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Politicians round on BBC’s Jeremy Bowen for Welsh language remarks

05 Feb 2022 4 minute read
Jeremy Bowen photo by by nicksarebi is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. Jeremy Miles. Photo the Senedd

Politicians have rounded on veteran BBC journalist Jeremy Bowen for comments he made about the Welsh language.

The Cardiff-born BBC Middle East Editor came under fire for claiming that the “determination” of the Welsh Government “to spread” the Welsh language “risks devaluing” his identity.

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”.

Bowen, whose grandfather spoke the language, made the suggestion about Welsh on the BBC Radio 4 programme This Union: Being Welsh.

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”.

Plaid Cymru MS Delyth Jewell said: “What Jeremy Bowen doesn’t understand is that in the time he’s been away from Wales, the linguistic divide has healed.

“This attitude reflects a divisive past, whereas modern Wales is a confident, bilingual nation where people respect each other, whether they speak Welsh or not.”

Jeremy Miles, the Minister for Education and the Welsh Language, said: “From one Jeremy to another: Cymraeg belongs to us all, whether we can say just a few words, whether we can speak a lot, or not!

“And it’s never too late to pick up even just a little Welsh – there’s loads of support and a huge welcome for anyone who wants to give it a go.”

Anna McMorrin, the Labour MP for Cardiff North said Bowen’s claim is “not true”. She added: “We are proud of our language, it belongs to all of us. We will work hard to keep it alive.”

‘Fierce criticism’ 

The comments by Bowen about the Welsh language came in for fierce criticism on social media.

In response to an article on Nation.Cymru about the remarks, fellow BBC broadcaster Huw Edwards said he does “like and respect” Bowen, but added that his “take is 1970s Cardiff”.

He also asked whether people should “stop speaking Welsh to make him feel better” and that he “thought criticising government policy was against” the BBC’s “rules”.

Ian Titherington said: “It’s so disappointing to see Jeremy Bowen trot out this old prejudice. I like him grew up in the ‘anglicised’ south but unlike him still live here, an learning Welsh & watch so many around me learning & speaking Welsh – in Grangetown.”

Helen Williams said: “Bo****ks. I’m not a Welsh speaker but sent my kids to a Welsh medium school. I’m Welsh and proud and think everyone should have the opportunity to become fluent in Welsh.

Dewi Rhys-Jones said: “This is the sort of malignant nonsense that comes out of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland.”

Social media expert Owen Williams said: “This is Wales. We speak Welsh. Get over it.”

Jordan Everitt said: “The determination to get rid of the Welsh language in times gone by was an intentional move to devalue the identity and traditions of an entire nation.

“I get the point he makes, but this insecurity around the Welsh language stems from the attempts to destroy it, not promote it.”

Bryn Griffiths said: “Mam bach, this is absurd. Welsh doesn’t take anything away, it broadens minds, gives access to Welsh culture, gives you 2 windows to look at the world around you instead of 1. Nobody regrets speaking Welsh, plenty regret not been given the opportunity to learn it.”

Daf Roberts said: “They hung WN signs around little kids necks not 100 years ago for speaking welsh, but this clown claims it’s his identity being devalued? Good one.”

Eleri Glyn said: “As a first language Welsh speaker I resent being accused of harbouring these sentiments. I have never considered myself to be more Welsh than Welsh people who don’t speak Welsh. You are wrong Jeremy Bowen pontificating from your vantage point in London.”

Jac Jones said: “Hey Siri, show me an insecure 1970s mindset.”


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Erisian
Erisian
7 months ago

Welsh is an incredibly beautiful language, and its different grammar (VSO) is a mind-expanding joy. Its idioms are nothing short of delightful.
Just learn it for fun. 10 minutes a day on Duo Lingo will make a difference in a month – and if you don’t mind watching a few adverts it’s FREE.

Just in case the value of bilingualism is not obvious…
https://www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/home/council-services/education-schools/bilingual-education/advantages-of-being-bilingual/

Ed Jones
Ed Jones
7 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

⬆️ 100% this. Diolch Erisian, long may you continue to enjoy, dal ati a diolch yn fawr iawn.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
7 months ago
Reply to  Erisian

I can recall a narrative in the 1970s which said ‘Welsh is a dead language’ which was the continuing verbal version of hanging the rope of shame (Welsh knot/not) around childrens’ necks in schools. I have never heard anyone properly express that this act was a grotesque human rights abuse and we are living with the legacy of this today with people from inside and outside of Wales wanting the language eradicated. I hugely respect the work and knowledge of Jeremy Bowen in his capacity as middle east correspondent and i, like him, grew up in Cardiff through the seventies.… Read more »

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
7 months ago

I wonder it, perhaps, the key point to understaning the strange idea Mr B has expressed lies in the fact that he lives in London. That is a very multi-racial, mult-language, multi-religion, etc. city and perhaps he feels that as an elderly white welsh speaking male his lanuage skill gives him the identity equivalent of (say) a Sikhs turban. I must apologise to any Sikh readers here as I do not know anything about the religion or the community except that those from the community who I have met have worn them. Now if everybody wore a turban would that… Read more »

Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

He does not speak welsh, it did not bluntly state it in the article but I will: ‘I am welsh but do not speak welsh and if more and more welsh people speak welsh it will take away my identiity as a non- welsh speaking welshman’ i.e ‘im in the majority and want to keep it that way, so dont go about teaching it to anyone else’

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
7 months ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

Good post! Doubt he speaks Cymraeg.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
7 months ago

Self-hating Jeremy Bowen might as well join GB News. They are looking for more bigots. He’s no Welshman.

frennifawr
frennifawr
7 months ago

Wonder whether he’s mates with the Kinnocks?

R W
R W
7 months ago
Reply to  frennifawr

And perhaps Chris Bryant as well?

Penderyn
Penderyn
7 months ago

Whatever your opinion. The legacy of English imperialism is an incredibly strong one. Made many natives around the world hate their ancestors culture and adore the London ordained one

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
7 months ago
Reply to  Penderyn

Some, perhaps?

Andrew Lelliott
Andrew Lelliott
7 months ago

We are not a bilingual country like many of the comments suggest. We are a multilingual country with many millions of pounds being spent on promoting Cymraeg not the many other languages that the rest of the world and many within our Welsh communities speak. At the moment the discussion is all one sided with Jeremy Bowen targeted because he felt he was being excluded and said so. The attitude and actions of many who promote the Welsh language, particularly those in the Welsh government, are excluding the non Welsh speaking majority.

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