Welsh language revival ‘an example to Hong Kong and Hawaii’ – CNN

The view of Central, Hong Kong from a boat just off of the new Queen’s Pier number 9. Picture by Hankt (CC BY 3.0).

The Welsh language has been held up as an example to endangered languages around the world in a feature article by CNN Asia.

According to the article which is one of the main stories on the CNN website today the changes that saw the “revival” of the Welsh language is a “blueprint” for other languages, including Cantonese in Hong Kong.

“The story of the Welsh revival is one of tremendous organizing and effort by activists and politicians, who not only saved their own tongue but also established a blueprint of sorts which can be used by other languages under threat, including Hong Kong’s own Cantonese,” the article by journalist James Griffiths says.

“Far from being on the verge of extinction, Welsh is often held up today as an example of how grassroots organizing and government support can revive a language.”

The article quotes Gary Holton, a researcher with the Endangered Language Project, on how the blueprint set by the language helped to rescue indigenous languages in Hawaii.

The language has now become popular among non-indigenous Hawaiians, he says, and like in Wales, indigenous names have been restored to many locations.

“Thanks to pressure from groups like Cymdeithas and the growing electoral success of Plaid Cymru, the political winds began to turn in favor of Welsh. In 1993 a law was passed to permit the language’s use in court and put it on an equal footing with English for all public services,” the article says.

“In decades since, Welsh education has been ramped up nationwide and in 2011 it became the country’s official language.

“The reversal in attitudes came not a moment too soon. At the 1991 census, only 18.5% of the population spoke Welsh, an all-time low. A decade later, however, that figure was more than 20% — and the language’s decline appears to have halted since, stabilizing at about a fifth of the population despite continued immigration from England and other countries.

“The government of Wales — which won partial autonomy from the UK in 1997 — is now thoroughly invested in promoting the Welsh language, setting a target of one million Welsh speakers by 2050, for an estimated population of around 3.5 million.”


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