Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Cachau Bant: Mind Your Language

by Tom Law
15 February 201357 Comments
Angry about the 150 year crushing of his native Welsh language, the writer asks 'How would you feel if you were made to speak German?'
Welsh Not
It’s hard to give a toss about language when you’re an English speaker. Because losing your language is not something you’ll ever have to worry about; thanks to the glory days of the British Empire.
English is a dominant language – the third most common in the world. It’s a source of national pride – a gift to the planet. It helped to civilise the fuzzy wuzzies and spread culture and joy throughout distant lands.
So when you hear people bleat on about their language disappearing – it doesn’t really register. There are more important things to worry about in life than some bloke in Aberystwyth demanding a bi-lingual sign on his local fish and chip shop.
But what if things were different – if the cultural boot was on the other foot? If the English language found itself under attack. Let’s say those loony UKIP types were right – Brussels really did want to absorb Britain into some creepy all-powerful Euro state.
And that’s exactly what they did.
The Welsh language has declined so rapidly because the English placed a pillow over its face and smothered it.
Germany emerged as the dominant player and German became the common language. It started being used in the legal, government and business worlds, so more English began to learn German as a way to improve their job prospects.
German corporations controlled the media and began to bludgeon the public with anti-English messages. The English language was causing many of the country’s problems – it was dusty and outdated. It helped to explain why the English were such a backwards, thick and bigoted people. The language was holding the nation back – blocking its progress.
Middle-class parents wanted the best for their children, and that meant giving them the gift of German. The BBC began to broadcast more of its output in German. And society started to split and divide along language lines.
Your prospects in life became determined by the language you spoke. German became something for the educated and the powerful. English for the manual classes and the poor – for the people who clean your office toilets.
And within a couple of generations, it was all over for English. It’s now a cultural curiosity – spoken only by weirdos at clog dancing festivals in Northumberland.
As a German speaker you’re sick of hearing these people drone on about their language. You’re sick of them chuntering on about Dickens and Keats and Dad’s Army and The Beatles and all the rest of the cultural twaddle that you don’t understand. You don’t care about some bloke in Altrincham moaning about the German signs on his local fish and chip shop.
Now, this all sounds absolutely nuts; like the deranged ramblings of some purple nosed Daily Mail columnist. But this is what has happened to Wales and the Welsh language over the past 150 years. It was done by England and it continues to tear the country apart, affecting every aspect of Welsh life.
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Because back in the 1840s, around 80 percent of people living in Wales were Welsh speakers, many of them spoke no English at all. Fast forward to the recent 2011 census and that number has dropped to below 20 percent.
But this hides the true scale of the decline. Welsh used to be the language of the everyday world, people would spend their entire lives never speaking English. Now, it’s rare to hear Welsh being spoken on the streets, apart from in a dwindling number of communities in north west Wales.
You probably don’t care much about this if you’re an English speaker – it doesn’t affect you. And that includes the majority of Welsh people who were brought up speaking English; who have been taught at English language schools, watched English telly, listened to English music and read English books.
And I’m one of them. Language was a choice made for me by the school I went to. I was taught to read and write in English with Welsh only taught at secondary school. It was treated the same as any other foreign language – like French or German. It gave you tourist Welsh – enough to ask directions to the nearest zoo in Colwyn Bay – and not much else.
So why did Welsh schools stop teaching children to speak the language?
The popular narrative is that it’s just a natural process – a stronger and healthier language replaces an older and weaker one. That the Welsh language is dying of natural causes – like an elderly relative withering away. It’s sad but inevitable. What can you do?
That’s the common explanation – but it’s bollocks.
The Welsh language has declined so rapidly because the English placed a pillow over its face and smothered it. It has taken around 150 years to complete, there have been occasional bouts of kicking and thrashing against, but it’s pretty much job done.
And it was only when the body was limp that England placed some chocolate biscuits on the bedside cabinet – bilingual road signs, a Welsh TV channel. And then started to berate the lifeless patient for its lack of appetite.
England’s policy towards Wales is not the only reason for the decline, but it’s the main one. It’s the consequence of the state treating the Welsh language as a sickness which needed to be cured.
Eric Fraser’s dragon art
It’s the way that the British Empire used language to control their various colonies during the C19th. It was a benign method of dominating occupied nations with minimal bloodshed or confrontation – a very English form of tyranny.
Whether it was Ireland, Singapore, Nigeria or North Borneo – the method was the same. English would become the official language used for government, commerce and law. Natives chosen for positions of power would be sent off to English public schools to learn the language and the ‘British’ way of life.
