Jeremy Vine and Assembly Member in clash over Welsh language ‘analogy’

(Left) Siân Gwenllian AM. Picture by the National Assembly (CC 2.0). (Right) eremy Vine. Picture by James Cridland (CC BY 2.0)

An Assembly Member has clashed with Jeremy Vine after the BBC presenter seemed to suggest that Welsh was on par with a foreign language in the UK.

Sian Gwenllian, the Plaid Cymru AM for Arfon, said that his comments implied that “other languages don’t belong here, indigenous or otherwise”.

Jeremy Vine’s official Twitter feed had responded to an online message suggesting that Welsh people speaking Welsh in Wales was equivalent to French people speaking French in France by asking: “Is France in the UK?”

The tweet has now been deleted.

Sian Gwenllian invited Jeremy Vine to visit her constituency to “understand what it means to live in a community where Welsh is the day-to-day medium of communication”.

“Perhaps then you will see why your remark is profoundly insulting to our identity, culture and way of life,” she said.

Jeremy Vine responded by saying: “It’s not what I meant nor would ever have wanted to imply. There is nothing better than diversity of language and of everything. I was arguing against an analogy and not doing it very well.

“I was only questioning whether the Paris/France analogy was helpful. I didn’t choose my words very well, clearly.”

Sian Gwenllian responded: “Many others have obviously misinterpreted your reply too. They maybe deserve an apology for your clumsiness?

“And if I give you the benefit of the doubt, will you reciprocate and come and visit so you can see what a bilingual society is really like?”

‘Hate’

The discussion kicked off after a heated debate on Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 programme about the Welsh language.

He was discussing Lloyd Bank’s initial refusal to accept a cheque written in Welsh by Cardigan Town Council.

He interviewed a man from Pontypridd who said that Welsh speakers “think they’re better than anybody else”.

“I don’t want to speak it, it’s a horrible language,” he said. “If you go into any pub in west Wales, in north Wales, they’re all there speaking English, soon as they come in and hear my accent, they start changing into Wesh, so we can’t understand them.

“I hate it, I just hate the language.”

Two other callers, one from Caernarfon and another from Cardiff, challenged his comments.

A Twitter user, Blogdroed, responded by saying: “I can’t believe Jeremy Vine is giving airtime to the tired old trope about ‘walkig into a pub and people switching to English’… for crying out loud its 2018 and people are still trotting out this nonsense.”

Another user, William Jones, responded: “I walked into a pub in Paris the week before Christmas… Who would have thought, French-speaking French in France.”

To which Jeremy Vine replied by suggesting that weren’t comparable: “Is France in the UK?”

Director and producer Sian Harries responded to his message by saying: “God knows what will happen to our language once Brexit happens. The attitude towards speaking a minority language in the UK is disgraceful already.”

Another user, Lieutenant Cool, accused Jeremy Vine of being intolerant and thinking “you should only speak English in the UK. Shame on anyone with that mindset.”

Responding to his original comment, Jeremy Vine said that he “never told the original story about the Welsh speakers in the pub, nor did I endorse it.”


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