The Times still wants the Welsh language dead

 

Ifan Morgan Jones

The knives have been out once again for the Welsh language, after the Welsh Government announced its strategy for a million Welsh speakers by 2050 yesterday.

The Welsh language has always bugged the Times newspaper and so it was no surprise to see the paper weighing in again this morning.

This is the newspaper that declared the Welsh language “dead” back in 1866. Annoyingly, the Welsh language has refused to comply!

“The Welsh language is the curse of Wales,” it declared back then.

If only The Times had taken the view that ‘the people of Wales should be encouraged to speak whatever language they like’ when the majority spoke Welsh in the 1860s, eh?

Its attitude towards Welsh hasn’t changed much in the meantime, even if the language used to express it has been tempered slightly.

It now calls the language “rich and beautiful” in order to get the cautious reader onside, before once again expressing its dearest wish that it disappear altogether.

The truth is that attacks on the Welsh language always fall within a few set categories. I’ve catalogued them all, and a reply to each, on the Why Welsh website.

The line of attack chosen by the Times this time is ‘why don’t they learn a useful language?’

This is always a ploy – the truth is that the author doesn’t give a toss about French, Spanish, or Mandarin. What they want is that the children don’t learn Welsh.

The truth is that Welsh is a more useful language to learn in Wales than French, Spanish, or Mandarin because Welsh is a living language here.

It’s a language you can actually speak, from day to day, at home, in your community, and your workplace.

The Times’ inability to recognise this betrays a continued incredulity that Welsh is actually a living language at all. It can’t be – the Times declared it dead back in 1866, after all!

State the case

But it’s only when we get to the last paragraph that we see what’s really bothering the Times here.

The Times says: “The tensions pulling the constituent parts of the United Kingdom in opposite directions are powerful enough.”

As it was in 1866, this is still all about ironing out any linguistic and cultural differences in order to encourage integration within the British state.

It also shows how much of a nonsense the Times’ declaration is that “Wales lives, from Pontypridd to Patagonia, because it is loved”.

Welsh lives, despite the Times’ and others’ best efforts, because it does now have support from the state.

But Welsh is in such a precarious position because the British state, including the Fourth Estate, tried so hard to get rid of it from the 16th century onwards.

There is nothing ‘natural’ about the spread of languages. There is nothing natural about the spread of English, French, Spanish or Mandarin.

Languages can be supported or killed off by the state. By suggesting the state shouldn’t do the former the Times continue to lobby for the latter.

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JD
Guest
JD

To be fair to the Times, it is a British newspaper and believe in the union. This attitude is no surprise.

Having taught Welsh myself, I am very apprehensive of the increasing linguistic divisions in Wales. Criticising Welsh-language policy and the Welsh language are two very different things, and they are conflated too much.

While the Cardiff Highs, Stanwells, Radyrs, and Friars of Wales will have no issue with increasing WM provision, the reality of the classroom shop floor in Newport, Swansea, the valleys etc will soon highlight just how futile this target is.

Boggo
Guest
Boggo

The irony being that Swansea, the Valleys and even Newport are nowhere near as Anglicised in speech and spirit as Cardiff!

Cymreigiwr
Guest
Cymreigiwr

A new Welsh medium secondary school has opened in Newport this school year, after underprovision and a 20 year campaign. If adequate Welsh medium schooling to meet demand had been provided in recent decades to maximise growth, instead of suppression and delay, then perhaps we would already be much closer to the million. Welsh medium provision is a huge success despite huge disadvantage and inertia. Imagine where we might be if it had received unequivocal support with provision leading demand to maximise growth. Newport, and areas like it offer huge potential for growth, but we have to take the brakes… Read more »

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

I must have been reading a different article to the editor of this piece.

Leia
Guest

How so?

Gareth
Guest
Gareth

Because no where in it does The Times refer to the death or potential death of the Welsh language.

The editorial actually encourages people to learn a second language.

I don’t really care what The Times may or may not have said in the 1860s the editor of this piece clearly does and the fact that he lets it bug him in 2017 is just sad.

Mat
Guest
Mat

The author never denies that, but is criticising the fact that the Times says it is a wasteof time.to learn welsh, wgile living in Wales.

I sadly can’t speak it myself,but have spend a couple of years livung in Wales and it is a commonly used language, so for non welsh speaking children to learn it is perfectly natural, the same way that swiss children having to learn french, german and Italian.

One thing I found rather funny though, was that The Ti.es believes children can only learn one language at a time. A very British attitude towards language.

Capitalist and Welshnash
Guest
Capitalist and Welshnash

The Times has not apologise for any anti-Welsh comments along the years by the way.

The argument children should learn French, Mandarin, etc… is the old argument of utility against beauty. It was used to eradicate traditionalism in art and architecture schools and it will be used to eradicate Welsh too if we are not careful.

Welsh Citizen
Guest
Welsh Citizen

Umm this article seems to be a critique of the Times in 1866 and not the picture above from 2017. The Times’ points are valid ones. Shame there can’t be a discussion about this in Wales without anyone who raises it being accused of being anti-welsh or even a racist.

