Why arguing logically with anti-Welsh language trolls is probably pointless

Troll. Picture by: Eirik Solheim (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 

Ifan Morgan Jones

Any Welsh speaker who has been on social media over the past few days will have probably been aware of the tide of vitriol towards the Welsh language.

It was all set off by the Welsh Government’s launch of a strategy to create 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.

The announcement clearly made a lot of people, from newspaper editorial writers, to random Twitter trolls, very unhappy indeed.

Many people’s first instinct was to engage in debate with these people and try to win them over with logical reasons why teaching kids the Welsh language is a good thing.

I love a good logical argument, and have taken the trouble of cataloging pretty much every objection to the Welsh language and replying to them.

And I’ve been told off for doing so. Jason Morgan, among others, has advised me that the best thing to do is tell them to ‘fuck off’.

I wouldn’t use such language personally, but sadly, they’re probably right that it’s futile.

Perhaps our need to argue logically and retain the moral high ground in these arguments is a sign of our post-colonial mindset.

We feel the need to prove to ourselves and others that we’re not barbarous and stupid – in fact we’re more moral and just as clever as them – and therefore deserve to exist.

But the sad reality is that logical argument doesn’t work against people who hate the Welsh language because ultimately the sentiment has nothing to do with the Welsh language.

It’s about nationalism.

Alignment

I try to avoid getting too ‘academic’ on this website, but bear with me.

Nationalist sentiment is the feeling aroused when people are either satisfied that the nation-state and its culture are in alignment, or dissatisfied that it’s not.

So, if you feel that your nation-state and the culture within it – your culture – are ‘at one’, so to speak, you’re satisfied.

But if you feel that there is an ‘alien’ element within your nation-state, the culture of your nation-state has changed to one you don’t recognise, or even that your nation-state has expanded to include alien cultures, your nationalist sentiment is aroused.

We saw this with Brexit. It ultimately happened because:

  • People felt that the culture of their own nation-state was becoming alien to them, because of immigration.
  • People felt that their nation-state was being replaced by another nation-state (the EU) which didn’t align with their own, British culture.

Hate towards the Welsh language is driven by the same factors. It reminds British nationalists that the nation state and its culture aren’t in alignment.

That the British nation-state is actually a complex thing with many different cultures within it.

The natural reaction to the feeling of displeasure aroused when one’s nation-state and culture aren’t in alignment is to attempt to bring them into alignment.

However, people are very bad at ‘seeing’ their own nationalism. British nationalists never call themselves nationalists.

They can’t explain why the Welsh language bothers them. It just does! Therefore, they try to concoct ‘rational’ arguments against the language as cover.

So ultimately, engaging in ‘logical’ arguments about Welsh language probably won’t do much good as the root cause behind the objections has nothing to do with them – it’s British nationalism.

It would be great if we could remove the language from its national context and weight up its pros and cons from a purely objective standpoint. But ultimately, we can’t.

So, is arguing logically completely pointless? Well, yes and no.

You’ll probably never convince the die-hard British nationalist that the Welsh language is a good thing.

But there are a lot of people in Wales whose identity is in flux, who see themselves as Welsh and British.

They’re not the people who get into arguments. But they do eavesdrop on these arguments.

And perhaps arguing logically and politely can shift the scales of opinion one way or another.

I’ll keep tellking myself that!

Articles via Email

Get instant updates to your inbox

29 Comments

  1. Having admitted that rational arguments are wasted on BritNat bigots you still try to justify this approach with your imaginary ‘eavesdroppers’. Believe me, ‘Fuck off!’ remains the best response.

    First, because it’s short and sweet, and avoids the time, trouble and angst of trying to win over the unwinnable over. Second, it might work just as well with uncommitted ‘eavesdroppers’, especially those looking for something more than left-liberal ‘Why don’t you like us?’ hand-wringing.

  2. Well observed and said

  3. Difficult to disagree. I’ve had hundreds of pointless conversations with these people. Yesterday I engaged with a GP who thought that the language was a nuisance and it would all be better if I were spoke the same language, then said we should teach more French and German. She then said she could speak German, but answered me in English. That’s right, a highly educated GP. This I think proves Ifan’s point. Logical argument doesn’t work. If it did I’d expect it to work with a medical doctor, but it didn’t because her arguments were a cover for her own nationalism.