It would seep down through society, exploiting people’s natural desire to better themselves, to have the best opportunities in life. In doing so, it created a vicious form of divide and rule – collaborators versus separatists, English speakers versus native speakers. It was a seed which, once planted, took on a malevolent life of its own – spreading and mutating over generations.

This is exactly what happened in Wales. The country in the C19th was viewed by the English as being a dangerous and lawless land – Wild Wales. It was a fear fuelled by the growth of Welsh working class radicalism; the rise of the Chartist movement, outbreaks of rebellion such as the Merthyr Rising of 1831 and the Rebecca Riots of the 1840s.
These were Welsh people joining together to fight against corruption, inequality and injustice. But they were portrayed in the London media as being a kind of sub-human rabble; wild and barbaric people who babbled and plotted in their primitive language. It was a view endorsed by the Government; an 1847 report into the state of Welsh education and morality found the country’s population to be dirty, lazy, drunken and over-sexed.
The report concluded that the main problem with Wales was its language. And the cure was simple – the eradication of Welsh from the education system. It proposed that state funded English language schools should be set-up – and that’s what happened. It’s one of these schools where I, like most Welsh people, was taught.
So a deranged report by three English inspectors who couldn’t speak Welsh and who didn’t have any background in education became the blueprint for Welsh schooling; the reason that generations of Welsh people have been taught only English.
But the report’s other toxic legacy was to give many Welsh speakers a deep-rooted sense of inferiority and shame about their language. It was no longer something to be proud of, it was a problem that needed to be tackled. It was a sickness infecting the country, something the English had found the cure for.
The power of this feeling can be seen during the late C19th with the practice of ‘Welsh Not’. The ‘WN’ initials were carved onto a wooden plaque which school kids were made to wear around their neck if heard speaking Welsh in the classroom. The pupil wearing the plaque at the end of the day would be beaten. It was a practice endorsed by Welsh parents who wanted the best for their children.
This division of the population by language has been eating away at the country ever since. It has created two versions of Wales, two distinct cultures which view the other as a threat. What one side gains, the other side loses. What’s good for one, is bad for the other.
It has left non-Welsh speakers feeling like outsiders in their own country, forever left out in the cold and staring back in at a history and culture they can’t access; at jobs they’re not qualified to do. For Welsh speakers, they have been battered from all sides, endlessly under attack, having to justify the use of their own language – mostly to fellow Welsh people.
It’s a cultural civil war which has brought out the worst aspects of both sides. A nation which once fought for its rights, which fought against inequality and injustice has been effectively turned in on itself.
If the attack on the Welsh language was done to subdue and weaken the country, to create a servile and utterly compliant people who would accept their British medicine – then it can only be seen as a monumental success.
Wales has become a husk of a nation. The decline of the language, the stripping away of links to its history and culture, has induced a kind of dementia. It’s a country which no longer remembers who or what it is – so it simply exists. And accepts the guiding hand of its neighbour.
The removal of the Welsh personality has created a void which is being gleefully filled by the English media’s tub thumping brand of Britishness – the royal family, the Armed Forces, Team GB and all that. And there seems little hope of anything changing.
There’s no fight or energy left. No upsurge of anger. No dissent. No political will. No obvious solution. Just a blank stare, a rugby top and a grim Welsh cheeriness; a nihilistic acceptance of fate. While Scotland gains confidence and considers independence, Wales is left retreating into the arms of its abusive partner and going gently into that good night.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Elwood9:12 am, 15-Feb-2013
And your solution is?
Harry Paterson9:23 am, 15-Feb-2013
Excellent article. A vivid and sickening picture of English/British cultural imperialism.
Rachel9:51 am, 15-Feb-2013
Superb article. The hostile attitude towards the Welsh language infuriates me, it's based on ignorance and intolerance and you are spot on in all you say. Da iawn!
Marisa9:58 am, 15-Feb-2013
so, so sad. I hope Welsh will find the strenght to rebel and reconquer language, history and self-confidence.
Mark10:12 am, 15-Feb-2013
Excellent summary of historical events and internal tensions in Wales. And there's no mistaking the cause of it all.
Gareth10:17 am, 15-Feb-2013
An exceptional read for a Friday morning. Fascinating, illuminating and understandably furious.
Fred12:50 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Or, to put it a different way - Wales was a nation of a few hundred thousand prior to industrialisation. When the industrial revolution occured, people came from England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Poland, Italy, Spain, Haiti, Somalia, the Far East, the Caribbean, and Scandiavia to live and work in the mines, iron works, steel works, and docks. Somewhere a language had to be found that would act as a middle ground between them all. At the beginning when fewer immigrants were present, that was Welsh. Later, when the vast majority of immigrants came from England, that was English. To say that Welsh was "suffocated" is a crass misreading of history. But hey, that's the nationalists for you.
