wneud y gwaith a dyletsrwydd y llywodraeth yw talu amdani. Oherwydd dŷn nhw ddim yn gallu talu am neu gyfi’r “pethau bychain”, diwylliannol sydd yn gwneud siarad Cymraeg yn bwysig.

    Having worked in arts’n’culture for ages this is where many of these initiatives trip up- applying practical solutions to a problem. I don’t think anyone wants to see a culture disappear through inaction but we have to describe our problem as one that has a solution if we are to win

  21. Many years ago I was a pit deputy and had to pass exams in the Mines & Quarries Act & Regs 1954. There was a requirement in there that colliery managers in Wales had to be able to speak Welsh. Somehow I don’t think that requirement was out of some patronising desire to humour Welsh colliers. More likely, it was that it was judged that a pit manager couldn’t do the job unless he knew what his employees were saying amongst themselves. With union activism on the increase, at the very least you’d need to know what the union reps you were negotiating with were saying amongst themselves. There are probably conclusions to be drawn from this about the value of minority languages.

  22. Mae gormod o’r Welsh
    Yn bad thing.
    Rhaid i language y Sais
    Gael ei ffling.
    Ond wi’n teimlo cweit dost,
    Gan fy mod, to my cost,
    Nawr yn utterly lost
    Mewn bi-ling
    😎

Leave a Reply