Language activists protest urges Welsh Government to ‘take action’ after census results show fall in speakers
Welsh language activists staged a protest to urge the Welsh Government to “take action” after disappointing census results.
Yesterday’s 2021 census results showed that the number of Welsh speakers had continued to slide from 582,000 (20.8%) in 2001 to 538,000 (17.8%) today.
But Cymdeithas said that the decline was not inevitable and that the Welsh Government needed to act to reverse it.
Members of the Cymdeithas yr Iaith put up posters and sprayed the message ‘Llywodraeth Cymru: Gweithredwch’ (‘Welsh Government: Take Action) on Government buildings in Aberystwyth, Carmarthen and Llandudno Junction overnight.
A spokesperson for Cymdeithas said: “The Government has set a target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050, but aren’t acting to fulfil that promise.
“Mark Drakeford’s comments today about Welsh education cast doubt on the type of Education Act we can expect.
“And so far tackling housing problems has been focused on second homes and houses holidays, instead of putting a Property Act in place to regulate the housing market, making houses affordable on local wages and therefore enabling people to stay in their communities.
“Our call therefore is that it is time for the Government to act. We are calling people from all parts of Wales to join us in that call by coming to a Nid yw Cymru ar Werth (Wales is Not For Sale) rally in Llanrwst on December 17 and to a rally in Carmarthen on January 14.”
Yesterday the Minister for the Welsh language has said that he remains “committed” to the Welsh Government’s target of 1m Welsh speakers after a second census in a row showed a fall in numbers.
Education minister Jeremy Miles however said that there were “good reasons to be optimistic about the next decade”.
“Today’s census figures are of course disappointing and not what we wanted to see,” he said.
“Census 2021 shows us one snapshot of what’s happened over the last ten years. We’ll look at those results in detail alongside all the other statistics and research that’s available to us.
“I’ve often said that Welsh isn’t just something I speak, it’s something I feel, and I feel more and more people feel that the language belongs to them. The key is changing those feelings into language use.
“We’ll take time to examine the data carefully, in particular the figures relating to 3-15-year-olds. COVID-19 meant that 2021 was an extremely uncertain time, with many people concerned about their children’s Welsh language abilities, children were out of school, and it may be that we are seeing this concern reflected in the way they reported their children’s use of Welsh.
“The National Survey for Wales shows an increase in people saying they speak some Welsh. This contrasts with the census figures released today. This is also something we will look at carefully.
“I’ve previously said that I’ll review our statistical trajectory in light of the census data to look at what more we can do to support people to speak more Welsh in their daily lives. As part of this, I’ll want to talk with people all over Wales in the New Year. But we remain absolutely committed to our aim of a million Welsh speakers and doubling the number of us who use Welsh every day by 2050.
“The census shows us what has happened over the last ten years up to 2021. Cymraeg 2050 has been in place for less than four years of that period, and much of that time was affected by COVID-19. We’ve got good reasons to be optimistic about the next decade. Cymraeg belongs to us all in Wales.
“Today, we see more children in Welsh-medium education, more opportunities to learn Welsh, and greater pride in our language and our identity than ever before.”
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said that the Welsh Government needed to show that they were serious about tackling the issues that were causing the decline of the Welsh language.
Their Chairman Robat Idris said that setting a goal of teaching all schoolchildren through Welsh was essential in order to prevent the decline of the Welsh language.
“The Government has declared the intention to aim for a million speakers, but hasn’t taken the action needed to ensure growth,” he said.
“Today’s results show that an urgent change of gear is needed – one practical thing the Government can do now is to set a goal in the upcoming Welsh Language Education Act that all children will be educated through the Welsh language in future.
“Setting a clear path towards Welsh-medium education for everyone will ensure that future generations become confident Welsh speakers, and we can then expect to see some positive change from the 2031 Census.”
Cymdeithas yr Iaith said they were also concerned about the pressure on Welsh-speaking communities, highlighted once again in today’s Census results.
Robat Idris added: “Even more serious than the decline in the total number of Welsh speakers is the fact that our Welsh language communities are under increasing pressures as local people are forced to leave due to a lack of homes that are affordable on local wages.
“We need a Property Act that will regulate the housing market, give more power to our communities and prioritise local people in housing.
“Is it any wonder that we’ve seen a decrease in the number of Welsh speakers? At the moment, 80% of our young people leave school unable to speak Welsh.
“Considering the language’s history, concrete action is needed from the Government if they are serious about revival. There are practical things they can do straight away – Welsh-medium education in all schools and a robust Property Act would transform things for the language at grassroots level and create the change needed to start turning the tide.
“The decline of the Welsh language is by no means inevitable, but the Government needs to act.
“The Government and local authorities also need to consider the Welsh language in all policy areas, and not leave language revitalisation efforts to specific language officers or departments. Reviving the language is a major effort that requires action across all policy areas”.
The group Hawl Fyw Adref who campaign for affordable homes in Welsh communities added that the “biggest threat to the language is a further decline in the percentage of speakers in Welsh speaking areas”.
“The results of the census have highlighted this reality. To ensure a future for our language the government and local authorities must act without delay, paying particular attention to communities where Welsh is the everyday language of the majority of the population.
“Without Welsh communities there is no future for the language as a living language.”
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