Richard1:30 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Fred - What has this got to do with Nationalists ? I'm no nationalist, but I am a proud speaker of the Cymraeg. Go grab your copy of the the Daily Mail, place it under your arm and goand get rid of some of that crap !
Geraint1:35 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Fred, you miss the point entirely. It's not that there was mass immigration to parts of Wales, but it's that there have been deliberate and concerted attempts over centuriess to marginalise and stifle the language too. There's immigration to England at the moment but that won't kill English, because it's a language of power and status - as Welsh wasn't and isn't. You misread history egregiously.
Cymrodor1:35 pm, 15-Feb-2013
An interesting read. "There’s no fight or energy left. No upsurge of anger. No dissent. No political will. No obvious solution. Just a blank stare, a rugby top and a grim Welsh cheeriness; a nihilistic acceptance of fate." This certainly isn't true of all individuals, but unfortunately is apparent in those who matter, including, sadly, our Welsh-speaking First Minister. There's an amusing clip (and probably informative for many) of a 1980s Welsh kids TV dramatisation of Lingen, Symons and Johnson's blue books report on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiB533mhq64
Han2:03 pm, 15-Feb-2013
To FRED, Why did you use 'few hundred thousand' preindustrial? Preindustrial parish records show that the majority of englands parishes are less densely populated than those in Wales in 1670 large population around the English cities, but Wales more populated per land mass than England.If you then add an English influence in the industrial South Wales corridor and the steel works and mines of the North East yes the population increase in those areas explains some of the statistical changes but does not explain the decline of the language geographicly outside of those places up to the modern day other than those mention in the article. Don't know what your trying to get at with 'Nationalists' is it a dirty word like the NF or BNP what would be your attitude to Tibetan Nationalists whose culture and language is being changed by China's industrial needs? There are a lot of modern people who move here from England who state quite openly that they wanted to live in a white area because they didn't like the fact you didn't hear English spoken anymore where they came from and how the council had services in other languages for these people who had come in, but in doing so are doing the same here!!
Fred2:16 pm, 15-Feb-2013
But, Geraint, the English language is also the language of ordinary people. My own ancestors who came from Somerset and Wiltshire to work in the Rhondda were not oppressing anyone, they'd come to find a better-paid job in an Ocean Colliery than they could find as a farm labourer. That's true of thousands of people who moved here. Immigration is fundamental to the story of the language in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries because it reveals a population active in making its own choices and decisions. There is absolutely immigration to England at the moment but we're not talking about immigration of the kind that takes the population from, say, 250,000 people to over 2 million in a century. That's the fundamental difference in the Welsh case and it's what makes the decline of the Welsh language not about top-down imposition (as the nationalist story of oppression relies upon) but about bottom-up social change. That doesn't make me a Daily Mail reader nor does it mean I've misread history egregiously nor, in fact, does it mean I don't respect the Welsh language, it simply means I don't share the nationalist reading of Welsh history.
Gethyn2:25 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Spot on, and a brilliant article. I grew up in Mid-Wales, in an English speaking school. They started teaching Welsh the year I left, which I suspect was a cursory gesture to an embryonic 'Cool Cymru'. I then moved across the border and was absolutely amazed by the anti-Welsh sentiment with people joking about whether I'd got my passport - all of this incredibly confusing because I didn't feel particularly Welsh for all the reasons you mention in your piece. You hit the nail on the head sir, my sense of belonging is certainly the worse for being dislocated from its biggest cultural connection.
The Intruder3:37 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Why not adopt the Catalonian linguistic immersion program (no matter what the Saxon-speaking people say and protest)
Craig Weatherhill4:12 pm, 15-Feb-2013
The irony is that this DID happen to English in the 14th century. The Norman-French speaking ruling classes put a pillow over English and smothered it to the brink of extinction. That English got a second chance at all is an even bigger irony - it was saved by 3 Celtic-speaking scholars: John of Cornwall, Richard Pencrych and John Trevisa. As a result of their work, English took over from Norman-French as the official language of the Court within 50 years. And on it went from there. If those 3 scholars had directed their studies elsewhere, we'd all be speaking Norman-French today! With a history like that, you'd have thought a bit of gratitude from London might have benefitted the indigenous languages, but....no.
