BBC’s Jeremy Bowen claims ‘determination to spread’ Welsh language ‘risks devaluing’ his ‘identity’
Veteran journalist Jeremy Bowen has claimed that the “determination to spread” the Welsh language “risks devaluing” his identity.
The Cardiff-born BBC Middle East Editor, whose grandfather spoke the language, made the suggestion on the BBC Radio 4 programme This Union: Being Welsh.
In the three-part series, Bowen, who lives in the district of Camberwell, in London “returns home to Wales in search of what it means to be Welsh.”
He said: “A Welsh Government survey says now 70% in Wales can’t speak Welsh. About 20% of the population speak it regularly.
“Welsh Government’s determination to spread the language risks devaluing the identities of Welsh people like me”.
Professor of Human Geography, Rhys Jones said: “If you’re meeting somebody in Wales you will make judgements very often as to where you fit as an individual into some kind of imagined packing order of Welshness.
“People imagine certain places in Wales to be inherently more Welsh than others. Looking at places like North East Wales, the perception there that they don’t fit in with any kind of dominant imagination of the location of Welshness because they’re outside of the Welsh speaking heartlands, so they don’t get to belong there.”
He added: “They don’t either fit in with the dominant idea of a Welsh Wales because that’s linked to the south Wales post-industrial areas.
“That there’s a sense in which they then are almost doubly marginalised, even the term describing these areas as British Wales, it starts off from a position that these aren’t quite as Welsh as other parts of Wales.
“It is also to do with people obviously, and what they do, and in that respect I guess maybe we are back to this idea of speaking Welsh, and that is almost something wherever you live, it bumps you up the list.
“I’m being facetious in the way I’m describing this obviously, but it bumps you up the list in terms of having that sense of then alright if you speak Welsh, particularly if you speak Welsh fluently, then to most people you’re incontrovertibly Welsh.”
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Bowen began ep. 1 by denigrating the community spirit that infuses Welsh rugby. He afterwards tried to play the victim over the language, but was put in his place at the end of ep. 1 by a Welsh speaker from Wrexham who told him that the monoglots around him at a Wrexham FC home fixture were as Welsh as the Welsh speaker himself.
In ep. 2 he pushed the north-south divide and the 3-Wales model for all they’re worth.
Ep. 3 will be about the country’s relationship with England.
Identity in Wales has been a tangle of many threads for ever but I think this piece just dropped it on the floor! Pick it up and try again Mr Bowen and the Prof…
He’s a type of “stage” London Welsh, afraid of change which is coming.
I doubt it will be felt in Camberwell…
How? if youre Welsh youre Welsh. siaradwr Cymraeg or not, no difference.
Tyd i’r Gogledd Washi, ‘motch sdi.
I am Welsh first language, I do not consider myself anymore Welsh than those who are Welsh born and unable to speak it and those new to Wales (Croeso/Welcome!), although I would encourage all yet to acquire this beautiful language to be try and give it a go, there are plenty of courses available. Am not sure I agree with what was written above about how the North East may not feel too Welsh. Has the Professor never seen what being Welsh means to the likes of Ian Rush, or Carol Vorderman, or Mike Peters, etc., etc. Am amazed how… Read more »
Yes, the “North East Wales isn’t really Welsh” mantra is a comforting myth for the anti-Wales lobby outside the country, and it’s a falsehood, despite the colonisation of much of the North of Wales coast.
absolutely agree, the last thing the anti-welsh lobby want is for us as peoples of Wales working together makes #Indywales not just be possible, it will become inevitable. This is why the Plaid – Welsh Labour agreement is hated by them, our future is together as one nation and that includes all who live here no matter their place of birth. Also if Bowen feels so excluded then bloody learn Welsh, it’s not that hard to be able to get by and he is a clever bloke after all.
No native of Great Britain is bothered about whether the Irish can speak,Irish; it’s their business. But there’s quite a debate about it in Ireland itself
Anther welsh person who rather live in England than wales 🏴 A’s got
No say in welsh politics when you decided to live in England you are not welsh anymore it’s time for a new wales 🏴
Grayham, are you saying because work brought myself to the republic of Ireland that I am no-longer Welsh? That is a disgraceful thing to say.
I don’t speak welsh but all my children and grandchildren do we who don’t speak the language of wales 🏴 are no different than those that speak welsh we are all welsh and very proud to be welsh
Hands of our Grayham please – a nation Cymru treasure with his own individual steadfast vision – which most of us enjoy though perhaps dont always fully agree with.
Those expats who live and work in London or across the world gain such a lot and often understand those countriea well….often speaking up for minorities. It is thus so sad that they forget their roots and remember the Wales of the Aberfan / investiture and Thatcherite / kinnock years and of course the first referendum. Cymru has changed, grown and become more confident and diverse and certainly a more united place celebrating sporting and football triumphs. I always enjoyed Vincent Kane and J’s dad Prof Gareth Bowen on lunchtime BBC Welsh services…but that pre devolution Wales has gone as… Read more »
Vincent Kane – what a voice!