    Oh and I by the way Ifan, those arguments weren’t difficult, no need to ‘bear with you’. In fact I’d like to see more of this kind of thing personally.

  4. There was also that article in the Guardian in the last couple of weeks, which probably set the scene for argument against the Welsh Government’s launch of a strategy to create 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.
    From the reaction of one person, who apologised on Twitter after reading all the positive comments to his negative, I think there are some people in England who really believe that Cymraeg is dead and an academic exercise, so….logical, polite arguments can have an effect. polite

  5. What happened to my comment?

    • The comments engine seems to think all your submissions are spam. I have to manually approve them, so it takes time for them to appear.

      Apologies for this, I’m looking into a fix.

  6. I struggle to disagree with most of what you said, but (and this is a big but) yesterday you wrote a very inaccurate and misleading (all be it emotive) piece on this site where you said that The Times wanted the Welsh language ‘dead.’

    Were your actions yesterday not ‘toll’ like in any way?

    This is a genuine question for debate, rather than a poke in the eye btw.

    • Ifan Morgan Jones

      Hi Gareth. Thanks for the message. Sorry if my argument in yesterday’s article wasn’t clear. As I said in the article, all languages are dependent on state support in order to survive. (Indeed, the idea of set languages rather than a range of dialects is largely one that came into existence with the modern nation state). By arguing that we should adopt a laissez-faire approach to the Welsh language rather than allowing the state to intervene, the Times was in effect arguing that the Welsh language should be allowed to die. It’s the same argument they’ve been making for 150-odd years and although they no longer make their desire that the Welsh language die explicit, the logical conclusion to their argument is the same. Again, I’m sorry if the argument wasn’t entirely clear. But I wasn’t trolling – you can disagree with it, it was an argument sincerely made.

  7. Bearing in mind, that often a lot of noise is often created from a small number of people, many of whom love to hook someone into trying to debate with them and probably laughing their way off their chairs, while they read the responses.

    The key must be in creating the volume of positive noises about the things that matter, really positive noises where and whenever and not focus on the responses to the trolls. Don’t just counter their nonsense or try to disprove their assertions, but post something completely different to whatever they happen to post and by ignoring them make it clear that what they are saying is totally irrelavent to the discussion and negative nonsense.

  8. My family moved to wales during the 80’s I was just at the age to start school, hence I have never experienced the English education system. Wales in the 80’s was quite different, in a primary school of around 80 children I and my older sister were the only English ones. It wasn’t until later life that I discovered, teachers referring to a child as Saes and Bloody Saes was a disgraceful way to refer to a human being let alone a vulnerable child. This, it became clear was just the tip of the iceberg on wales petty hatred of the English.

    Here are some minor examples I’ve experienced first hand:

    We had a 30 speed sign next to our garden, in all the years we lived there we received many many threatening letters from the council to maintain our hedge for its visibility. When a Welsh family moved in after us, they moved the sign.

    Planing permission declined twice but accepted when the same thing was applied for in Welsh.

    My grandfather was a long standing mason but was forced to retire due to the unwelcome nature of the local lodges, I’m not a mason but have spoken to a few from across the U.K who were horrified to think that lodges could act in this way.

    As a child I was not allowed to win school sporting events, even if I came first. A reason was always found to expel me from the top three.

    I was lucky in that I knew no other way of life, in fact it taught me to stand up for my self, my older sister was not so lucky, she was incessantly bullied for being English, all this time later she has no social life, no pride in her appearance, because she was English. When she moved on to secondary school I had no support but had found a few friends. Who ironically out of all the children in that school are the ones travelling the world with amazing jobs. I’d like to think that my bit of English influence that early on made them realise there is more to the world than this.

    The “Nid yw cymru at werth” 20 fool long graffiti on the round about in Bangor was there for many years, until someone wrote ‘SOLD’ across it, then it was promptly cleaned off. Just shows that even though it was unsightly graffiti the council was proud of it. We just told visitors it meant welcome to wales.

    The fear that our house might get burned down.

    The constant rallies to stop people selling houses to English people, ironically the coordinator happily sold his business to the English.

