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Welsh speakers no longer an ’embattled minority’, BBC’s Jeremy Bowen suggests

08 Feb 2022 4 minutes Read
Jeremy Bowen at a meeting with Jon Snow organised by the Olive Tree Programme at City University. Author, Nick from Bristol (CC 2.0)

Veteran BBC journalist has suggested that Welsh speakers are no longer an “embattled minority”.

The Cardiff-born BBC Middle East Editor argued that though speakers of the language were still a minority, they now hold many powerful positions in Wales’ elite.

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.”

While he was making the programme, he spoke with some “old friends” from Cardiff, and said they were “grumbling about what they saw as official bias in favour of Welsh speakers.”

Bowen also claimed that the “determination” of the Welsh Government “to spread” the Welsh language “risks devaluing” his identity.

The radio documentary featured an interview with Welsh Language Commissioner Aled Roberts, whose job it is to protect the rights of Welsh language.

He pointed to a poll that suggested 86% of people in Wales believe that the language has “value”.

The Commissioner argued that rules to protect the rights of Welsh speakers are necessary in order to reverse the damage done by what he described as a “conscious effort really to try and kill the language”.

Jeremy Bowen said: “I talked about the language with some of my old friends in Cardiff when I was making this programme. They live their lives in English. Like Sam in Ely [a contributor to the programme] and me, I’d say they value the language and respect its importance, but they were also grumbling about what they saw as official bias in favour of Welsh speakers.

“There was a time when Welsh speakers were an embattled minority. Welsh speakers are still a minority, but many powerful positions in Wales’ elite are now held by Welsh speakers, including in the government and at the BBC.”

He asked Welsh Language Commissioner Aled Roberts: “How important is the Welsh language to the identity of Welsh people?”

Roberts replied: “I think it’s important. It’s important for non Welsh speakers as much as it is to Welsh speakers because it’s part of what makes us unique.

“86% of the population of Wales when they were last polled actually believed that there was a value to the language.

‘Equal status’ 

On the Welsh Language Standards, which help ensure that Welsh speakers are treated equally by public services added: “Welsh and English are equal status in Wales. The standards themselves, they’re not a uniform set of standards.

“The same standards apply to the local government and the national park authorities for example, to the Welsh Government itself. There are different standards then that are applied to the health boards.

“They relate to things like correspondence should be either bilingual or in the language of your choice, that signage or reception areas should recognise both languages.

Bowen asked: “Why is it necessary to use the force of law, statute, to promote a language?”

Roberts replied: “History goes back centuries to the fact that there was a conscious effort really to try and kill the language. It was banned in schools. Children whose home language was Welsh were not allowed to use Welsh in school. There was an expectation that the language of business and the language of officialdom was English.

“There was a move in the 60s and 70s as a result of some of the language protests that that should change. But the reality was that the pace of change was very slow.”


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GW Atkinson
GW Atkinson
3 months ago

He is so Welsh, I didn’t even know he was Welsh until he vomited out his diatribe. Kept that quiet didn’t he.

Malcolmrj
Malcolmrj
3 months ago

Why did they have this Welsh Traitors views on the Welsh language I.bet he is one of the Welsh NOT deniers that happened to young Welsh Children in schools he is in my opinion a traitor to Wales stay up in England and also keep your opinions about Wales to yourself

Grayham Jones
3 months ago

Welsh is the first language in wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 we in wales have got to stop being little Englanders and and be proud to be welsh it’s time for a new wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

George
George
3 months ago
Reply to  Grayham Jones

“Welsh and English are equal status in Wales”

It’s in the article that we don’t have first and second language.

Richard
Richard
3 months ago

I think it’s the metro centric thinking of JB who in semi retirement just pops back to Meto Caerdydd and chats up some old mates no doubt over a latte Oat Milk 🥛 ( which I like also ) to see what’s happening in the city / land of his youth. Lazy journalists who see the issues abroad but not at home ( well x home ) that hurts. I find many of those in the USA have a similar paternal View of Wales 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 when their families left decades even generations ago. Nice to support the Rygby and have… Read more »

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
3 months ago
Reply to  Richard

Smashes the comfort zone. Let’s get on with Cymru Newydd……..Yes Cymru!

Richard
Richard
3 months ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

👍🏼

CJPh
CJPh
3 months ago

Although much of his tone and the context of these latest comments are awful (again), his overall point is quite right – we are no longer an embattled minority, we are a celebrated minority. We won, we survived and we continue to flourish. This is a very good sign, guys – they are now sending their best. And they’re also failing. It may get to the point that ignoring this stuff is better. They’re trying “divide and conquer” but it’s 30 years too late. Enjoy the ride down this slippery slope, there’s a big pool of freedom at the bottom

hdavies15
hdavies15
3 months ago

This article reports that Bowen.. “argued that though speakers of the language were still a minority, they now hold many powerful positions in Wales’ elite.” Well big bloody deal! Our struggle is about the rights of ordinary Welsh speakers and those who aspire to use the language not some insular, insulated elite who enjoy “powerful positions” gifted by the Anglo Brit supremacy. And whatever Bowen thinks there ain’t many of those to the square mile around here, mush !

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
3 months ago

Jeremy, meet The Critic. The Critic, meet Jeremy.

A moribund language, whose speakers are no longer an embattled minority. Make your minds up, guys!

