Culture

Report warns of increased threat to Welsh-speaking communities in Conwy

30 May 2021 4 minutes Read
David Dixon / Conwy Castle and car park from Town Walls / CC BY-SA 2.0

It is “vital” that Welsh speakers can live and work in their communities or Wales risks being inundated by workers from England.

This was among the key findings in an updated assessment of the Welsh language in Conwy County commissioned by Llanrwst-based organisation Menter Iaith Conwy.

Without opportunities to work from home, rural Welsh-speaking communities in Conwy and other parts of north Wales are facing “a massive influx of home workers from the large cities of north-west England”, said the report’s author, Huw Prys Jones, also chairman of Menter Iaith Conwy.

As well as looking at the specific effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the report compares the ability to speak Welsh between different age groups and different areas of the county.

  • Just over a quarter – 27% – of the county’s population were able to speak Welsh according to the 2011 census, with a further 10% able to understand the spoken language only. This represents a significant decline from an estimated 42% in 1961.
  • Just over a half of the population (53%) were born in Wales, and of these, 47% could speak Welsh and a further 13% could understand the language.
  • While 46.6% of children aged 3-15 are registered as able to speak Welsh, education statistics from the same year suggest that as few as a quarter of these spoke it fluently.
  • There is huge geographic variation within the county, with the main divide between the coastal towns and the rural inland areas.
  • Only in the rural hinterland of the county is there a majority of the population able to speak Welsh.

“What we have in Conwy is a clear contrast between the Anglicised coastal towns, and the rural hinterland where the Welsh language is much stronger,” explained Mr Jones.

Survive

“Whilst this rural hinterland experienced a decline in the percentage speaking Welsh in 2011 compared to 2001, it remains a key part of the main core Welsh language heartland of north-west Wales.

“Every possible indicator – be it in terms of pupils retaining their ability to speak Welsh after leaving school, or transmission within families – shows that the higher the percentage is of people who can speak Welsh in any particular area, the more favourable are its prospects for it to survive and thrive there.

“At the same time, these vital areas for the future of the language are under greater threat than ever before due to the trend for home working accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. With their proximity to the populous and richer areas of north-west England, I fear that communities in Conwy could be particularly vulnerable.”

The author believes that the new threats facing such areas call for a change in language-planning priorities.

“First Minister Mark Drakeford was absolutely right when he referred to Welsh-speaking heartlands as what makes Wales what it is.”

Identity

“In other words, they are a key part of our identity as a nation.

“Areas that are of outstanding cultural heritage need special protection as more and more people from English conurbations are looking to relocate to the countryside.

“All this calls for a clearer focus on these key strongholds in any initiatives by the Welsh Government and other organisations to promote the language. It is clear that a pan-Wales uniform approach will not work against the specific threats facing these communities.”

At the same time, Mr Jones strongly believes that the current technological and social changes must be utilised to the full, as they present opportunities as well as threats to Welsh language communities.

“The increasing ability to work from home can also enable a far greater number of Welsh speakers to live in Welsh-speaking communities,” he said. “It could also enable parts of rural Wales to become less dependent on tourism and to be in stronger position to reject highly undesirable developments such as nuclear power stations.

“All this however calls from detailed planning, with help given for local people who are disadvantaged by an inflated housing market, and also active and practical encouragement from government organisations to enable Welsh-speakers to work from home in their communities.

“Without government help to realise these new opportunities, the unique character and identity of these communities will have changed beyond recognition and a key part of our heritage lost forever.”

 

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Mr Williams
Mr Williams
1 month ago

I live in Conwy and this report is very true. The coast,certainly, is losing its Welsh character. It would be a great sadness if the cefn gwlad followed suit.

CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago
Reply to  Mr Williams

As an alltud to a more rural area myself (albeit a Cymro Cymraeg myself) I can attest to the positive outlook many, maybe even most, migrants have regarding our language. Around a third of kids in our local ysgol gynradd’s year 6 have at least 1 parent born outside Wales. Around 80%have at least 1 parent who doesn’t speak Cymraeg. A very positive sign of growth . The neighbouring English Medium school is also full. Despite freedom of choice in education being something we should all support, were it not for migration from across offa’s dyke, the English primary would… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago

Mark Drakeford has to do something about this as a matter of urgency, or he will go down in history as the man who looked away and let it happen. He and his Government must not be intimidated by the storm of righteous indignation that will come from the unionist press; he has the moral high ground over this matter, they don’t.

SundanceKid
SundanceKid
1 month ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

As the leader of the ruling pro-unionist party in Wales, does he and his party actually care about this issue? Do they attach the same significance to protecting the Welsh language as we do? I’m not convinced to be honest.

Across Wales, Welsh communities are being displaced, not just within the Welsh speaking heartlands, but within the Labour strongholds in the Valleys and Swansea and Cardiff.

Selling it in these terms may be the only language that Welsh Labour will understand.

Last edited 1 month ago by SundanceKid
Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago
Reply to  SundanceKid

You’re obviously right that it’s never been a priority for them — they’ve had two decades to fix this. That’s why the pressure on the WG must be maintained, and Liz Saville Roberts must make a thorough nuisance of herself during Vaughan Gething’s holiday in Pen Llyn and continue to do so when he’s back in Cardiff Bay..

alyson mably
1 month ago

If you wish to live in Wales you must be MADE to.learn siared gymraeg just like people are told they must speak English if they wish to live in England. If you do not wish to do so do NOT move to Wales protection of the Welsh langauge I’d essential to its survival and our culture

Vanessa Gunn
Vanessa Gunn
1 month ago
Reply to  alyson mably

I agree with this! We want to
move to North Wales from Peterborough. I am a primary school teacher and I have begun to learn the language because I believe it is important to be part of the community. My children are watching Welsh television programmes.

alyson mably
1 month ago

I’m not even fluent in Welsh only speak a bit but I will Defend its survival to exist and thrive .our land is Wales and our language is welsh here so make a effort to learn if you wish to live here .

Martin Owen
Martin Owen
1 month ago

I’m tired simplistic analysis of what needs to be done to preserve the Welsh language. Consistent reports on 51 autochthonous minority languages across Europe demonstrates it is economic activity that sustains languages not mothballs. Claims that house prices are inflated does not bare close comparison with house prices in England, however there has been a consistent failure of local authorities over the last 30 years to release sufficient land and planning permission and build social and affordable housing. The second home owners barn conversion is not part of that problem. I was brought upon a village 15miles from England completely… Read more »

Penderyn
Penderyn
1 month ago

The biggest question is why do so few Welsh seem to care about their own homeland

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

Cymru = Palestine.

Johnny Gamble
Johnny Gamble
1 month ago
Reply to  j humphrys

Cymru= Tibet

CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago
Reply to  Johnny Gamble

Cymru=Cymru

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