The census hides the true decline of the Welsh language – it needs to be changed

Children at school. Picture by Lucélia Ribeiro (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Abraham Somers

At every decade since 1891 the inhabitants of Wales have been asked if they can speak Welsh.  Ever since, the question has been used to judge the health of the Welsh Language.

During the 20th century, the census showed a steep drop from just under one million Welsh speakers to around 500,000 in the 90s. But the number now seems to have stabilised.

Of course, despite ‘only’ halving, the number has continued to fall as a percentage as the Welsh population has increased.

However, one gets the feeling that the Welsh Government views this stabilisation as something of a victory in itself. At least the language isn’t losing ground.

The trouble, however, is that this census question has become increasingly useless and misleading as a way of measuring the health of the Welsh language, and is only going to become more so.

The problem is that the Census only asks if you ‘can’ speak Welsh, and nothing more.  No question is asked about whether you actually use Welsh, whether it is your mother tongue or second language, or even how fluent you are.

One hundred, or even fifty years ago, this wasn’t a problem. Then, the vast majority of Welsh-speakers spoke it precisely because it was their mother tongue – the number of second language speakers was much lower back then.

Therefore the Census figures were very much an accurate indication of the numbers and percentages of people speaking it as their day to day language.

Not anymore.  Since then we’ve seen a big increase in the number of second language speakers due to the rise in Welsh language education, and the collapse of Welsh as a mother tongue in areas where Welsh used to be the community language.

As a result, the overall figure in the Census is now wildly optimistic, and gives a very misleading impression of the health of the Welsh language.

Figures from the School Census of 2013, below, allow us to compare the percentage of people able to speak Welsh with the percentages of primary school pupils speaking Welsh at home.

Note that the 2011 Census figures refer to actual settlements, and not necessarily the electoral wards, which may have the same name but cover a smaller/larger area.

Name of Town/Village % of People ‘able’ to speak Welsh in 2011 Census % of PS children speaking Welsh at home in 2013 School Census % points difference, +/-
Llanrug 82.4 90.1 +7.7
Llanuwchllyn 83.5 80.0 -3.5
Pwllelli 78.7 67.9 -10.8
Dolgellau 64.8 30.5 -34.3
Barmouth 41.5 4.2 -37.3

 

What these five examples from Gwynedd show is that the 2011 Cenus is very slow to reflect the linguistic change that happens when a Welsh speaking community becomes anglicised.

Only in those communities where the Welsh language was strongest, like Llanrug and Llanuwchllyn, did the 2011 census give us an accurate indication of the situation on the ground.

In areas where anglicisation is occurring, or has occurred, the 2011 Census figure does a very good job at hiding it.

The census makes us most over-optimistic where we can least afford to be – and that’s precisely due to the way the question is phrased.

What is the Alternative?

The Census Question needs to be changed, and it’s obvious what the alternative is, for that alternative is the one used in most other countries in the world.

In Estonia, in Ethiopia, in Peru, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the main language question asked is/was ‘What is your mother tongue?’/ ‘What was the main language spoken to you at home during your childhood?’

In fact, the United Kingdom already does it with regards to immigrant languages; at the 2011 Census, every resident of Wales was asked if their home language was anything other than English or Welsh.  That question needs to be modified so that Welsh and English are included.

There then needs to be a second question, asking everyone whose mother tongue is not Welsh, to state their level of ability in that language.

That way, we will have a much more accurate picture of who speaks Welsh and to what extent, and our efforts can be more effectively targeted in ensuring that the Welsh language is allowed to thrive in these communities.

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37 Comments

  1. What I find interesting is that the census shows one figure whist a survey by the Welsh goverments StatsWales, as of year ending 31st of March 2017, appears to me to show a figure over 50% higher in their one.
    I noted in a recent Radio 3 broadcast – Private Passions – the singer, writer, Gwyneth Glyn challenged the lower figure arguing that many Welsh speakers decline to call themselves fluent speakers feeling their Gymraeg isn’t good enough; having hang-ups thinking they don’t speak a “correct Welsh” so decline to answer that they do. I’ve come across this in conversation with a good number of people myself over the years. I’m looking forward to hearing other opinions.

    https://statswales.gov.wales/Catalogue/Welsh-Language/annualpopulationsurveyestimatesofpersonsaged3andoverwhosaytheycanspeakwelsh-by-localauthority-measure

    • I’m pretty sure there is a lot of under-reporting as well and maybe the two things balance themselves out a bit. When it comes to the census, there’s a bit of an honesty thing that goes on with the census and I had to ask myself how well can I speak Welsh and decided to put down no-abilities. I’ve made an effort since to try to change that, but both yes and no were both strictly innacurate at that time.

