Guardian criticised after suggesting Welsh language is pointless

The Guardian newspaper

The Guardian newspaper has been criticised after one of its columnists suggested that the Welsh language was pointless.

In an argument about a Candian fitness regime, the writer compares learning the Welsh language to running on the spot.

“The jumps, I am more or less convinced, are there to keep you counting your steps, which distracts you from how hard and existentially pointless it is to run on the spot. All that energy spent, no distance covered: it’s like eating cottage cheese or learning Welsh,” she writes.

Zoe Williams is a Welsh writer who lives in London. She has been a Guardian columnist since 2000 and has contributed to a range of politics shows including the BBC’s Question Time and Newsnight.

The comments about the Welsh language were criticised online.

Writing on Twitter, Guto Aaron asked: “Hands up who is surprised to see the bastion of the left that is the Guardian once again falling back on using Welsh as a butt of a joke?”

Rob Humphreys said that Guardian Weekend “appears to have an editor who has gone all culturally Brexit – in same issue we had the ‘escape to Preseli to convert a farmhouse’ piece with no mention of Wales or Welsh language”.

 

Education

The Guardian has previously come under fire for comments about the Welsh language. Last year another Guardian columnist was criticised for ‘mocking’ Welsh in an article about antisemitism.

The newspaper also had to defend an article in 2017 which asked whether a Welsh-medium education harmed children.

Zoe Williams has however suggested in the past that the Welsh language was not pointless, suggesting that it had given Welsh speakers “a more internationalist outlook”.

 

 

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RhosdduAlan jonesjr humphrysRob DaviesMarc Evans Recent comment authors
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Adam Pearce
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Adam Pearce

She seems to be saying that learning Welsh is extremely difficult, not that the language is pointless.

Nick Morgan
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Nick Morgan

But it’s not. That, too, is just an opinion, of course, but what’s HER belief based on? More to the point, the myth about Welsh being “difficult” is part of a context that conspires against the language. So why repeat it, even “humorously”, especially when enough people already think that Welsh is a joke.

Griff
Guest
Griff

No she’s not, unless you think she saying that eating cottage cheese is extremely difficult too.

The ‘joke” is that running on the spot takes a lot of energy but is pointless, same for cottage cheese and same for Welsh.

Alyson Thomas
Guest
Alyson Thomas

It is a bit odd and frankly lazy journalism. As a Welsh speaker myself I wondered what the hell it had to do with anything? Low fat dairy products and static running aside, no language in the world would market itself as an aid to weight loss. So, why fall back on Welsh as a metaphor for useless?

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

She clearly uses the word pointless.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

Columnists, in the nature of things, write opinion pieces – it’s what they’re paid for. But even a columnist’s opinion in a venerable UK newspaper is still only an opinion, and there’s no opinion so conclusive that it can’t be and shouldn’t be challenged. Poor ideas are in the end only effectively countered by better ideas, and not by emotion and outrage. If that weren’t the case, we’ll all still be hunter-gatherers whiling away brief leisure hours by drawing on cave walls.

CapM
Guest
CapM

You are ignoring that emotion and outrage contribute to the writing of those opinion pieces. A sentence like “All that energy spent, no distance covered: it’s like eating cottage cheese or learning Welsh” can only be written by someone who is emotionally negative about the Welsh language and therefore those that speak it. I understand that as a professional columnist she has to be in a near constant state of outrage or faux outrage. This time it’s a fitness regime and to get her opinion that it’s pointless across to readers she uses two analogies that she thinks her readers… Read more »

Ann Owen
Guest
Ann Owen

John Ellis, you mean creating great art?! Have you visited these caves? The art is truly inspiring – and if you think about it if these people hadn’t taken shelter in caves during the Ice Age none of us would be alive today. Very clever people, and our ancestors! But yes, very poor ideas from this columnist and we’re free to challenge it – she seems to rely on her personal notion that there is a general consensus out there that Welsh is “pointless” and that will raise a laugh! Really? And The Guardian prints this rubbish?

David Roberts
Guest
David Roberts

Ah, The Guardian….the bastion of Anti-Celticness!! What is Welsh for “Dying on it’s Arse”?

Title The Guardian Sales Units
2018 152,714
2017 156,756
2016 164,163
2015 185,429

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

Yn marw ar ei dwll?

David Roberts
Guest
David Roberts

Yn llygaid dy le!

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

It became formulaic and barely relevant outside the more affluent parts of North London at least a decade ago, but hasn’t quite realised that yet.

Jason Evans
Guest
Jason Evans

We have the “Dic Sion Dafydd” and now there appears to be the “Zoe Williams”.
The Guardian is a rag, thinks it’s up above the red tops and is in fact is a level with the old Daily Sport, minus the pics.
And this is why we need more than ever to have a totally Welsh based newspaper

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

Indeed – we’re disadvantaged in that respect when compared with Scotland and even Northern Ireland. A gap which this site goes a small way to fill.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

The Scots have The National, always something in there. Nation Cymru, I hope, on the way to being the same!