John Darren also my mams favourite but my tiad was a David Parry Jones fan 😊
Loved David P-J’s rugby books, inherited them when Dad died, sensational works – if anyone out there’s not read them, try and get a copy, it’ll be worth it. Bob Humphrys was another one who looms large in the memory.
I sat until very recently on a Univesity Wales Dementia Advisory Board with Beti George who has so many storiea of DPJs later years together. Inspiring 👍🏼
“Professor of Human Geography, Rhys Jones said: “If you’re meeting somebody in Wales you will make judgements very often as to where you fit as an individual into some kind of imagined packing order of Welshness.” I live in London and people here are always judging people by where they are from.
Identity is a personal matter
I would suggest that if he feels that way it is his own inner disapproval that is giving him difficulty. I live in Radnorshire. I am retired. When I speak with my neighbours about Welsh, I find few who speak it, but many, if not most of them in my age group, seem regretful that they do not. Many have/had parents who spoke Welsh but were not keen for their children to do so, and most never had the opportunity to learn it at their English speaking schools. I was misfortunate enough to spend the majority of life living the… Read more »
Not everything is about YOU Jeremy.
Well he seems to think it is, sad little gremlin. This is the sort of pompous ass who gets on his high horse about people’s rights in those parts of the world where diverse races, languages, traditions and cultures (and at times religions)come together and often clash. Yet back in dear old blighty the creep starts extolling the virtues of homogeneity and assimilation. There again he’s lived his life inside the comfort blanket of the BBC that most British of institutions. They may disagree on finer points of ideology but under the surface most of them are rampant Unionists. When… Read more »
Bowens opinion is as valid as every other Welsh person. What I struggle with is why the BBC would ask someone who hasn’t even lived in Wales for decades to produce the “Welsh” section of this series.
It’s the biggest metaphor ever for BBC attitudes to Wales.
Llygad dy le, Bowen is stuck in a 1979 version of Wales. Why did they not ask Huw Edwards, Mike Parker, or Cerys Mathews? Or anhbody else who is a good Welsh broadcaster and knows the country and has a foot in the present Cymru
I always thought he was very light weight as a journalist
There ARE categories of ‘ness’ (Welsh or otherwise) that would have people seen as less Welsh (or other nationality). One is when they take genuine pride in attacking elements of that identity. The language for example. Another is one I term ‘recreatiionally Welsh’. Makers of that include backing Wales when a game is on or they have a pint in hand (basically when it does not matter), but backing another country in all instances when it does matter. I come across significant numbers of such people. Earlier today one labelled me an ’embarassement to Wales’ because I speak Welsh. They… Read more »
Said monolingual Jeremy Bowen, a man with an English accent who lives and works in England.
How is encouraging the learning and use of Welsh detrimental to your identity?. All I’d say to him is this. What is detrimental, is your selfish attitude of denying a child his or her birthright to speak their own native language from your Anglocentric ivory tower.
As a journalist based in the middle east Jeremy always displayed an empathy with people in the region who have been the victims of a grave injustice, such as the palestinians or the iraqi civilians bombed in bush and blair’s illegal war. Surely then he is aware of the grave historical injustices visited upon welsh speakers? Where then is his empathy for the speakers of our language? PS. The welsh language belongs to all of us in Wales – welsh speaker and non welsh speaker.
If it quacks like a duck… I once told my daughter that if she thought she was in love, then she probably was. If, on the other hand, she wasn’t sure, then she probably wasn’t. If you’re worried, Jeremy, by what you’re doing to yourself then drop by the Welsh Centre on Gray’s Inn Road and relearn who you are. Most of us here only manage a language and three-quarters but just try telling any of us we’re less Welsh… Of course, it could be that you harbour genuine animosity towards Wales and our language. Either way, we’ll still welcome… Read more »
Many years ago I was part of a delegation from the School Teachers Review Body (STRB) visiting schools in Powys that were close to the border with England (part of a programme of visits to the “chalk face”). We noted some parents lived on the England side of the border but had decided that their children would benefit from a bi-lingual education. The “English” children were thriving and their parents clearly valued the fact their children were becoming fluent in Welsh. It was a refreshing experience.
Don’t confuse the identity of a continually evolving nation with a personnal debate about your own childhood memories of Welshness.
This how the UK government and Unionists have controlled Wales for years by highlighting our differences – easily done with a poorly connect mountainous region at the heart of Wales. But we are still ‘one’ people who have a distinctive identity – and considering the centuries of assimulation and attempts to wipe us out – it is amazing it is still here! It shows us how strong that identity is. We must now fight for an independent Wales – a Wales where we can connect ourselves fully.
Yes divide and rule
I have heard it all now, so people in one country shouldn’t learn their own language becuse it threatens the identity of someone living in another country. How ridiculous.
There is no single Welsh identity anymore than there is a single English identity.
Historical struggles by the Cymry gave the nation its singular identity. Without their sacrifices, made to conserve the dragon’s language, neither Cymru nor the Welsh would today exist.; they would have disappeared along with British cultures of Cumbria, Cornwall and East Anglia as was predicted by 5th century Taliesin.