      As for first or second language – how do you decide on that one – in many cases it will be clear cut, but I’m sure there are many like myself, where the pre-school home language was a complete mix of the two, but by the time I was in Junior School it was completely English and I rarely heard much Welsh after that until I was much older.

      Judging ability is also an impossible one – most will judge their ability lower than it actually is, often considerably lower – if I was asked my ability in French I might say intermediate, but in Welsh I would still think of myself as quite a bit lower than that, yet my knowledge and abilities in Welsh far exceed those of French.

      I would stick to using probing, structured surveys outside of the census, for a truer picture.

    • The problem is that there is no accurate definition of what counts as a Welsh speaker, or as fluency, and arguably can never be. Arguably it’s a comparative term. People’s responses are completely subjective, and very easily coloured by context, the frame of mind they’re in, and the way they feel about it. You mention hangups, Kim – these are a big problem in many ways. Language is a social thing, and the way people feel about it is absolutely critical. The hangups of Welsh families in the Victorian era led them to believe that they’d help their kids by not passing the language on to them, which is how we ended up where we are with only a fifth of us ticking the Welsh speaker box. Although it’s impossible to measure completely accurately, it is at least an assessment of how people feel about themselves, and I would argue that is a useful barometer.

  2. In 1971 the census asked whether you read or wrote Welsh, as well as whether you spoke the language. The father of a friend of mine spent some time reminding people to whom he delivered the forms that they did read Welsh, when they used their hymnal in chapel/church.

  3. Byddwch yn ofalus am beth chi’n dymuno – mae’r Cyfrifiad yn amherffaith mewn sawl ffordd ac mae tystiolaeth o broblemau, ond cofia bod unrhyw neges am grebachiad yn gallu creu naratif niweidiol iawn – yn crebachu ffydd a hyder siaradwyr Cymraeg, a’i gefnogwyr, yn eu ddyfodol, ac yn fel ar fysedd gelynion y Gymraeg (maen nhw bendant yn bodoli!) sy’n honni bod dirywiad a marwolaeth yr iaith yn anorfod, ac felly bod gwastraff arian ac amser yw ei hoedi. Mae ‘na wirionedd yn y neges bod niferoedd o siaradwyr rhugl yn weddol sefydlog, a niferoedd dysgwyr gyda rhywfaint o Gymraeg yn tyfu.

  4. The assumption that there is a ‘mother tongue’ or single ‘main’ language at home is a false one. Now more than every the home is often a mixed environment linguistically. A significant proportion of native Welsh speakers now have only one parent who is fluent. Removing many of them from statistics by classing the other language, usually English, would be a big mistake.

    While the distinction between ‘can speak’ and ‘do speak’ is important and useful it would also be a mistake to lose sight of those who can use the language even if it’s not their first choice. They contribute to a level of support for the language just by being able to understand and respond.

  5. The other problem with the census is that only census forms distributed in Wales asked the question about speaking Welsh. In 2011 I was living in Northern Ireland and the form I had to fill in asked me about my ability to speak Irish (which I can’t) and not any other language; census forms in England didn’t ask about ability to speak any of the UK’s native languages (Welsh, Cornish, Manx, Irish or Scots Gaelic). There may be hundreds, if not thousands, of Welsh speakers living outside Wales’s borders. Didn’t our present poet laureate grow up speaking Welsh in London?

