Tynged yr Iaith: Commissioner warns against feeling ‘too comfortable’ about position of Welsh language
More ambitious action is needed to make sure people can live their lives through the medium of Welsh, according to the Welsh Language Commissioner.
Ahead of the 60th anniversary of seminal Saunders Lewis’s radio lecture, Tynged yr Iaith (Fate of the Language), on 13 February, it has been warned that there are still barriers preventing people from being able to do so.
Deputy Welsh Language Commissioner, Gwenith Price pointed out that the Commissioner is still unable to “enforce the use of Welsh by organisations run by the UK Government”, and that most “businesses are also not required to use the language”.
This impacts areas such as passports, driving licences and the welfare state.
She argued that a “complete transformation” of education is needed in Wales or “the vision of a million Welsh speakers will fail”.
However, the Commissioner recognises the progress that has been made in terms of the status of the language over the last sixty years.
Deputy Welsh Language Commissioner, Gwenith Price, said: “English was the only official language of public organisations in the 1960s, even in areas with very high percentages of Welsh speakers.
“The fact that there are now rights to use Welsh with public organisations in all parts of Wales is something that could be described, in the words of Saunders Lewis, as nothing less than a ‘revolution’. It is unlikely that this would have happened without his motivation, and the efforts of generations of campaigners.
“Eleven years ago to this week, the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 became law. As a result of the legislation there are rights to use the Welsh language with over 120 public organisations.
“Unlike the previous language act, the Welsh Language Measure led to enforcing organisations to consider the Welsh language more carefully, ensuring that the language is central to healthcare planning, for example.
“The Measure also gave individuals the right to complain directly to the Welsh Language Commissioner. Complaints can be made about a lack of a Welsh language service or inadequate consideration of the language by organisations. The Commissioner has a range of powers to deal with such complaints and prevent similar experiences from happening again.”
“But we must not be too comfortable.
“There are still far too many barriers preventing Welsh speakers from using the language. While we welcome the commitment in the recent co-operation agreement between Welsh Labour and Plaid Cymru, not enough has been done in recent years to move forward, and duties need to be placed on whole sectors.
“Another barrier is that the Commissioner cannot enforce the use of Welsh by organisations run by the UK Government, for example issues relating to passports, driving licences and the welfare state.
“Most businesses are also not required to use the language, and this limits people’s ability to live through the medium of Welsh. Until the experience of Welsh speakers is equal to English, the battle has not been won.”
Gwenith Price said: “Saunders Lewis spoke of the need for a revolution in public services. Today, we need a revolution in education. Without a complete transformation of the situation, the vision of a million Welsh speakers will fail.
“There are not enough teachers who can teach through the medium of Welsh to create a new generation of speakers. Much more needs to be done to attract Welsh speakers into the profession, and to develop the Welsh language skills of those teachers who teach through the medium of English.”
Last October, the Commissioner published a 5-year report on the position of the language. In it, he analyses in detail the position of the language today, saying ambitious action is needed in areas such as education, economic development, housing, technology, and investment in community and social networks.
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