Angharad
Guest

It looks like another piece by a monoglot English speaker who doesn’t understand what bilingualism really is. As someone who speaks six languages, I know that gaining fluency in a language is not the same as bilingualism. With the best will in the world, children learning French or German in Wales or England are not going to become true bilinguals, because it is not part of the society around them. It will be confined to the classroom. In Wales (unless the parents speak another language and pass it on to their children), only Welsh can give that opportunity. The benefits… Read more »

Martin
Guest
Martin

When the Guardian did this it was “the liberal press hates Welsh”, and some of the comments said the Tories wouldn’t do this. The reality is none of the English papers can be trusted on Welsh language.

Tellyesin
Guest
Tellyesin

“Why spoil something by making it compulsory?” O my giddy aunt! I suppose the writer needs to be congratulated on the sneaky way he managed to build up to the anti-Cymraeg at the end as if he was in his old school’s debating society. The bigot’s money shot, coming at the end of a shaggy dog story! It aims to be a plea for tolerance like the “every lives matter” campaign tries to draw attention away from the US police force’s hobby of shooting black people. Or those who complain about the politicisation of the dispossessed and disenfranchised from the… Read more »

knightghost1
Guest

“‘why don’t they learn a useful language?’” This line almost made me stop reading. If anything angers me the most in the term of languages is when someone (no matter who) claims no matter what language is useless! I’m comming from the country where we had to fight for our language – Slovene – for centuries too and this for I’m even more angry when I hear/read such things. Every language is useless in the country where it’s not sopken and every language is equally useful in the country where it’s alive and spoken on the daily basis. There’s no… Read more »

cymrufwyaf
Guest

Clywch! Clywch!

Alun James
Guest
Alun James

Could somebody please tell the Times that Wales is a country, not a principality.

Ian
Guest
Ian

Just to state my credentials, I am English but have spent the last 20 trying to become fluent in Welsh and have raised 4 children in Wales who have all gained a GCSE in Welsh. However non of us are fluent Welsh speakers despite all this effort because we like the majority of the population of Wales, live in an area where the language isn’t spoken much. As one of the contributors above states you need to use the language to become fluent. One of the unfortunate consequences of compulsory Welsh language education to GCSE level is that it is… Read more »

Angharad
Guest

There is some sense in Ian’s suggestion. I might be persuaded to go along with it, provided that English is also only compulsory to year 9 (age 13). Maybe in the more Welsh speaking areas, Welsh could be compulsory through to GCSE, with English optional (as with any other foreign language), and in less Cymraeg areas such as Brecon, Radnorshire and Monmouthshire (perhaps areas with <15% Cymraeg) there could be a choice: either English or Welsh must be continued beyond year 9. If a child is not bilingual by the age of 12, they are not going to be bilingual.… Read more »

Anon.
Guest
Anon.

Welsh was the first language I learned then I learned a whole host more. It made things easier to learn. When will people learn most people in Europe speak 3 at least we have two in Wales. In the Netherlands many people speak upto 4 fluently. Maybe start early with the lot? I would love more languages taught. Ironically it just shows we value having more languages as well as a havig a deep understanding of language as culture that we even have two. This idea of English language being so important they dont need to learn any others does… Read more »

Annwyn
Guest
Annwyn

It has been policy to eradicate Welsh from the face of the earth since the 1500’s. No other language in the world has to constantly defend itself for merely existing. It is the oldest living language in Europe, going back so far that nobody is really sure when it started. It still persists and flourishes in many parts of Wales and still people are prepared not only to see it die but to actively take part in trying to kill it off. It beggars belief. It is older than any castle or monument that we try to preserve in the… Read more »

Dom Griffiths
Guest
Dom Griffiths

Anon and many others.. Dwi’n cyntuno!! My gran was beaten at school for speaking Welsh and was bullied into believing the crap spouted by the British establishment of the time .. she brought up her two sons English speaking and so we lost a connection to centuries of language , poetry, literature and drama.. both my dad and myself decided to relearn Welsh as adults…this has been a wonderful journey of rediscover and connection… I was at uni in Aberystwyth in the early 80s and as well as experiencing a warm welcome as a dysgwr (Welsh learner) was able to… Read more »

Richard M
Guest
Richard M

Hopefully The Times will die out instead! Fed up with the attitude towards other languages in the UK. I grew up and loved learning languages and have been living abroad since my early 20’s – being multilingual has nothing but enriched my life. It always seems to be that the attitude of many Brits is to hate what they don’t understand and it’s so unfair for parents to force their narrow-minded views on their kids. I have been trying to reconnect with Wales and the Welsh language and have been shocked at some of the stuff that is said and… Read more »

Dafydd Aflonydd
Guest
Dafydd Aflonydd

The Times have since published the following: We must protect the Welsh language before it is too late Oliver Kamm August 8 2017 In some Welsh schools in the 19th century, any child heard speaking Welsh was made to carry a small piece of wood, which they passed to the next child thus overheard. Whoever was left holding this badge of shame (known as a Welsh Not) at the end of the lesson was severely punished. Times revert. A branch of Sports Direct, the sportswear retailer, in Bangor, North Wales, told staff last week that English was the company’s official… Read more »

Hans Schwegler
Guest

I’ve just now come accross this article and its comments… I’m Swiss, my mother tongue is the fourth national Swiss language called Romansh and spoken by only 0.4% of the population, a fact which obliges our minority to learn a second language, German in most cases. As often mentioned here, being bilingual from early on opens the door to learning other languages, in my case I speak 9, of which English was my third language when I spent some time around London between 1971-1973. In 1971, I also spent some time in Wales (Newtown), but my English was still poor… Read more »