  6. dw i’n cytuno, achos dw i’n teimlo fel rhan o’r poblogaeth lle mae’r Cymraeg yn tyfu a mae gen i blant sy’n siarad yn rhugl hyd yn oed iaeth y gytre yw cymysg o Gymraeg a Saesneg. Sai’n gwybod beth yw’r iaith gyntaf i fi neu fy mhlant – mae’n amhosib i ateb. Y problem pwysicaf yw ddelio gyda’r hyderus i ddefnyddio’r iaeth ac mae’n bwysig I ddeall y peth yn well ond y census yw rhywbeth gwahanol a pholiticaidd iawn ond yw e.

  7. Well, one stick used to beat Welsh with is that even people who speak it can’t write it etc, and that is used to underrepresent Welsh. But actually, many English speakers in the UK can;t really ‘write’ English either, but they’re never asked the question about confidence and writing skills. I’ve seen people with better Welsh than the English of people who claim to be totally comfortable in English putting themselves down as not being able to write it fluently etc.
    While I accept totally the case for sorting out our language policy and safeguarding Welsh, the questions are always skewed in favour of a dominant English language about which no questions are asked (i.e. how fluent, how well can you write it etc). I learned Welsh to a reasonable level, but my Welsh is better than the English of my English neighbours who would never dream of questioning their own levels of English because they’re never asked or challenged on it.

    • True, Cofi Dre, no one using a strongly Geordie accent infused with local dialect would ponder whether they speak English or not on a census. Same for a Glaswegian or my own Thames estaury accent which people in other parts of Britain wouldn’t see as standard BBC and difficult to follow.

  8. Capitalist and Welshnash

    Aelod Seneddol Alun Davies’ white paper recently stated the need for more frequent and localised assessments of Welsh speakers and their statistics as part of its 1 million speakers plan.

    Whilst I sincerely support this recommendation, no government is going to be the wind behind the sails needed to increase the Welsh Language. It’s up to Welsh speakers themselves to mobilize more efficiently and to organise in to structures that get the job done without outside help if Welsh Labours ambitious plan turns out to be a ‘sweep it under the rug’ ploy to allay responsibility in the same way Blair pushed tens of thousands into university who had no reason being there for the sake of improving figures.

    • OK. I’d argue Welsh speakers are already ‘mobilised’ – what d’you want us all to do exactly, that we’re not already doing? We all only have so much free time. This sounds like an argument against publicly funded involvement. Obviously that’s not enough on its own, but it is absolutely the job of government to arrange provision of facilities and to coordinate promotion and marketing of the language. Who else is going to be able to fund/resource that?

      • Capitalist and Welshnash

        Gai Toms sang a song that went something similar to this: ‘Pam ges i ngeni mewn gwlad mor ddi-asgwrn cefn?!’

  9. The opening sentence is wrong in fact. Although a question on ability to speak Welsh has been asked since 1891 the question wasn’t “can you speak Welsh?” until the 2001 census. Prior to that the question was “Do you speak Welsh”. The change in question was responsible some thought to the apparent increase in the percentage and number who said that they could speak Welsh in the 2001 census.

    You can see the analysis of various ways of finding the numbers of Welsh speakers, and the varying result, here:-
    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20040722055520/http:/www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_compendia/fow/WelshLanguage.pdf

    I did ask the All Wales survey about the apparent decline in the percentage of Welsh speakers in their survey between 2013 and 2017. They said;

    “Hi John,

    For the 2012-13 National Survey we asked respondents whether they spoke Welsh a simple yes/no question, exactly as it was asked in the Census, however we found that we had a higher percentage of adults reporting to be able to speak Welsh than the Census. Upon some investigation we found that interviewers said that respondents didn’t answer this question with a simple yes/no, and tended to explain their ability, no confidence /weren’t completely fluent etc., which some interviewers were subsequently coding as ‘yes’ to be able to route them through to additional questions about their Welsh language ability.

    Over time we have found that the number of people with ‘some’ ability in Welsh has increased, and so to avoid artificially inflating the numbers of Welsh speakers, and to ensure consistency between the interviewers, we asked that interviewers code people as yes/no, but that if they spontaneously showed that they were struggling with how to answer the question as they did have some ability etc., then the interviewers should use a different code ‘no, but have some ability in Welsh’. This was introduced part-way through 2013-14 survey year (August 2013), and so to show you the time series for this question, please see the table below:

    Can you speak Welsh?…Yes

    2012-13…..24%
    2013-14 Pre August….22%

    2013-14 Post August….19%
    2014-15….20%
    2016-17….20%

    You are correct to point out that this drop can be explained by the change in the answer options for this question.”