    Rugby season, wales have a fantastic team, it a shame its ruined by the fans, they will root for whoever is playing against England. Social media is just overrun with racist posts about the English, being called a Saes as an adult, I see very little difference in calling a black person a nigger, it’s unacceptable and crude. In England, if the English team is out the pubs will cheer for wales, Scotland and Ireland.

    It’s very similar to the relationship between New Zealand and Australia. New Zealand think there is this huge rivalry and Australia are completely oblivious to it.

    I wish these horrible people were in a minority, it’s just a shame that some are in a position of influence and power. There is a deep seeded hatred of the English going back hundreds of years. The reduction of the language is a real shame but I feel the blame is being placed on the wrong source. I’m afraid your only option is to adopt a more North Korean attitude and ban all forms of outside entertainment. Films, music, video games, television shows. Kids don’t like the latest local theatre production of Sali Mali, they want power puff girls, transformers, Beyoncé, etc. Just yesterday I was sat across from an entirely Welsh family, not one Welsh word was spoken, the entire conversation was about big brother and love island.

    There is not enough being done to develop the language, adding an ‘io’ to the end of an English word or throwing a ‘w’ in there just sounds ridiculous. The world is changing too fast.

    • Sibrydionmawr

      Yeah right. I don’t believe a word of what you’ve just written. I’ve heard too many such sob stories from ‘white settler’ types, accusations of anti English activities on the part of local councils, preferential treatment for Welsh speakers etc. All the stock comments of the colonial Sais domiciled in Wales. I regard such claims as about as reliable as claims from English people who complain about people in pubs and shops changing from speaking English to speaking Welsh when some English tourist, or white settler enters – but they usually mess up by claiming that this behaviour was witnessed in places like Abergavenny or Builth Wells! Welsh speakers know that these tales are, if not completely untrue, then at the very least, highly exaggerated. In this case, it’s a paranoid delusion.

      I’m not saying for a moment that there isn’t anti English sentiment amongst some people, but it’s a rariity, (and I have witnessed some, and it is ugly) and pales into insignificance if compared with the attitudes of many white settlers towards Wales, the Welsh language and Welsh speakers who have the temerity to demand services in Welsh.

      However, and I have to say I don’t like the way I feel, but suspect that many of my compatriots will have similar misgivings, I’m always somewhat wary when meeting English people for the first time, as they so often have horrible and condescending attitudes towards Wales and especially Welsh speakers, and who, take garbage like that you’ve written as hard evidence that we Welsh are nasty. Some of us are, but I suspect your gripe is about those of us who actually have enough self respect that we assert ourselves and our choice of language.

      And if there is a deep seated mistrust of the English, I wonder why that is? Centuries of oppression maybe? Or could it also be due to a not insignificant fact that many English people coming to live in Wales consider themselves superior?

      But the solution is quite simple, if you don’t like it here, you can always move back to England. If you are contemplating moving to Wales, then be aware that we have our own language, and it deserves respect, and in some areas, (sadly not all) a majority speak it, and that it’d be common courtesy to both learn and use Welsh in your daily life.

      • I wish it were untrue but unfortunately I’m not that creative. As a Welsh speaker I’m aware that the old tales of changing to Welsh and talking behind people’s backs are not true. But to be honest I’ve never heard anyone say that, there is actually very little in what I wrote that I can’t prove, in fact if I ran this buy I few people I could probably triple the length of that list. It’s in the past now so all you’ve done is confirmed my belief that it’s not intentional, it’s just part of daily life. People just aren’t aware they are doing it.
        It was not my choice to move here and I don’t know any difference in fact the thought of going to an English school horrifies me. I enjoy living here I use Welsh on a daily basis and have many Welsh friends, Our parents love living here, but they do believe it was the worst choice they ever made for my sisters well being, but that is in hignsight. The term “if you don’t like it go back to England” is pretty much the response I was expecting.

    • Ridiculous comment David. Shame on you.

      • Jakki Hurst

        People’s personal experiences ought to be listened to carefully, if we are to improve life for everyone. David’s comments were not ridiculous.

    • I left my Welsh home at 16 to join the Royal Air Force, oblivious to any of this and I certainly had friends who’d moved from England as a boy. We never poked any fun at them that was any different in nature to me being called ‘four-eyes’.