Charlotte Britton (@CharlotteHB89)4:16 pm, 15-Feb-2013
I know it might not be much, but I'm an English person, English speaking living in Swansea and I am trying really hard to learn Welsh, and I support and push the use of the welsh language in my organisation. I am happy to support the language in the little ways I can.
Llyr Alun Jones4:21 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Twll tin bob Sais.
Graham5:32 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Llyr, if you'e going to insult us in Welsh, please try and get your mutations right, there's a good lad.
H.5:47 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Exactly the same was done to Scotland and it's Gaelic, but in an even more ruthless and destructive way. Now only around 1% (if that) speak Scotland's native language. If you destroy a people's language and identity, then you can control them. That's been the English Empire's way for hundreds of years, and it's still with us today.
Hugh Evans6:13 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Superb article that is 100% true in its analysis, and what's really sad is that it may well be too late as the Welsh don' t have the awareness or desire to change anything. I know , as I live in a community that was almost entirely Welsh speaking about 30 years ago. Its like living amongst zombies slowly suffocating in a sea of anglo-american cultural tat .
bob6:58 pm, 15-Feb-2013
I attended a Welsh speaking school in south Wales and was punished for communicate in English. Full of Welsh nationalist and pedophiles! I now am fluent in three language's , live in Wales and choose not to communicate in welsh as a result of nationalist propaganda who believe only their version of welsh identity counts. PS I shall not respond to posts from nationalists I have long since given up on debating with closed minds.
Jeronimo Constantina8:14 pm, 15-Feb-2013
"How would you feel if you were made to speak German?" Most ironic, because in Welsh, the English are no different from Germans. "The word Saeson is the modern Welsh word for 'English people'" My language is also threatened by Filipino, aka Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines, so I certainly identify with the Welsh and the obliteration of their language and heritage.
Trevor9:51 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Quite an intereting read and historically correct(ish). The authurs conclusion is a load of total and utter crap, shite rubbish. Welsh is one of the oldest 'live' languages in the world, there is nothing stopping anyone from learing it, everything in Wales signs is written in Welsh and it i widely spoken, so where does this prat of an auther get his thinking from??
Trevor9:59 pm, 15-Feb-2013
Which planet is this prat of an auther on?? A nice piece of 'creative' writing though!
sel brackley11:30 pm, 15-Feb-2013
fred..no one mentions immigration ..its the Welsh Not bit that you so readily leave out of your arguement
Rhys12:42 am, 16-Feb-2013
Bob. Name the paedophiles. If you don't, it is a fair assumption that you are lying.
Bothered1:03 am, 16-Feb-2013
Paul1:31 am, 16-Feb-2013
Beautifully written and presented argument about something that is the essence of a people.. It's language. Fred does make valid points regarding the decline of welsh.. And there are many other reasons for the decline of yr iaith .. None of which are specific to the satanesque proximity of yr sais or why else would other minority language groups throughout Europe have suffered similar or fatal decline. This happened because of a number of sadly more prosaic reasons.. The tribalism inveighed by defining your identity by what you are not.. A la the daily mail... And many others is venal and hateful.. We are welsh, and like it or not history and DNA make us brythoniaid which would include a large number of those across the current borders in England & Scotland ... The language's future would do much better if the passion energy and resource focused purely on the language could be also applied to the economy of rural Wales .. This is not happening.. All we are doing is applying bandages until this issue is given the attention it desreves
John1:32 am, 16-Feb-2013
"and it i widely spoken [sic]" Which planet do you live on, have you even been to Wales? The truth is hearing Welsh being spoken in public is rarer than hen's teeth.
Rhys2:28 am, 16-Feb-2013
Fred, no one could deny the effect that immigration had on the language. However, that is only a part of the story. You unfairly discount the author's critique when in fact, the effect of the Blue Books on the language's prospects was every bit as damaging, if not more so. The reports are available to be read online; http://archive.org/details/reportsofcommiss00greaiala If you choose to give them a quick scan, you will discover a document archetypal of ugly Victorian imperialism, perceived cultural superiority and outright racism. Their consequences, both in terms of education and in destroying the confidence of the Welsh people in their native tongue, were enormous and extended well beyond the industrial heartland of the South Wales coalfield and its associated ports, where the effect of immigration was greatest.
Richard Rogers6:50 am, 16-Feb-2013
Excellent article. Me and a few of my Welsh friends are actually trying to stop the decline of the language. We've set up a Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/bringwelshback/ and anyone is free to join. It's a grouo where we help each other to learn Welsh, and we talk about anything Wales related. There's also prizes to be won.