    • If the census numbers are going to be used for making future funding and planning decisions then how well the language is spoken may not be that relevant – anyone learning Welsh and maybe classing themselves as a non speaker is still very likely to be a viewer of S4C or listener of Radio Cymru, likely to want services in Welsh and likely to be somone who needs to visit libraries to take out Welsh books to read etc. In terms of provision of services and allocation of funds then the level of ability is useful in some instances for targetting some resources, but irrelevant in others.

  10. Tame Frontiersman

    Yes, the self reporting of capabilities and reporting of children by parents in the census is open to considerable interpretation.

    A more serious criticism of relying on census data is that censuses are once every 10 years. This is too long to wait to evaluate the success or otherwise of interventions and action plans and then spread the good-practice

  11. That parents are often misled about their child’s Welsh language ability is suggested by the census returns for the LAs with low percentages of adult Welsh speakers. In La’s with a moderate percentage of Welsh speakers, like Conwy, Denbighshire or Pembrokeshire, parent’s seem to have a fair appreciation of what it means to “be able to speak Welsh”. The number of children reported by the household reference person as “able to speak Welsh” is very close to the number of children in Welsh medium and bilingual schools. In Monmouthshire, Newport and Blaenau Gwent for instance. parents reported far more children as able to speak Welsh than were actually in WM schools.

    This phenomenon also repeated in the 2004-2006 Welsh language use survey:-

    “After being told who in the household, in the respondent’s opinion, could speak
    Welsh, those people were then questioned further, continuing with the interview in
    the case of the respondent in 2004 and 2005 but by using a questionnaire to be
    returned by post with the others (and the respondent in 2006). The further
    questioning revealed that not everyone agreed with the opinion of the household
    respondent about their ability in Welsh. In processing the 2005 and 2006 data, Ipsos
    MORI found a mistake made in 2004. This was responsible for the large difference
    seen for children aged 3 to 15 years, but also young people aged 16 to 29 years.”

  12. It would be helpful if views on the census were given to consultations by the ONS. The results of one about language questions for 2021 were published in May last year: https://www.ons.gov.uk/file?uri=/census/censustransformationprogramme/consultations/the2021censusinitialviewoncontentforenglandandwales/topicreport11language.pdf

    I disagree with the suggestion that there would be a benefit in asking about whether Welsh is the home language, for the same reasons as those given above by Neil Shadrach and Cymreigiwr. In addition, depending on the precise wording adopted, it could put Welsh on the same footing as immigrant languages rather than treat it, as required by law these days, on the same basis as English.

    On balance, and given that the 2021 is very likely the last which will ever be held, there is every reason to seek continuity with the past rather than tinker. The 2011 Census results, when considered alongside other data, such as the Schools Census and the National Survey results, are susceptible to intelligent interpretation.

    Remember too:
    ‘Weighing the pig doesn’t make it fatter’.

  13. A Needed article….but this news site, needs more positive stories and not get to tied up in a 100% negative story cycle

    THERE ARE PROBABLY 125,000 – 150K WELSH SPEAKERS IN ENGLAND ALONE…maybe upto 200k according some estimates

    • Wow! With the StatsWales figures of 855,000 Welsh speaker numbers and yours of between 125k to maybe 200k the million by 2050 number has been achieved already…Seriously though I believe it can be reached if dark forces dont stand in the way to denigrate Y Hen Iaith..

    • But that highlights a problem, we simply just don’t know how many Welsh speakers there are in England or elsewhere.

  14. The One Million figure is attainable by changing the census wording to “Do you speak SOME Welsh.” The real question that the country faces is…has the Welsh language got a future as a preferred language for a substantial number of people.
    In Welsh schools at the moment 8.3% of pupils “speak Welsh fluently at home.” That is it; the future. You can speculate about the number of Welsh “able” who are in England but logic (and research by Hywel Jones) suggests that those English domiciled Welsh speakers are not predominantly fluent Welsh speakers.