      Things changed when I joined the RAF. I received endless ridicule from the English, especially those from the big cities, for the first five or so years until I was thick skinned enough to not even notice it. I made some close friends from Scotland and Cornwall who are still good friends over forty years later and they endured similar torture. Only since moving to the USA has it stopped.

    • There are some strange instances in your post, but if some of what you say is true, then clearly it’s wrong. I suggest you read up on some psychology of colonised people’s to even start to comprehend the affect it’s had on Welsh speakers in particular. Start with Ireland.

      I felt sorry for you, until you implied that Welsh speakers do not travel the world and have amazing jobs. I think, as a Welsh speaker, Thomas Jefferson might have disagreed with you. I’ve travelled the world, and my language has only enhanced people’s interest – in fact, detached from anglo suffocation, it’s seen as pretty glorious.

      If a higher % of welsh speakers go on to have higher paid and higher status employment, then I’m sure all these welsh speaking surgeons, judges and astro physicists have all explored far & wide.

      You imply that welsh narrows your view on the world, this makes you look rather ignorant and stupid. Clever people know that it enhances almost every single aspect of your life. Only a monoglot would argue that having double super powers would make you narrow and insular.

      Adding ‘io’ is showing your true colours and is right up jac protic’ alley.
      1. The word is probably not English
      2. Plumber in French is Plumbier – bravo english, bravo for removing the i. I could show you thousands of other words.

      Prejudice runs through your piece, maybe as someone who knows the effects, you’d refrain from participating in it in the future.

    • The description of the rugby supporters is disingenuous and presumptuous. The antipathy towards the English teams in rugby and/or football* is brought about by the vast pro-English bias in the sporting media of the UK. There have been instances (even when England has been knocked out of a tournament altogether and Wales are still in it) when the half-time interlude of a Wales match has been used to discuss England’s performance. There have been TV adverts which just plain presume we will support England- we are Wales, we will support who we like. If we choose not to support England that is hard cheese! Also the English do NOT tend to support Scotland and/or Wales when England are knocked out of a tournament- they just lose interest in the tournament altogether! (Not that personally want them to support us by the way, That would be presumptuous!)

      *note it doesn’t occur at all in other sports where this peculiar hubris on the part of English people does not exist!.

  9. D Humphreys

    It is interesting. It was not laizzes-faire that created this problem, but a statist force that wiped Welsh out, allowing English immigrants complaints to result in a law in the 1870s to wipe out Welsh by deleting it from the education system. Since then, as the generations were forced to learn English as monoglots the generational attitudes looked down on Welsh. To this day it is those reinforced Victorian attitudes towardsWelsh passed down the generations that keeps this mentality preserved.

    You form opinions based on your experience and peer / parental pressure. So those today who are English/Welsh, but have only gone to monoglot English schools with monoglot families, will have had their anti-Welsh opinions generally formed by that environment around them. All it takes to correct the error is to repeat what was done.

    Not laissez faire but a statist (Welsh state) solution. The problem will correct itself over time as children learn the language and then form a positive opinion of their new skills and love of their culture. As two generations pass by those
    opinions get normalised back to what it was; positive view of our own language/culture and the problem will be solved.

  10. Sharon Reichter

    I don’t think anyone objects to the language itself – it’s the amount of money that is spent on it. All over Wales public toilets are being closed, our local beach has a ramp which has broken up over the winter and is dangerous. It has not been removed and should be replaced, but ‘there is no money’. It is a very necessary ramp because the pebble bank is almost impossible to get down to reach the sand for children or the elderly. Parts of Wales such as this draw many people from other places, particularly from the Midlands and beyond as we have an excellent main line train link. There seems to be a lack of interest in encouraging visitors – something that is so important to local economies and indeed to Wales as a whole where parts rely purely on the tourist trade.

    • Mother of belluah – tourism seems to be the only strategy the welsh gov have.
      There are thousands of things I think are a waste of money, but still contribute. Billions to the DUP, wars, millionaire bankers ruining lives, hs2, and yes the one that grates the most – english ballet. It’s called reparations – past actions have repercussions.

