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Call for Welsh speakers to ‘tick all’ Welsh language boxes in the Census

16 Mar 2021 3 minute read
The 2021 Census

Language campaigners have urged Welsh speakers to tick all the boxes on their ability to communicate in Welsh when answering all questions in the 2021 Census relating to the language.

The Census, which will take place this Sunday, March 21, asks whether or not respondents are able to “speak Welsh, read Welsh, write Welsh and/or understand spoken Welsh.”

It is not a single-choice question and respondents can tick as many of the boxes as they choose.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith is calling on Welsh speakers – including those who think their Welsh is “not perfect” – to tick the ‘I can’ option when responding to all of these questions.

Mabli Siriol, Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith, said: “We encourage Welsh speakers to indicate that they can communicate in Welsh when responding to all questions relating to language ability – and this includes those who feel that their Welsh is not ‘perfect’.

“There is an inconsistency in the fact that only one question asks about your ability to communicate in English, while there are separate questions about your ability to speak, read, write and understand Welsh.

“By creating these unnecessary and arbitrary categories for Welsh, and only Welsh, the language is portrayed as being unusually difficult, and this is part of a pattern that causes doubt among Welsh speakers about their ability to communicate in Welsh.

“There is a general tendency for Welsh speakers to underestimate our ability to communicate in Welsh, especially in written Welsh – and the inconsistent wording of the Census’s questions is likely to exacerbate this.”


The Census is a survey filled out by adults every 10 years which counts all people and households in Wales and England.

It is also one of the main barometers of the health of the Welsh language. The question of language use has been asked since 1981, which recorded that over half the population could speak Welsh.

The number of speakers recorded by the census saw a steep drop after the first World War before stabilising since the 1980s at around one in five of the population.

“The right to Welsh language services and to live through the medium of the language is absolutely fundamental and is something for which we’ve been campaigning for decades,” Mabli Siriol said.

“We should not allow the sloppy wording of the Census to result in painting an incomplete, or worse still, inaccurate, picture of the Welsh language, as there is a danger that this would be used by politicians to attack this fundamental right to live in Welsh.”

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