    Year after year the BBC runs its St David’s day poll. Every one that I have ever looked at had more than 62% who said that they spoke Welsh. The highest was 68%. The “One million” figure is clearly easily attainable but while distracted by that battle the war is being lost by faulty analysis of the real problem…the degradation of the language and the foolish insistence on putting fluent Welsh speakers into public sector jobs in the least Welsh speaking areas of Wales.
    For two years now the target for recruitment of Welsh medium trained teachers has been missed. That is only part of the story; of those Welsh medium teachers who have been recruited over the last 5 years, 37% have an initial degree in Welsh. Only 25% have a degree in a STEM subject. The Welsh medium trained teachers whose specialism is Welsh will easily move over to English medium schools and teach Welsh second language…a waste of time and talent, whilst WM secondary schools will be forced to recruit non Welsh speakers to teach Chemistry, Physics and Maths.

    The planning needed to be done 40 years ago and the Welsh language acts have acted against the best interests of the language. The best has been the enemy of the good.

    • Capitalist and Welshnash

      Quite.

      Im not interested, as it were, in the bureaucratic jargon, im interested in results.

      Can i walk into the popty and and ask for bara and talk about the tywydd without the illiterate countergirl looking at ME like im Im the illiterate one? If I cant do that and take it for granted, it doesnt matter how many people can say ‘iachyd da’ and tick the I speak Welsh box.

      Statistics are useless, we need capitalism in Welsh.

    • Are you suggesting that those of us who speak Welsh in the more anglicised areas of Wales should be denied access to services in Welsh? It certainly would seem so. As a Welsh speaker living in Cardiff, I expect to be able to receive services from my local council and housing association, and in fact I demand that.

      I suspect that there is more to the story when it comes to teacher recruitment, given that the job is relatively poorly paid in regard to the responsibilities and workloads imposed on teachers, added to the fact that it’s an increasingly unpopular job, with a truly massive drop out rate, with very few teachers lasting more than five years in the job.

      The real issues are not actually education, though that is important, but in the less Welsh speaking areas there are hundreds, if not thousands who could have fulfilled the public sector requirements for Welsh speakers, had those requirements been a statutory requirement soon after 1993. Indeed, the one thing that perhaps any politicians with a real desire to see Welsh thrive would be to make it the administration language of government, both national and local, through a policy of gradual introduction over a period of maybe a generation. The presence of first language Welsh speakers in the more anglicised areas of Wales is not just to do with the availability of jobs, but with lifestyle options too. Quite simply Cardiff has more life and offers far more to younger people than much of the rural north and west, and besides, Cardiff has a vibrant Welsh speaking community largely made up of those age groups.

      When it comes down to it the only solution to the issue of a future for Welsh as a living, community language is a political one, but so far none of our politicians has been anything like bold enough to tackle the underlying issues as to why it is in such decline, and whilst politicians of all colours support life support measures such as Welsh medium education, and coming out with worthy, but ultimately worthless statements that all school students will be bilingual in Welsh and English by age 16 it’s not actually making any difference.

      It’s probably true that much of the legislation has done little to really improve the situation of the language, for one thing, it has been far too complex, and as a result has needed a whole level of bureaucracy to oversee it. Quite simply language legislation as far as Welsh is concerned, should simply be that in Wales everything, as a general rule, has to be bilingual. It could further designate some areas as Welsh priority, where there is still a commitment to providing bilingual services, but where Welsh is predominant with things like road signs, shop signage etc being in Welsh only. The full inclusion of the private sector in language legislation is crucial, and whilst the major companies may not like it, even though they can easily afford it, they are hardly going to up sticks and move after having made such huge investments, and would thus be a very easy target. Smaller companies might find it difficult to finance, but that can be covered by a system of grant funding. Having said that, it wouldn’t perhaps be so bad if the language legislation had actually been implemented and enforced.

      When it comes to fluency, how is that decided? It’s such a variable concept. For most everyday interactions all that is required is to be conversationally fluent, and this is a level that would quite likely be sufficient for working in say, a supermarket in Wales, no matter where it was located. This might mean that someone’s Welsh language skills didn’t develop in a more anglicised area, but in a more Welsh speaking area those same skills would act as a way in to a job, and an opportunity to improve language skills pretty much effortlessly.

