The media’s attacks on the Welsh language are a product of insecurity and intolerance

Picture by: Jon S (CC BY 2.0)


Huw Williams

This article was originally tweeted here.

A part of me thinks, why bother – it’s gone. But as it may be just the beginning, it seems worth reiterating some points about the Times editorial.

This was another classic example of historical English-British prejudice and fallacy dressed up in rational liberal discourse.

Telling a people to restrict the teaching of their language is to tell them their culture is inferior, not worthy of the effort.

This is bigotry for which the most adequate word we have is racism. To suggest language reproduction is simply a ‘natural’ process is ignorant.

The alleged naturalness reflects a social Darwinism and Imperialist attitude to language.

According to this view, language death supposedly occurs as the result of the survival of the fittest – not because of actual, historic, barbaric ideologies, and state measures to match.

To suggest that teaching Welsh stands in the way of prioritizing other languages is also misguided: a notional zero-sum game where learning bilingually steals from other subjects.

In fact learning bilingually facilitates learning other languages and opens you up more readily to other worlds & cultures, as you already inhabit two.

It is a state of being where you have an actual choice of which language to use, not just the choice of learning another language later in life.

And it’s worth remembering this sermon on languages comes from an English culture that is so often proudly monoglot – neglecting modern languages in schools, with little understanding of how language creates our worlds, and little desire to know others.

The Times editorial

As recent years have proven this is a culture still in its “long retreat”, lost in this new world.

I feel sorry for them, but others should not bear the brunt of their loss. The insecurity has spawned Brexit, intolerance & rage.

And we can’t be naïve; it is an attack on all of us in Wales regardless of our relationship with the language.

They don’t distinguish, rather they wish to undermine us and put us in our place – scolding the Welsh is one of their last attempts at showing a moral authority they are losing by the day.

This is *their* existential crisis, not ours. We have always recreated ourselves and we can do it again.

As so many have said, we can’t let them lecture us on this, and disrupt our discussion. This is our cause, our culture.

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  1. Huw Jenkins

    In Canada this wouldn’t be an issue. French, is aggressively supported not only in Quebec but across the country in an effort to establish a bilingual population coast to coast. Furthermore First Nation and Inuit languages have support regionally.

  2. Pingback: Cadw’r Momentwm - Wedi hir ymaros cafodd strategaeth Llywodraeth Cymru er mwyn gwireddu’r weledigaeth o gyrraedd miliwn o siaradwyr Cymraeg ei lawnsio’r wythnos hon.  Swyddle

  3. amazing isn’t it, they have no issue with Geography and History being compulsory but only Welsh should be voluntary…… I wonder why?

  4. Many thanks — a realistic yet comforting article, and further evidence that has moved to the forefront of Welsh national journalism. Thank you again, and keep up the good work.

  5. Richard Owen

    Gwych iawn, Huw.

  6. Trailorboy

    Maybe we should take all of these comments, editorials and negative sentiments as a measure lof our success – we are creating waves. Every success will lead to yet more anger and noise, but that noise may be better than silence?

    The BBC is currently blanking out Welsh politicians nationally- no clips of Carwyn in Brussels on the main news, yet plenty of clips of of Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon. Not acknowledge ing we exists is the worst they can do to us and I think the BBC knows that.

  7. I love it when a pompous old rag like the Times starts pontificating about the Welsh and their quaint little language in such a patronising way. The bit that really makes me chuckle, because it shows how ill informed their journalists are, is the reference to “persuading English speaking monoglots to devote their energies to learning Welsh rather than other languages……”. A recent British Council report highlighted the near total absence of interest in learning ANY language among monoglot Anglo Brits especially in Wales. Pupils in schools drift away from learning languages at an early stage and the signs are that there is little or no attempt at parental influence to encourage taking courses in major European languages or even Mandarin which is quite the “coming” language in certain circles. The grim reality is that parental laziness is inherited by their offspring when it comes to acquiring a second language, and the same old fudge trotted out about the Welsh language is just lazy excuse-making by people who are fundamentally hostile.

  8. osgarpenmaen

    I’ve posted this following another article but I think it’s worth posting here. Please bide with me if you’ve seen it before.

    I have two grandchildren aged 3 and 5 who live in Luxembourg. Luxembourg is a small country of less than 600,000 population. It has 3 official languages, Luxembourgish, French and German. My grandchildren go to the Luxembourgish school in their village. The only language spoken is Luxembourgish. Their parents do not speak Luxembourgish. Their mother speaks Welsh with them; their father speaks English with them, Their grandmother speaks French with them. They have no problem changing from one language to the other. At their school there are parents of numerous nationalities. One set of parents are French and Russian, another set are Hungarian. The children have a common language of Luxembourgish. Nobody questions it, they accept it as part of living in Luxembourg. They respect its culture and traditions. Later in their school life they will be taught through the German Language; later still in the French language. Children have no problem adapting. Why are we in Wales so narrow minded? My children had their primary education through Welsh in a small village. I always spoke Welsh to them, their mother spoke French to them. They spoke English with some of the neighbours. It was never a problem to them.
    Why does this friction exist in Wales? Our greatest heritage is the living language and the culture that surrounds it not the castles and the country houses and other structures that suck up money.
    All those that oppose Welsh medium schools should take their blinkers off their eyes and the chips off their shoulders and give their children the opportunity to have a wider vision. Bilingualism has many benefits. One that has been proven is that people who have been exposed to 2 languages when very young have a better chance of staving off dementia. Learning a third language also becomes easier. I just think of the greater opportunities available to my grandchildren now that they are multilingual. The internet provides opportunities for people to work from their base in Wales in different languages.

  9. Pingback: Brexit, linguaphobia and the politics of multilingualism – Translating Cultures

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