Plain citizen
Guest
Plain citizen

Zoe Williams is a hard left writer and supporter of the uncompromising totaliterian wing of the party. Corbyn’s socialism with its accent on nationalisation and curtailing of individual rights in favour of group identities may not be going far enough for her. She will be keen to support any Labour policy and certainly not be keen to see any challenge to their hegemony in Wales despite their responsibility for our lack of economic, health and social advancement. The Welsh language should be encouraged but such a separate identity which that policy would lead to, will prevent the Welsh labour party… Read more »

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

All that started with Trotsky, when after the revolution the peoples started flying their own flags in spirit of liberation, he attacked them for being “racist”. The support of the Left for causes is generally to further an end, not to liberate peoples. -Something I learned in my Trotskyist youth, when I heard a “comrade” attacking Plaid Cymru. Bye, Trots!

vicky moller
Guest
vicky moller

its great to cadw i fynd with Cymraeg. After 40 yrs feeling inadequate I can chat in Welsh happily, its a bonding experience. Recommended. Far from pointless it opens a world in waiting.

David Roberts
Guest
David Roberts

A fi, hefyd! 👍

John Ellis
Guest
John Ellis

A minnau …

Wyn Davies
Guest
Wyn Davies

Cofiwch Drywern

Carwyn James
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Carwyn James

a fi, rwy’n hapus bod fi yn siarad Cymraeg a balch, mae’r swm o pobl sy’n mynd i’r ysgol Gymraeg wedi mynd lan.

Keith
Guest
Keith

Look, we have a huge problem in Wales in that we have been deprived of our own history through the anglcanization of our history, to the point that many Welsh people have no idea what it means to be Welsh. There is a current drive in Wales to rectify this by making Welsh history compulsory in schools. That day cannot come quick enough.

Steve Duggan
Guest
Steve Duggan

Okay, slights of the Welsh or Welsh language are relatively common but I think we shouldn’t get too worked up about them. Yes, they are not right but for me they show the insecurities and ignorance of those that do it. Many of these comments are just plain jealousy, jealousy over the fact there is a clear Welsh culture whereas an English identity is much harder to define. I tend to pity them rather than get angry. I know the Welsh and the Welsh language are great – that’s all that counts. However, when that ignorance and slight leads to… Read more »

Anthony Mitchell
Guest
Anthony Mitchell

Bang on, let them sneer n jeer. I’ve been relearning Welsh since I stopped after school and has opened a whole world to me and I was sitting right smack bang in the centre of it – the Welsh culture. I think you’re right, there is a bit of jealousy going on, I mean they have been talking about the death of the Welsh language since 1600 and it’s still a headache for the pro monolingo folks on this island. They desperately try to knock it down but it’s starting to become tiresome and pathetic now. Welsh is actually a… Read more »

Alwyn J Evans
Guest
Alwyn J Evans

I agree with the sentiment, however, the remark she made has passed through editorial processes. Those standards must be consistent and if the joke was something like the hilarity of chinese peoples R’s, the aggression of urban brown peoples patois or the conapiratorial sound of Yiddish, it would never have been accepted by the guardian for publication. They are obvious lazy shorthand, easy tropes and play into harmful stereotypes. She is not in the comfort of her own home and the guardian are amplifying her attack. If we protect one, we must protect all.

Roderich Heier
Guest
Roderich Heier

No language is pointless. Every language has a unique outlook on the world.

A Prophecy is Buried in Eglwyseg
Guest
A Prophecy is Buried in Eglwyseg

What is sad is not that these dimunitions and insults to our language persist, over and over.

What is sad is that the Cymry rarely demand respect. No one insults the Hungarian Langauge – they understand, respect is not for free. Being good at poetry and music does not earn respect. Why are Cymry shocked when they are not given respect when they did not earn it?

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

It’s far from petty. The Guardian has a track record of offensive comments about the language and (until as recently as the 1980s) about the Welsh people. They are able to do so with impunity. The newspaper is big on ‘calling out racism’; try substituting the word ‘Welsh’ for ‘Urdu’, Zoe, and see how your career progresses. Wales is the only country in Europe whose culture can be traduced by media people with no comeback from their employers or readers.

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

Truth is that the Guardian itself is pretty pointless ! I read some of its output online just to have an idea of how idiots communicate with each other in some kind of media echo chamber. Doesn’t teach me much but serves as a warning about the kind of drivel passing between people who think they are better than the rest of us.

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

Oh dear. This is spooky! I was about to say that ‘Being a Guardian Reader’ could be added to Zoe Williams’s list of pointless things, just after running on the spot. I now find the other Huw Davies has said more or less the same thing!
Perhaps we are, unknowingly, the same person, like Two-Face in the Batman comics. Harvey Dent, wasn’t it? Even the same HD initials!
I had a wy wedi berwi for breakfast. I hope Huw didn’t!

Huw Davies
Guest
Huw Davies

Huw Great minds think alike !! You’ve now set my “juices” off and I’ll have a double egg with my bacon at lunch. Hyfryd iawn.

Martin Whittaker
Guest
Martin Whittaker

I am English, and have lived in Wales since October 2017.

I am learning Welsh and find I get a great deal of encouragement.

I am also learming Welsh history, and once again, the English have much to be ashamed of.