      • Capitalist and Welshnash

        I never suggested that.

        Anytime you buy bread, that’s capitalism.

        I simply want business in Welsh, and a pro-entrepreneurial attitude which rewards people with a can do attitude who give people jobs. In Welsh.

        • Buying bread is not in of itself capitalist, which is not to say that capitalists don’t make bread, (they do, but it’s not generally very wholesome). I make my own bread, mainly so that I know exactly what goes into it.

          Apart from that, my comment was actually directed at John Jones’ comment, so sorry, this time you weren’t the subject of my criticism.

  15. Daniels y Gwair

    Take a look at linguistics and “language death.” The concept of a “prestige language” is very important. One significant step forward would be for the Senedd to use Cymraeg exclusively in its day to day business. That really would set the tone for our linguistic future!

  16. Ah Mr Jones, either you are holding back or you have become slightly more sympathetic to the cause of the Welsh language?!
    A couple of discrepancies in your analysis though. There are many, many fluent Welsh speakers who have gone through WM education and are actually more fluent in Welsh than English- I’ve met many. It’s hard to measure but I think that taking the number of Welsh at home can be a sticky one. I would bet a large proportion of children from English households, i WME in Gwynedd and Y Fro would almost certainly be fluent- of course these wouldn’t be included if we just went by Welsh at home have The 2016/2017 survey, and several other surveys have put the proportion of Welsh speakers skewed to younger people. With 20% of school children in WEM, there should be a constant tick over.
    You are correct to point out the trouble of recruitment in WME, though if you were to have a quick golwg at the below articles, recruitment and retention is a nationwide issue. Nonetheless it is a concern

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2017/09/12/half-teaching-posts-filled-unqualified-teachers-national-audit/
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41225743
    https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/government-cannot-show-it-doing-enough-keep-teachers-classroom-warns

    To be honest, as Capitalist and WelshNat said, statistics are just a number (and are quite boring IMO). Unfortunately its no surprise that they rule the front pages and are part of the target based world we live in where anything and everything is designated a nominal value.

    Now is not the time to rest because the language has ‘stabilised’. The efforts need to be ramped up a gear.

  17. My opinion has been constant for as long as I can remember. I’m hardly to blame for its mis-representation. However, having grown up in Gwynedd, having gone through primary school and secondary school here and having gone to a very Welsh university and, I would add, putting 4 children through WM schools I think that my opinions are at least worth considering…whether you like them or not.

    I disagree that the “right” of first language Welsh speakers should be provided for in all instances in all parts of Wales in either the public or private sector. If nothing else look at it from a pragmatic position; how many fluent Welsh speakers are there with the educational attainment to fulfill ALL job descriptions in the public sector?

    What we have done in Wales is provide countless jobs to cater for Sibrydionmawr wherever he may wander. Yes, I know how many Welsh speakers there are in Cardiff but does he expect the same service in Blaenau Gwent? Monmouth? Newport?
    Now the Welsh employment world is the oyster for Fluent Welsh speakers…but is it wise to spread them so thinly? There are just 5,400 GCSE welsh first language candidates each year. Do you know that Gwynedd sends a questionnaire to employers every year asking what skills barriers there are to recruitment of employees? Top of the list EVERY year? Shortage of Welsh speakers. Gwynedd!

    My youngest child’s Welsh teacher went long term sick from a Gwynedd school…in the interim they employed a NON WELSH SPEAKER on supply. In Gwynedd! Yes, I did ask how this could be…the Head succinctly answered “Find me a first language Welsh teacher and I’ll take them on”.

    Many of you commenting here are obsessed with idealised visions of a Wales that won’t ever exist. The same visionaries have ruined any chance of a sensible survival plan for Welsh for decades.

    • Okay, you’ve had your rant, and maybe exposed yourself as a Gwynedd nationalist! Perhaps you’d also rather categorise anyone from outside Y Fro as just ‘Welsh’? Whilst it may be idealised, I still think we should be aiming for the ideal of a Wales where speakers of Welsh are respected wherever they are in Wales, no matter whether it’s Blaenau Ffestiniong or Blaenau Gwent.

