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Welsh showing others languages how to avoid ‘extinction’ says bestselling American science magazine

08 Sep 2021 2 minutes Read
Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Sir Conwy 2019

One of American’s top science magazines has pointed to the Welsh language as a successful example for languages at risk of disappearing.

In an article on endangered languages, Discover, says that 30% of languages have disappeared in the last 60 years, describing it as “a mass-extinction event”.

However, the magazine, which has a circulation of over half a milion, uses attempts to revive the Welsh language since a fall in the number of speakers in the early 20th century as a case study that other languages could follow.

“Linguists often point to Welsh as a successful case study,” the article in Discover says.

“Wales, a constituent nation of the United Kingdom with a population of just over 3.1 million, has a long history of speaking Welsh — in 1800 it was the de facto language throughout most of the country.

“By the early 1900s, however, it was spoken by less than half of the Welsh population. The drop was in part due to significant migration from England and Ireland, but the Welsh language was also seen as a threat by some in government.

“During the Victorian era, there were several popular uprisings in Wales and some members of parliament concluded that the persistence of the Welsh language was to blame. As a result, Welsh was actively discouraged by the school system and pupils who conversed in their mother tongue were punished.”

The article adds that the decline in the Welsh language had now “stabalized” thanks to “concerted, coordinated efforts to keep the language alive.”

“Welsh is now recognized as an official language all students in Wales are taught Welsh; and some schools teach all lessons in Welsh,” it says.

“The country’s 2011 national census revealed that 19 percent of people still spoke the language. Thanks to this wholesale approach, what seemed like a terminal decline has been soothed.”

The article quotes Lyle Campbell, a linguist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, who says that the Welsh language can serve as an example to others of how to turn the tide: “With enough dedication, small language communities can keep their languages despite all the odds.”

The most recent Annual Population Survey in 2020, as conducted by the Office for National Statistics, suggests that 28.6% of people in Wales aged three and over were able to speak Welsh.

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Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
13 days ago

Hope you’re listening, France. You owe Brittany one language.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
13 days ago

I’ve often wondered, over the years, why Wales was not used internationally as a working example of a bi-lingual country…

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
13 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Probably because sadly most people in the world have never heard of Wales, and most people think the whole of the UK is England. I hope we can change that. Cymru am byth 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
13 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Owen

I think you do Wales an injustice there…

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
13 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Really? I am not saying it is a good thing but, I have travelled all over the world, lived in India, and in my experience most people I have met have never heard of Wales. I have also lived in London for many years and most foreign people I meet think England and the UK are the same thing. I know Italy and France very well and most people there think England is the same thing as Britain, to them we are all English. I have tried explaining the difference but people find it very hard to understand that Britain… Read more »

Derek
Derek
12 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Owen

I’d like to point out that many French people know that there’s a difference; France and Scotland were trading partners whist England was busy picking fights with everyone. There are huge old wine warehouses still standing in Leith, as that’s where France’s exports to these isles were landed, largely. Post-1707, this counted as piracy…!

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
12 days ago
Reply to  Derek

Maybe they know about Scotland, but from my experience they think Wales is part of England and refer to British people as English.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
12 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Not my view, but in my experience it is true that most people in the world have never heard of Wales. Even those who have heard of it think it is part of England. Very sad but I try my best to educate people we exist, Cymru am byth 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Llewelyn
Llewelyn
13 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Owen

Gogledd cymru am byth!!

Gill Jones
Gill Jones
13 days ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Na, Cymru o Fôn i Fynwy!

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
13 days ago
Reply to  Llewelyn

Cymru gyfan am byth 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

Marcus Viola
Marcus Viola
13 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Because Belgium is a better one?

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
13 days ago
Reply to  Marcus Viola

There’s conflict between the two linguistic communities, and a secessionist movement in Flanders.

Last edited 13 days ago by Rhosddu
Hannergylch
Hannergylch
13 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

According to the swissinfo.ch web site:

“Whether chatting with family, friends or work colleagues or just watching television or surfing the internet, almost two-thirds (64%) of Swiss use more than one language at least once a week, with 38% using two, 19% three and 7% four or more.”

They’re beating us hands down. To be fair though, 99% of first-language Welsh speakers are a match for the 38% of the Swiss. It’s first-language English-speakers like me who are letting the side down. Mae’n ddrwg ‘da fi!

Arwyn
13 days ago

Cymraeg is going through a process of latinization. We should remember that once the whole of Cymru was “Y Fro Gymraeg.” The remaining communities are going through the same processes and the language is receeding to the margins of school, eisteddfod and S4C. This is de facto extinction. The Labour and Tory parties should hang their heads in shame at presiding over this grim state of affairs. The only way to reverse this sorry trend is to adopt Cymraeg as the language of public life and give all Cymry a fully bilingual education. Every government pound spent on English language… Read more »

Julian
Julian
13 days ago
Reply to  Arwyn

hmm…. Depends what you mean by public life? It is not unusual for countries to have a language used for Official business e.g Mandarin Chinese it doesn’t mean that the other languages spoken in the country suffer. In this respect Wales perhaps does better because it is now possible to use Welsh in ‘official’ setting e.g. in a court of law. The real challenge is to help people feel Welsh is relevant to them, and an important part of their own identity, their communities identity and their national identity. And that while a language will (needs?) to evolve over time… Read more »

Arwyn
13 days ago
Reply to  Julian

Public life – here’s a useful definition:

Work that involves being known to a lot of people, especially in politics, but also in religion and education.

“After losing the election, he played no further part in public life.”

Up to the Senedd to lead by example here. It falls well short.

As for borrowing words – all languages borrow words. Cymraeg is full of latin borrowings. English is a veritable word soup with french spelling conventions and latinized grammar thrown in on top. Sai’n becso am fenthyciadau.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
13 days ago

Cymraeg breaths still, not because if any Tory Government who still make false claims that it was they after setting up S4C in the early 80s that saved Britain’s native language from the jaws of the inevitable. Where in reality it was speakers & supporters that fought & campaigned tirelessly to protect & promote it, who were the ones who called for our own television channel. No language has come under such duress as Cymraeg has, especially neighbouring England with its far reaching linguistic tendrils. Cymraeg is in our DNA, in our bones, is part of our ancient landscape and… Read more »

Gill Jones
Gill Jones
13 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Gwir pob gair. Ystyriwch ‘Etifeddiaeth’ – cerdd Gerallt Lloyd Owen.

Cawsom wlad i’w chadw,
darn o dir yn dyst
ein bod wedi mynnu byw.

Cawsom genedl o genhedlaeth
i genhedlaeth, ac anadlu
ein hanes ni ein hunain.

A chawsom iaith, er na cheisiem hi,
oherwydd ei hias oedd yn y pridd eisioes
a’i grym anniddig ar y mynyddoedd.
……..

Mawkernewek
12 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

It isn’t in the DNA. Otherwise why would large areas of Cymru, a country which was almost entirely Welsh-speaking in 1800 not be Welsh-speaking now?

arthur owen
12 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I am afraid other languages have come under such,indeed greater,duress.I won’t look to distant lands about which I do not know enough,I will just mention Scots Gaelic,Irish and Breton which makes the point clearly enough,although the reason for the decline of these languages may not be due to English oppression alone.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
11 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I don’t think it has anything to do with DNA, anyone can learn Welsh from whatever background 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

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