Opinion

Cymraeg belongs to us all in Wales, wherever we are and whatever level of Welsh we have

22 Mar 2021 6 minutes Read
Jeremy Evas

Jeremy Evas, head of the government’s Prosiect 2050, which aims to double the daily use of Welsh and have one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

We’re approaching the end of the Senedd term, so it’s time to take stock of where we’re at as we plan for the next five years of language policy.  It’s less than a year since the Government set up Prosiect 2050, a multi-disciplinary team, created to lead on implementing Cymraeg 2050. We’re here to work as a team with colleagues in Government and beyond to reach a million Welsh speakers by 2050 and to continue our work to double the daily use of Welsh.

Our targets are ambitious—our team is too.  We’re firm believers that Cymraeg belongs to us all in Wales, wherever we are and whatever level of Welsh we have. We’re keen to work with everyone who shares our vision and our ambition.

I’ve been leading Prosiect 2050 for a few months now, starting as Wales entered a lockdown.  What a challenge!  I’d planned to get out and about, and meet with stakeholders, to find out how the funding we provide and the work we do makes a difference. I also wanted to discuss face to face what else we can do to support projects which increase the use of Welsh in everyday life.  Instead, like many of us, I’ve hardly left my home office for months; I feel as if I’ve seen the interior décor of most of Wales, given the hours we’ve all spent on Teams or Zoom!

Transformed

While so many of us have missed face-to-face contact, for some, being able to socialise online more in Welsh has transformed their lives.  In normal times, not all of us are able to pop out to see friends, visit the theatre or join a choir.  All this has been possible online over the past few months, with many of these activities delivered by our partners and funded by the Welsh Government.

People can’t wait to get out and about again, and I think it’s a good time to think about what we’ve learned over the past year.  We need to take our lockdown experiences and use them to help to shape our lives for years to come.  I’m sure some ‘blended’ online and offline form of socialising is here to stay.  That’ll effect how people use Welsh and how Prosiect 2050 works in the future.

We’re already working on the recommendations of a report we’ve published on the effect of COVID on Welsh language community groups. Thanks to all those, in particular the Mentrau Iaith, who gave so much of their time to help us with it. That collaborative model is one we’ll be eager to use more in the future—we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, and our work is better when we work together with others.

The same goes for helping Welsh-speaking parents, whose Welsh may not have been part of their routine for a while, to use their Welsh with their children. And for children to grow up as confident, bilingual citizens of the future, willing and able to use their Welsh, whatever their linguistic background.

Celebrate

What works in Blaenau Ffestiniog may not work in Blaenau Gwent, and it’s important for us to recognise and celebrate these differences rather than follow a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  For this to happen, more people and organisations need to think about how they can create more opportunities for us all to use just a little bit more Welsh. It’s our job to help them. We can grow ideas and ambitions from there—success breeds success.

I’m determined that our Prosiect 2050 team, the work we do ourselves and with others, and the projects we run will help people across Wales from all backgrounds have more opportunities to use Welsh, whatever their command of the language.

We’re already making it easier for businesses to use Welsh, working with Business Wales on our Helo Blod project, providing friendly, fast and free advice and translations to help businesses to use some Welsh.  And it’s working: we’re seeing more and more businesses signing up every month.

We’ve also put technology at the centre of our work, and what we’re developing with our partners aims to make Welsh natural and easy to use and for others to adopt so that they can offer even more opportunities to use Welsh. As just one result of this, you can now mend your mutations and sort your Welsh spelling for free by joining the 6,000+ individuals and small organisations who have downloaded Cysgliad. It’s also ideal if you don’t speak Welsh but your children are in Welsh medium education. Give it a go! Talking of which, parents won’t be strangers to the HWB platform. Our business is making Welsh easy to use so we automated a Welsh language user interface on HWB last year. 78,000 users in Welsh medium and bilingual schools can now use Welsh every day without having to go looking for it (one example of us putting behavioural theory into practice in language policy). We’re also working with Microsoft to bring simultaneous human interpretation to Teams in the second half of this year. And there’s lots more in the pipeline.

Priorities

Our priorities had to change as a result of the pandemic, as did those of many of our partners.  It’s been extremely difficult at times, but not quite everything has been negative.  Working via technology has allowed us to make our work more accessible and we’ve built links and relationships with a wide range of stakeholders who are passionate about the language, and some others who weren’t now are!  We’re just starting work on our next five year plan for Cymraeg 2050. We’re going to keep working on our relationships and creating more links to ensure that Cymraeg 2050 is a truly cross-government endeavour and a national prosiect.

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