      You make great mention of ‘first language Welsh speakers’ but I only spoke about those fluent in Welsh, as I don’t distinguish between whether someone is a first or second language speaker. That they can do the job at the grade they are working at is what interests me.

      You also seem to imply that I would like to see ‘Welsh in all areas’ overnight, and though this would be wonderful, I know that it would be an impossible ask, and it really a policy that should be introduced over an extended period, but one where there is a roadmap and targets set.

      The ‘brain drain’ of Welsh speakers from areas like Gwynedd has been known about for quite a long time, and perhaps reflects fundamental problems in retaining young Welsh speakers in the area for a whole host of reasons, and not just related to language issues, though they are a consideration I’m sure. Quite simply, Cardiff and the South East of Wales offers much more in terms of lifestyle options than Gwynedd. As Gwynedd becomes ever more anglicised, it makes little difference where one lives, and indeed, it’s far less painful to live in an anglicised Cardiff that has an ever increasing number of Welsh speakers than to live in a Gwynedd where one is constantly aware that it’s one’s country that is leaving.

      As far as teachers are concerned, as I pointed out, the profession suffers from huge numbers leaving every year, often due to unrealistic expectations and sheer workload and the pressures associated with that. Plus, the profession now has to compete with the likes of Welsh government and local authorities who need Welsh speakers. The problems of recruitment of Welsh speaking staff is an all Wales problem. In the not so distant past Cardiff County Council lost it’s entire translation staff, as they’d been enticed away to the Welsh Assembly, and the issues that the public sector has in the more rural areas are symptomatic of the fundamental issue that has been staring us in the face for a few generations, namely that the status and promotion of Welsh hasn’t been given the political priority it needs and that basically there has been no serious attempt at language planning at all.

      I’m from Ceredigion, and I’m old enough to have started school where there were a mere two children that could speak English. Every other child was monoglot Welsh, from Welsh speaking families. I was one of those English speaking children, and though I was fully bilingual, it was in French and English rather than Welsh and English. But children cope, and I was soon very much part of the class. It’s amazing how children learn so much through simple play from peers. Today, it pains me when I go back to that area and experience how anglicised it has become. It’s easier and far less painful to live in Cardiff.

      You may be convinced that only in Gwynedd should Welsh speakers have their linguistic rights respected, but I suggest that you are very much in a minority. Most of us would strongly disagree with you.

      • Capitalist and Welshnash

        That’s like the 3rd time youve let off a page long rant. Seriously, there must be other issues you are dealing with, are you okay?

        • I’m fine, thanks for asking. I’m merely doing what everyone else here is doing, though perhaps with a little more verbiage. I’m unsure what you mean by ‘other issues’ but will interpret it benignly, and just hope you are not insinuating that there anything wrong with my mental state. I do have some other things I’m doing, but none of them have any relevance here.

  18. Carmarthenshire has more Welsh speakers than Gwynedd, but why does no-one seem to care that we are having our linguistic rights eroded just as quickly as our fellow Cymry in Meirion and Arfon? I know I’m looking through the rose-tinted specs of, oh, 10 to 15 years ago, but it really is noticeable how quickly the number of 18-60 year olds who can use Welsh as a day-to-day language has decreased in this county.
    What I’m talking about, basically, is if I’m having a business transaction (of whatever sort) with someone in my home county, the chance of my being able to do so in Welsh is far less than it was at the turn of the century. I really don’t care, to be honest, how many children come out of Category B schools with their Level 4 in Cymraeg Ail Iaith. The vast majority of those will never hold a proper Welsh conversation in their working lives.
    So, yes, if I had the gumption I would move to Cardiff, live in my little Welsh bubble, and feel nostalgia for the Carmarthenshire of my childhood in the 1970s. Less painful than living in a county overwhelmed by newcomers who make absolutely no attempt to learn the indigenous iaith.
    A million people who can say ‘bore da’ and ‘diolch’ will be useless to me as I age. What I need is to able to live in Welsh. Is that really asking too much?

