Fall in Welsh speakers ‘no surprise’ but ‘not inevitable’ if action is taken say language activists
The fall in the number of Welsh speakers is “no surprise” as Welsh-speaking communities come under increasing pressure, language activists have said.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that the Welsh Government needed to show that they were serious about tackling the issues that were causing the decline of the Welsh language.
The number of Welsh speakers had risen in the 20 years before devolution but has now declined, figures published by the ONS based on the 2021 census showed.
There are 24,000 fewer Welsh speakers in Wales than there were at the dawn of devolution in 2021, a fall from 582,000 (20.8%) to 538,000 (17.8%) today.
Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Chairman Robat Idris said that setting a goal of teaching all schoolchildren through Welsh was essential in order to prevent the decline of the Welsh language.
“The Government has declared the intention to aim for a million speakers, but hasn’t taken the action needed to ensure growth,” he said.
“Today’s results show that an urgent change of gear is needed – one practical thing the Government can do now is to set a goal in the upcoming Welsh Language Education Act that all children will be educated through the Welsh language in future.
“Setting a clear path towards Welsh-medium education for everyone will ensure that future generations become confident Welsh speakers, and we can then expect to see some positive change from the 2031 Census.”
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said they were also concerned about the pressure on Welsh-speaking communities, highlighted once again in today’s Census results.
Robat Idris added: “Even more serious than the decline in the total number of Welsh speakers is the fact that our Welsh language communities are under increasing pressures as local people are forced to leave due to a lack of homes that are affordable on local wages.
“We need a Property Act that will regulate the housing market, give more power to our communities and prioritise local people in housing.
“Is it any wonder that we’ve seen a decrease in the number of Welsh speakers? At the moment, 80% of our young people leave school unable to speak Welsh.
“Considering the language’s history, concrete action is needed from the Government if they are serious about revival. There are practical things they can do straight away – Welsh-medium education in all schools and a robust Property Act would transform things for the language at grassroots level and create the change needed to start turning the tide.
“The decline of the Welsh language is by no means inevitable, but the Government needs to act.
“The Government and local authorities also need to consider the Welsh language in all policy areas, and not leave language revitalisation efforts to specific language officers or departments. Reviving the language is a major effort that requires action across all policy areas”.
The group Hawl Fyw Adref who campaign for affordable homes in Welsh communities added that the “biggest threat to the language is a further decline in the percentage of speakers in Welsh speaking areas”.
“The results of the census have highlighted this reality. To ensure a future for our language the government and local authorities must act without delay, paying particular attention to communities where Welsh is the everyday language of the majority of the population.
“Without Welsh communities there is no future for the language as a living language.”
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