Paul
Paul
3 months ago

What is interpreted as ‘bias’ is nothing more than the logical consequence of official status. What they rail against is that official status.

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
3 months ago

Keep digging the hole deeper Jeremy. If this fool put his brain in gear and his mouth in neutral would understand that prejudice towards Welsh has never ceased, even with a rise in speakers. And just because there are more Welsh speakers doesn’t mean it’s now open season again because the language has recovered after centuries of linguistic cleansing by his narrow-minded sort. Duw, his ignorance on the matter is stifling?

Last edited 3 months ago by Y Cymro
Dewi Williamswhat
Dewi Williamswhat
3 months ago

It is reasonable to understand why JB has aroused such criticism because for an experienced journalist he has failed to recognise the sensitivity of this subject in the context he expresses it. However, this awkwardness in his narrative belies his true affection and passion for being Welsh. He is being misjudged. I support this claim as a result of being aware of one event and another separate incident, when publicly, he devoutly expressed his Welshness. In recent times he appeared on a TV documentary involving his guest attendance at a Merthyr school, Merthyr being his paternal roots. The resulting dialogue… Read more »

Llefain
Llefain
3 months ago

I imagine the position he is in is one that many who were denied, or rejected the language in a time that that was what people were told to do know find themselves in. It is a sad scar that hopefully we can one day heal as a nation. You are no less Welsh for the languages you speak or do not speak. But also, Cymraeg being embraced and becoming welcomed in the halls of power now is also not an attack on those who don’t speak it, and to imply that is irresponsible at best. It’s sad all around.

Llefain
Llefain
3 months ago

Does his identity rely on a feeling of being superior somehow, for not speaking Cymraeg, not being “too Welsh”, for “passing” within the “right” group (the Anglophone monoglot elites of the “UK” and England, where he lives). This is the only reasonable explanation I can think of to explain why he thinks moves towards equality for Cymraeg and Cymraeg speakers as being superiority or preference. Like any group who is so used to having power by virtue of their existence (in this case English monoglots), they see any rights or position given to others as somehow taken from them. Maybe… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Llefain
Dewi Williamswhat
Dewi Williamswhat
3 months ago
Reply to  Llefain

Your erudite response does you credit and it has much to recommend it. I’m sure it would promote a better mutual understanding if by chance JB reads. It provides the sort of bullet points that are striking and registers in a positive way. I’m sure JB would benefit from such knowledgeable insight. It may well tend to relieve him of his perceived insecurities on this subject. I much rather keep him with us.

Llefain
Llefain
3 months ago

Diolch. And agree about keeping him with us.

Last edited 3 months ago by Llefain
CJPh
CJPh
3 months ago

Maybe a long-form, comfy chair chat with Huw Edwards. Mr. Bowen is clearly (through no fault of his own) in need of learning a bit more about the culture that was denied to him, a culture that is there for him if he wants it.

Tim
Tim
3 months ago

There *is* a certain perverted logic here. If you consider a certain group of people (e.g. people who speak Welsh) to deserve no rights, then, should their rights be recognized, you’ll deem this an undeserved privilege.

All very sad. I knew his father fairly well. Gareth Bowen told me that, during the Depression, his parents decided (much to his subsequent regret) not to pass the language on to him for fear that his life-chances would be inhibited.

George
George
3 months ago

“They live their lives in English”

But how can that be when every pub they walk into people switch to speaking Welsh and every driving sign they pass is too confusing because it has Welsh on?

It’s almost like none of these claims make sense.

Bill
Bill
3 months ago

No other minority language in Europe has had so much tax payers money spent on it, welsh speakers hold a disproportionately high number of high ranking public sector positions in wales.

There has never been a single piece of anti welsh language legislation – Jeremy Bowen is a wiser sage than any commentator or ”journalist” to haver ever appeared on this site.

I.Humphrys
I.Humphrys
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Laws In Wales Act 1535 to 1542.

Bill
Bill
3 months ago
Reply to  I.Humphrys

The point of those laws were to make welsh equal citizens not lesser, but that was in medieval times before acts of parliament – the Tudors were welsh anyway not English

Try again.

CJPh
CJPh
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Diar annwyl. ‘Co ni off, bois. Ireland spends more per capita (and some years, total – a couple of years ago they allocated 105 million euros for an agency that promoted Irish lang job creation) with little public appetite and fewer speakers. In Wales, on the other hand, support for the language is very high – both by the fact that places at Welsh medium schools are full as soon as new ones are opened and by polling data. I personally don;t like government expenditure on our culture, but at least it isn’t being spent on curtailing our language. I… Read more »

Bill
Bill
3 months ago
Reply to  CJPh

But its not my language and the ”culture” is being falsely thrust upon us, hence the grumblings.

Jeremy Bowen has spoke for me.

CJPh
CJPh
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill

Thrust how? Are you being forced to learn Welsh? Are you being forced to learn Welsh history. I mean, if you’d like to I would gladly offer my services for free. You don’t have to, and we all have ideas as to how taxpayer money should be spent, but the reemergence of the language, the high uptake in Welsh medium education is simply a response to demand. Adding a “” around culture is unfairly dismissive, boss. You could at least recognize that Welsh culture exists. Trolling in that way is a sign that you’ve lost an argument but we don;t… Read more »

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
3 months ago
Reply to  Bill

“It’s not my language”. I presume, then, you don’t live in Wales and have no connection with this country?

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