The Welsh Language belongs to everyone – let’s make bilingualism the norm, not the exception
An important part of my job as a Member of the Senedd is to visit schools, to discuss with children and young people the issues that matter to them. What has struck me when visiting English-medium schools in particular is how angry so many of our young people are that they cannot speak Welsh, even though the majority of them have a GCSE in the language.
Undoubtedly, the Cymru men’s football team World Cup campaign and the use of Yma o Hyd contributed to many feeling that they had been deprived of the opportunity to become confident and fluent Welsh speakers.
But it would be wrong to believe that this was the only trigger, with many telling me that they felt throughout their childhood a sense of confusion over their identity having been denied the opportunity to learn our nation’s history as well as the Welsh language.
How do we therefore put this right? It is my view, and that of Plaid Cymru’s, that we must now commit to making bilingualism the norm by changing the way Welsh is taught to children and young people.
After all, more and more organisations are now embracing y Gymraeg. Earlier this week, we saw a second national Park decide to revert to its Welsh language name only: Bannau Brycheiniog.
This came as quite a shock for those who have told us time and time again that Welsh is a dead language. ‘No one uses the language’ they say. And to them I say: ‘What nonsense.’
Cymraeg is alive and well. The language is not elitist, and is no more difficult to learn than any other language, and has been here longer than any of us.
In this ever tumultuous and digital world, we’ve seen the Welsh language remain relevant.
We’ve seen refugees who have fled to Wales for sanctuary proudly learning the language, and their children competing in Eisteddfodau.
The Welsh Language has also staked it’s place in the international market – Duo Lingo has proclaimed that Welsh is among the most learned languages on its app.
Shows like Welcome to Wrexham on Disney Plus, and Dal y Mellt on Netflix are showing to the world – and the long time naysayers in the UK – that Welsh is relevant.
There is a future for the language and it has, as Plaid Cymru has long argued, both social and economic value.
But what of the language on the ground? The most recent census figures have shown a strange movement of the language. Although declining in typical Welsh heartlands, the language is growing in our cities and larger towns.
The sure fire way to ensure that the language flourishes in all parts of Wales is to make sure that every child has the opportunity to become bilingual.
And if we truly believe that Cymraeg belongs to everyone in Wales, then nobody should be deprived of their chance to learn it. Something which is becoming a step closer, thanks to the influence of Plaid Cymru on the Welsh Government.
A recently published white paper setting out proposals for a Welsh Language Education Bill has been published with input from Plaid Cymru as part of the Co-Operation agreement.
The proposals take Wales further towards ensuring the education system delivers Welsh to all pupils in a way that creates confident speakers and one where Welsh medium provision is “normalised” within our schools and communities.
These proposals set out a foundation towards an education system that delivers Welsh medium education to all pupils. They include more Welsh medium schools, an increase in Welsh medium education in every school in Wales and ensuring that every child will leave school as a confident Welsh speaker by 2050.
Continuing as we are will not safeguard the future of the Welsh Language. That’s why we need a Welsh Language Education Bill that is ambitious and brave, so that no young person living in Wales is ever again deprived of the opportunity to become bilingual.
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