  19. To understand the erosion of the world that Emlyn wants you need to look at school figures. Only in Gwynedd is there a majority of school children who speak Welsh fluently at home. That isn’t the same as a majority who speak some Welsh at home (11-12%) for Wales as against 8.3% who are fluent Welsh at home.
    I maintain that even first language English speakers who go through WM schools will not use Welsh either after school in childhood or by choice in adulthood. Think about it. Welsh speakers frequently demand their right to “live my life in Welsh”. Because that is their home language and language that they feel comfortable using. Every one of them can speak English but don’t want to.
    Why would anyone think that someone whose first language is English is going to use Welsh by choice, whether they attain fluency or not?

    11% of people in Wales are fluent in Wales and 11% speak Welsh every day. 4% of people in Wales can speak a fair amount of Welsh.

    It would be simplistic to just say that it is the fluent who speak Welsh daily but it is tempting. That 4% who speak a “fair amount” would possibly struggle to argue over their council tax banding in Welsh and so Welsh isn’t the language they use. They may use some social Welsh in some circumstances but not all. The consumers of Welsh services are the Welsh fluent who “feel most comfortable” speaking Welsh.

    “The majority of Welsh speakers feel most comfortable using English, but the majority
    of fluent Welsh speakers feel most comfortable using Welsh or equally comfortable
    using both languages.
     One in five Welsh speakers feel most comfortable using Welsh. This figure increases to
    just over two in five amongst fluent Welsh speakers.
     Just over a quarter of Welsh speakers feel equally comfortable using both languages.
     Older Welsh speakers are more likely than younger ones to feel more comfortable using
    Welsh.
     The vast majority of Welsh speakers who feel most comfortable using Welsh have learnt
    Welsh at home as a child.”

    Those older Welsh speakers who need Welsh services are disappearing. Wales had its chance to hold Welsh speakers in the Fro Cymraeg but went for the rapid expansion of language rights throughout Wales…result; migration and dilution to the point where no one outside central Anglesey and Dwyfor-Meirionydd lives in a Welsh community and speaks Welsh all day everyday.

    It’s no good now lambasting me for pointing out the obvious. You, Sibrydionmawr, repeated exactly what I said earlier right up to the point where you denied the logic of the situation that you described. It is no argument to say that teacher numbers are going down across the board…it is no balm to the critical wound; educated Welsh speakers can get a job in the Welsh Assembly or local authority anywhere in the South or East of Wales. They will use some Welsh with some of their colleagues and some of their friends outside work but often they will marry a non Welsh speaker and have a family where English is the home language. Those kids will be Welsh speakers but will join the statistics of those more comfortable using English.

  20. I have to disagree on some of your points based on personal experience rather than statistics. Of the families I know with one Welsh speaking parent, here in Cardiff, most if not all of them have sent their children to WME, and the kids speak it fluently.
    Just because your vocab is higher in another language that doesn’t reflect the utility of Welsh. From, my experience when two Welsh speaking adults have a conversation, they will almost always, unless there the conversation has a non Welsh speaker, use Welsh as the medium. Who cares if they don’t know what ‘extemporaneous’ is in Welsh? Like one of the commentator above- I care about people using. I’ve hear so many people say that they hear more Welsh on the streets in Cardiff and Swansea than when they were growing up. I think we have three new WM primaries planned in Cardiff
    Secondly it WAS the right decision to legislate back in the 60’s. Look at the erosion in the Galltacht. Inwards migration would have happened. Even if the Fro has been protected we’d be sitting here listening to people about outmigration of young people due to jobs and how even more introspective that ‘strange region where Welsh is given priority is’. There would just be no pleasing the (small) anti-Welsh lobby! I want Welsh to be protected and used over the whole of Cymru, not just the Fro. I don’t want to split the country down linguistic lines, even if our media wishes to with its maligned attempt to crush anything non-white and anglo saxon.

    You seem to to have a keen eye for detail Mr Jones, but I would argue that it just doesn’t capture the ‘face’ of the language. You could have used it to learn Welsh to fluency in a couple of your many years in Gwynedd rather than grumbly writing letters to our Welsh media outlets trying to deride the language. I am curious though- why have you never learnt it?

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