  11. Mairead Kerwin

    Perhaps treating Wales as the Country that it is rather than an English County might help. A country taken over because of bitter battles will never win the hearts of the victims so peace will never be long lasting. And treating Cornwall the same rather than diluting the culture by changing the borders and encouraging English retired people to move there thus taking up all the lucrative and scenic properties to live in so making it more expensive for the Cornish children to grow up and provide homes for their families. Forced emigration is never easy. There are good and bad people everywhere. (my opinion, of course)

  12. Perhaps you had no luck with “try to win them over with logical reasons why teaching kids the Welsh language is a good thing” because you are wrong rather than these people just hating the Welsh language. I don’t hate the Welsh language and I think you’re wrong.

  13. Dai Ap Edwards

    The issue that most English speaking Welsh people have is the amount of money being spent promoting the language and the fact it is seemingly forced on those that don’t speak it. There are public sector jobs that obviously don’t need a fluent Welsh speaker that have it listed as essential. Also, in regards to our education system that’s a laughing stock in Europe, sorry, Britain, let’s get our house in order before ploughing money into Welsh Medium Schools. They already receive sometimes double the amount per child compared to struggling English Medium schools. The language is already compulsory so won’t die out, and most children enjoy learning it. Wales is a relatively poor country, can we really afford to put off potential businesses relocating into Wales because they need to double their print/marketing budgets and forced to have a quota of Welsh speakers?

    Don’t alienate 80% of the population who don’t speak it. If you want to encourage more people to adopt, they’re going about it the wrong way.

    • You might have had something interesting to say if you weren’t trying to caricature us with your cynical name

  14. Jakki Hurst

    One way of promoting Cymraeg to English people that I never see is to start with English people who love English for reasons other than the utilitarian. People who love English poetry and literature for the pleasure of the experience are more likely to understand love of another language including Cymraeg. Surely that approach would help to reach at least some influential writers, even at The Times.

  15. Trailorboy

    This week on the BBC there was a HYS on the language and WG employees. I watched this one and didn’t join in the fun, but in the end there were 377 comments. 90% seemed to be from abiut six or seven pseudonyms. How many of those were Jaques Protic I have no idea.

    The anti Welsh language brigade convinced themselves, by the end that the whole of Wales was on their side, because they had all thr up arrows.

    Its a small group of people, who are devoting a lot of time on an obsession. They seem to livd in a little bubblr and should get out more.

  16. I don’t hold out much hope of convincing the most bigoted, but some people can change their opinion – in one direction or the other. . If all anyone ever sees is unopposed bigotry they can come to think it is true, so the occasional response might be useful. One thing I would like to know (but I doubt I ever will) is what motivates someone to present their ignorance? What’s their motivation? Do they believe what they say, or is pure trollspeak?

  17. The Welsh language is being rammed down our throats. You have a compiled a list countering every arguement against the Welsh language but the reason for my personal dislike is because of people like yourself. Compiling such a list seems a little desperate and the pro Welsh speaking minority of our country seems to want to shove it in the faces of those who couldn’t care less at every opportunity.

    I was born in Wales, was taught Welsh in school but have no interest at all in learning the language beyond the basics. There is no need to do so, language is for communicating and everyone can speak English yet few people speak fluent Welsh. The desperate need to ‘preserve our history’ is pathetic.

    Furthermore what is appalling is that Welsh schools condone the English language and children are often banned or even punished for using it. Why should a child be punished for expressing themselves in their preferred language just so people like you can falsely pull statistics out your ass saying X amount of young people speak the language? The same young people you speak of speak English as soon as school time finishes and don’t engage in Welsh outside the school gates. Obviously this is not the case for every child but even those attending a Welsh school lack the passion and don’t feel the need to make it their primary language.

    English is the language of the world. Welsh is the language of the history loving zealots who take too much pride in a piece of land and what has happened in the past. The world has changed. The money being thrown at the Welsh language could be put to much better use and until people learn to accept that Welsh is indeed dying (I would say it’s pretty much dead) then the government will continue to waste money on it.

    Prior to seeing what goes on in Welsh schools and being told I must love Welsh because I was born here repeatedly by people like yourself has left a sour taste in my mouth. You want to help people speak welsh? You may want to stop guilt tripping people and stop forcing it upon people who really don’t give a damn. I’m sure it’s hard to accept if you’re so passionate but the reality is a huge majority of Welsh people just do not care at all. You may wish to disagree but you’re only fooling yourself and your over vocal Welsh lovers.

Leave a Reply