James Lund-Caird
Guest
James Lund-Caird

I grew up in Wales and learnt Welsh (to a point). I can honestly say it was pointless and a wasted opportunity to learn a language that is relevant, adds value and improves opportunity – Spanish, Hindi, Russian, Chinese, Malay, French, German, Farsi would all have been better choices. Learning Welsh should be something you learn at home, its an irrelevant language really.

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

***************** F.U.2 ! ***************

jr humphrys
Guest
jr humphrys

Irrelevant languages part 1; Swedish, Hungarian, Latvian, Nederlands, Estonian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Greek, Icelandic, Italian, Welsh, Gaelic………………………………

Rob Davies
Guest
Rob Davies

The guardian is such a bastion of negativity towards minority languages. Especially welsh. These people are the same as the trump supporters who shout at spanish speakers. They hate the fact that there is a vibrant language in wales which predates the english language. As for the self loathing welsh well they are just part of the colonial system.

I have stopped read the guardian when they suggested vote liberal

Peter jones
Guest
Peter jones

I agree it is a waste of resources. We should be teaching our children lessens that will get them a job. In Wales only 15% speak Welsh yet every letter you get has Welsh all over it all the road signs. Waste of money and resources. Bombarded at school with Welsh lessons this should be opt in at a stretch. Maths or PE at least instead. Absolutely disgusted that my children have to take this subject.

Osian
Guest
Osian

Absolutely disgusted at your attitude peter, learning Welsh will enrich your children’s minds and give them a sense of empathy and belonging to their country which you obviously don’t have. If you hold the language in such disdain then you’re obviously living in the wrong country and should take remedial action. People are welcome in Wales on the condition they show respect to our language and culture, remember respect is a two-way street

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

‘Pete’, ladies and gentlemen. Different name, same message.

Tudor Rees
Guest
Tudor Rees

This is not altogether surprising in the increasingly English xenophobic, nationalistic climate that has been developing recently. The people of England and Wales share a Brythonic heritage, largely forgotten over the years to the east of Offa’s dyke, following the regime changes that occurred with the coming of The Anglo-Saxons and later Norman French. The Brythonic culture survived however in Strathclyde, Cumbria, Wales and Cornwall (known as the “British”areas). Alas that identity was taken from us with the appropriation of the term with the 1706-07 Acts of Union and given a spurious Anglo Norman meaning, with all the imperial baggage… Read more »

Jonathan Gammond
Guest
Jonathan Gammond

She could have made a comparison with more politically relevant pointless activities such as asking Jeremy Corbyn to have clarified his policy on Brexit during the general election campaign or getting Boris Johnson to attend a serious interview. If the journos expended as much energy on learning Welsh as the latter two gents, they would all be fluent., if not members of the Gorsedd.

Walter Hunt
Guest
Walter Hunt

Having watched Jamie Owen and Guto Harri on CGTN’s Brexit Special on Friday 31 (which included an interview with Cardiff University’s Professor Patrick “on Brexit, as on Thatcherism, I’m sure I’m right” Minford), I reflect how readily so many Welsh adapt themselves, (and seem prepared to see Wales adapted ) to service the needs of others.

Marc Evans
Guest
Marc Evans

In the 1970s I attended a new comprehensive school in north east Wales, in an industrial town then within less than 10 miles from towns and villages where Welsh was still in daily use in the community. 20 miles from the border, a growing anglicisation was nevertheless increasingly evident and Welsh has been made virtually extinct in many of those places. A chance encounter at age 11 (with an Eisteddfod proclamation ceremony in a rain swept field!) provoked a damascene revelation — I should learn to speak Welsh, not just pass an exam paper! But the school intended otherwise –… Read more »

Ann Owen
Guest
Ann Owen

Marc Evans, wedi mwynhau dy ffilmiau ar hyd y blynyddoedd ond ddim yn gwybod dy stori di. Diolch am y sylwadau.

Marc Evans
Guest
Marc Evans

Dyna stori arall – nid y Marc hwnnw ydw i, er digon rhesymol yw eich camsyniad.! Rydym yr un oedran (mwy neu lai) a’r ddau ohonom o Gaerdydd ac am gyfnod, bu’r ddau ohonom yn gweithio yn yr un swyddfa ac yn rhannu’r un gwaith… Ond ysywaeth, teledu dewisais i nid ffilm ac wedyn gyrfa dipyn llai difyr a chreadigol.

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

That’s the best thing I’ve read for ages. What a pity that Zoe Williams will never read it.

Dave Jones
Guest
Dave Jones

What if you said “angry ape” ?

Welsh gurl
Guest
Welsh gurl

I’m a fluent welsh speaker and have english friends who have learnt the language its amazing to have in my rezimay speaks welsh because its shows um differs

j humphrys
Guest
j humphrys

Jersey.

Alan jones
Guest
Alan jones

Totally agree that it does need to be taught at home and not at school. This is is taking away valuable lesson time. On much more important subjects. Teaching for 40 years and we need to give the students a better education.

Rhosddu
Guest
Rhosddu

Totally agree with who? Most peope would not agree with you. That’s why the demand for Welsh-medium educaton is increasing.