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New research shows the Welsh language and its speakers might be disadvantaged by social media

19 Dec 2022 2 minute read


Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

A new study from Swansea University has highlighted how social media may be threatening the future of the Welsh language and the psychological health of its speakers.

The research, published in Trends in Psychology, was conducted by Dr Richard Jones, Dr Irene Reppa, and Professor Phil Reed from the School of Psychology and is the first of its kind to compare minority and majority language speakers’ social media responses.

The team evaluated 800 first-language Welsh and first-language English speakers aged 13 to 15, attending Welsh-medium schools throughout Wales.

Over 10% of the pupils registered a high level of social media addiction, which mirrors European-based studies.

Furthermore, the findings showed nearly 70% (209 out of 303) of Welsh speakers used English “Often” or “Always” on social media, with the vast majority using it more than Welsh.

Although previous work has shown that Welsh has established a foothold within the digital landscape, Welsh speakers switching to the majority language may threaten the continued vitality of the Welsh language, they said.

Dr Richard Jones said: “Acknowledging the importance of language to minority-language speakers’ cultural and social identities, the erosion of a language online would threaten the cultural identity of a nation.”


The study also evaluated the psychological impact of social media use on Welsh-English bilingual speakers.

The data revealed that Welsh speakers’ desire to use social media in Welsh might be driven by wanting to increase self-esteem, to attain greater linguistic parity with English speakers, or to connect with other Welsh speakers.

Dr Richard Jones said: “The consequence of minority-language speakers switching to the majority language threatens the continued vitality of minority languages and raises questions regarding the significance of the minority language within minority-language speakers’ minds.”

Professor Phil Reed added: “The study shows that governments need to consider not only the impacts of social media on psychological health and wellbeing but also its impact on the cultures of minority groups who may be forced to abandon important and stabilising influences in the pursuit of digital interactions, which are becoming increasingly necessary for everyday life.”

Dr Irene Reppa noted: “This work sheds light on the issues that threaten minority languages, such as the Welsh language, when faced with the homogenisation of cultures because of the use of the internet and social media to reach a global audience.”

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1 year ago

I’ve noticed Facebook routinely hides Cymraeg comments, with the default “show relevant comments” mode filtering them out. Any research on this trend?

1 year ago

I am not sure how many social media users are aware that it is possible to change the language of one’s device to Cymraeg either! It is very frustrating to try typing comments in Cymraeg with the standard English keyboard as auto correct goes berserk. If you switch languages it is happy. Both Google and Samsung keyboards have it as an option, don’t know about Apple devices.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

The introduction of the Hollywood ‘Talkies’ movies to help finance the Miners Institutes nearly a century ago is an early example of this ‘social’ trend to learn/use English…

Last edited 1 year ago by Mab Meirion
Jon Summers
Jon Summers
1 year ago

Social media is just part of a wider trend towards the homogenisation of culture, or rather the Americanisation of it. Even the French are having the same issue. For a fairly trite example, look at how the English language dominates Eurovision these days. Gone are the days when we would get both English and French used alongside each other equally. In work it is accepted that – quote – “English is the language of business”. The Canadians are having to legislate to ensure equally priority is given to French and English. Minority languages face an uphill struggle.

Boris Sonjohn
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Summers

I imagine every language in the entire world is disadvantaged. with the exception of English.

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