Why Sports Direct’s decision to ban Welsh is stupid as well as wrong

Picture by Elliott Brown (CC BY 2.0)

Ifan Morgan Jones

Imagine maintaining a whole other language because you haven’t mastered the skill of going into another room, or lowering your voice.

It sounds daft, but this is effectively what Welsh speakers are repeatedly accused of doing.

Sports Direct’s edict that staff members should not be allowed to speak Welsh with each other, even in private, personal conversations, ultimately comes down to a fear that the language could be used to ‘talk behind backs’.

Take this tweet from ‘Jon T’ on Twitter defending the rule:

Now, there’s more than one misconceptions here.

First off, it ignores the fact that in Wales, Welsh is an official language, alongside English. The UK doesn’t have an official language.

But let’s return to the point about ‘talking negatively without the managers being aware’.

Unless they place listening devices on all of the staff to monitor their conversations at all times, there is no way for the management to stop their staff talking about them, negatively or otherwise.

The staff don’t need another language to do this, they just need to be out of earshot. Or in this modern digital age, they could Whatsapp.

This paranoia that Celtic languages are languages of sedition, used to plot against the English, has deep roots going back centuries.

It’s the same driving force behind the myth that everyone starts talking about tourists in Welsh when they walk into a pub.

It’s a really dumb myth because if we really want to talk behind your back, there are 101 ways to do so, and maintaining a living language isn’t the way to do it.

Those Welsh speaking staff at Sports Direct that so spooked whoever drew up this rule were probably talking about the football scores, or what they were doing on Saturday night.

They probably weren’t plotting mutiny.

And if they were, it probably had more to do with Sport Direct’s business practices than anything to do with the Welsh language.

A whopping 64% of people in Gwynedd, where the store is based, speak Welsh. They’re not all doing it to have a chit chat about you.

They will however probably not shop at Sports Direct if you ban their language.

So all in all, stupid idea, PR disaster, and bad for business. Good work!

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