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Everyone in Wales should celebrate Welsh language ‘miracle’ says Guardian in response to Jeremy Bowen criticism

11 Feb 2022 3 minutes Read

 

Jeremy Bowen photo by Nick from Bristol (CC 2.0).

The Guardian newspaper has responded to criticism of attempts to spread the Welsh language by BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen, saying that its survival is a “miracle” and that “every Welsh person” should celebrate it.

Bowen came in for fierce criticism this week after claiming on his BBC Radio 4 programme This Union: Being Welsh that the “determination” of the Welsh Government “to spread” the Welsh language “risks devaluing” his identity.

His remarks had drawn the ire of fellow BBC broadcaster Huw Edwards who said that Bowen’s “take is 1970s Cardiff”.

In its editorial, the Guardian newspaper backed Huw Edwards’ view, saying that Jeremy Bowen “grew up in an industrial south Wales – English-speaking, male-dominated, culturally monolithic – that no longer exists, and he seems to some extent to be in mourning for that lost communitarian world”.

“Deindustrialisation in the 1980s robbed the south Wales working class of their identity, based on coal, iron and steel.”

But in recent years a new identity had matured in Wales, it said.

“As industrial English-speaking Wales was losing its sense of purpose, largely rural Welsh-speaking Wales was discovering a new confidence, thanks to the start of the Welsh-language channel S4C in 1982, the growth of Welsh-medium education and all the jobs requiring bilingualism that came with the devolution referendum in 1997,” the editorial added.

“Westminster was taken aback when Guto Harri, Boris Johnson’s new press chief, gave an exclusive interview to a Welsh language news site Golwg360. But Welsh-speaking Wales is not responsible for the travails of English-speaking Wales, and the two have to find a way to coexist.

“The survival of Welsh – after centuries of attempted suppression by the English since the Act of Union of 1536 – is a miracle, and every Welsh person, whether or not they speak it, should celebrate that fact. It does not solely define Welshness, but it contributes to its many-sidedness and unquenchable hwyl.”

‘Confident’

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”.

The Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles has pushed back against the remarks, stating that “Cymraeg belongs to us all” and that this is the case “whether we can speak a lot, or not”.

Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell said the journalist’s “attitude reflects a divisive past” and that “modern Wales is a confident, bilingual nation”.

Jeremy Bowen later responded to say that he wasn’t against the Welsh language.

“All I’d say to members of the ‘backlash’ is that I hope your views are based on listening to the series. Not on others’ tweets. Some I know didn’t listen before they tweeted. Listen, then decide.,” he said.

“If you listen to the programmes and still think I’m against the Welsh language (which I am not) tell me exactly what you don’t like and I will answer and explain my thinking.”


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Kenneth Vivian
Kenneth Vivian
3 months ago

Why expect anyone to listen to views of one who cannot or will not understand those who are both cymru and welsh?

Kenneth Vivian
Kenneth Vivian
3 months ago
Reply to  Kenneth Vivian

Cymry

Llefain
Llefain
3 months ago

No offence meant to the author themselves but The Guardian stepping up as a defender of Welsh is a bit rich considering their past articles. As an aside, the line “70% in Wales can’t speak Welsh” always annoys me. Just because you are not fluent does not mean you cannot speak any Welsh. This number gives the wrong impression to people who do not know better. And as well as bolstering bigots, it also reduces the confidence, perceived inclusion, and willingness to “give it a go” of people who have learned Welsh in school since it has been on the… Read more »

Welsh_Siôn
Welsh_Siôn
3 months ago
Reply to  Llefain

I know this may appear a little flippant – but it’s intended to support you, Llefain, and our compatriots. I know of no sole trader in Cymru who I’ve employed as a roofer, plumber, general handyman, electrician and similar who is not familiar with the word, ‘paned‘. (Yes, I’m a Gog, but even ‘Our Friends in the South’ know this word, too!). This knowledge will even extend to those who are new arrivals from Merseyside, the Black Country and Manchester. O bydded i’r heniaith barhau – a boed i bawb ohonom, yn Gymry Cymraeg a’r rhai hebddi fod yn falch… Read more »

CJPh
CJPh
3 months ago
Reply to  Welsh_Siôn

Better than a hit piece, but I get where llefain is coming from – there’s a “should” in their closing paragraph that is not for them to suggest. This paper is complicit in the creeping partisanship in Wales. We aren’t part of your Anglo-American culture war. We’re not part of the geopolitical struggle between the West and the East. We are a small nation with a growing population of citizens who peacefully advocate for our freedom. We’re not your pawns, not your property and not your pets, Guardian et al.

CJPh
CJPh
3 months ago
Reply to  Welsh_Siôn

Plus, it’s spelled “disgled” or, in Cwmtawe-ese, ‘dishgyl’ 😉

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
3 months ago
Reply to  Llefain

Agree with CJPh about the culture wars. We must stay close knit.

Last edited 3 months ago by I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
3 months ago

I am, therefore I am not?

Last edited 3 months ago by I.Humphrys
Mawkernewek
3 months ago

Its all very well Jeremy Bowen saying: “All I’d say to members of the ‘backlash’ is that I hope your views are based on listening to the series. Not on others’ tweets. Some I know didn’t listen before they tweeted. Listen, then decide.,” he said. “If you listen to the programmes and still think I’m against the Welsh language (which I am not) tell me exactly what you don’t like and I will answer and explain my thinking.” However, I’m somewhat put off from doing so over at BBC Sounds: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0013r1v the program, going by its title and logo, doesn’t… Read more »

Llyn
Llyn
3 months ago

Interesting editorial. However, it does incorrectly call one of the Acts that incorporated Wales into being part of England as the ‘Act of Union of 1536’. This title was only given to the Act hundreds of years after, in order to infer that the UK was created not by conquest and violence but instead by an agreement of equals. One look at the Union flag will tell anyone that there has never been an Act of Union involving Wales.

Cynan
Cynan
3 months ago

Oh god! Another anglicised metropolitan celeb returns to Cymru to explore his “Welshness”.
Nobody CARES about your existential crisis pal (note I didn’t say boyo. Because nobody does). Cymru is growing in confidence, Cymraeg is growing in popularity and interest in freedom from YOUR masters has never been higher.
We really don’t care what makes some navel gazing Uncl Tŵm lose sleep over.

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