Richard10:53 am, 16-Feb-2013
I'm sure that the author is aware of the fact that Wales has its own parliament and government with powers over most domestic affairs and that in 2011 64 per cent of those who voted in a referendum on giving the Welsh parliament full legislative powers over the areas under its responsibilities. Is that a nation with no life left in it? Some "fundamentalist" nationalists seem to be unable to understand how many (probably the majority actually) Welsh people can be both proudly Welsh and also loyal to many "British" institutions such as the Royal Family, the Armed Forces and Team GB. They (ie those nationalists) may not like that but a failure to acknowledge that such a dual sense of loyalty is possible does in my view show a misunderstanding of the psychology of many if their fellow country men and women. And to blame it on the "English" is naive and simplistic to say the least. The claim that some sense of " Britishness" is incompatible with Welsh patriotism does not in my view stand up to serious and objective scrutiny.
Abi Cussler11:38 am, 16-Feb-2013
I'm Welsh and do not recognise this bleak portrayal of our contemporary culture or the state of our language. Demonising the English over this, more than 150 years after the Blue Paper, when UK-wide taxes are used to subsidise the language (& rightly so), is a gross misrepresentation of the situation in 2013. The most recent census figures are disappointing because they don't seem to reflect the positive aura around the language, that has been increasingly apparent over the last couple of decades. This kind of reactionary talk - dredging up old arguments for no constructive reason whatsoever - does more to damage that aura than preserve it. So, a sadly divisive, inaccurate and toxic article. Welsh prospers in 2013 when it is inclusive and celebratory.
Richard5:32 pm, 16-Feb-2013
Self Rule is not a sin!
Richard5:54 pm, 16-Feb-2013
I suggest Abi and Fred read the title again "How the Welsh language has been destroyed by English governments" This is attacking the government/state.....not attacking random people from england You seem to completely misunderstand that
Kelvin Jenkins6:36 pm, 16-Feb-2013
Who says it's rare to hear Welsh spoken in public? I live in Mid-Wales. When I go to my dentists or my doctor's surgery I usually hear more Welsh than English spoken around me by both staff and visitors. I have a shop and I speak Welsh to customers on a daily basis. However it has to be said that the census figures do show a depressing downward movement of the language.
Kelvin Jenkins6:41 pm, 16-Feb-2013
For anyone interested in reading the text of the Blue Books in detail (the historical Treachery of the Blue Books/ Brad y Llyfrau Gleision), the entire text is available onliner in facsimile, courtesy of the National Library of Wales. http://www.llgc.org.uk/index.php?id=thebluebooks
James7:40 pm, 16-Feb-2013
Interesting that less than 20% of the comments are written in Welsh...
Glŷn7:42 pm, 16-Feb-2013
I speak Welsh and have studied languages for a long time now, and it should be noted that the Welsh Not is generally thought by many linguists to have been an inefficient tactic to reduce the use of Welsh by kids. That's not to say the English authorities haven't oppressed the Welsh language, but just the WN wasn't effective. Having spoken to all of my Welsh friends (none of whom speak Welsh as a first language, only some speak it as a second) the main reason today they don't use Welsh is because all of the media they consume is through the medium of English - those God-awful MTV reality shows, pop music, Hollywood films etc. S4C just doesn't produce the high-quality programming my friends apparently want.
john boy8:38 pm, 16-Feb-2013
what is welsh
Sian Williams10:35 pm, 16-Feb-2013
Richard - the Welsh Assembly has to obtain permission from Westminster to pass legistlation on anything important like health or education - and we have no say at all on the really important matters (the constitution, defence, energy - coal, oil, gas, nuclear, renewables - employment, financial and macroeconomic matters, social security) are Westminsters alone. If we had power over all those things as any country should have - you can be sure that no one would have a problem with a team GB and so on. Brito-mania is rammed down our throats in the media for political gain, mostly.....please tell me you've noticed the amount of TV programs containing the word British lately? Even my 9 year old daughter commented the other day on how her crisp packet had the word British about 5 times on the product description on the back, lol :) - don't worry, she isn't being radicalised......but she does know the difference between the Parliament of Great Britain and the English people, even at her tender age. There's NO anti English sentiment in my Welsh nationalist household.
Richard11:16 pm, 16-Feb-2013
Sian, The 2011 referendum that I mentioned was about giving the Welsh Assembly (or Senedd) the right to make laws within its area of responsibility WITHOUT Westminster's permission and it was of course passed. As for macroeconomic policy, Wales has no less say in that than countries such as the Irish Republic that are in the Euro and which I suspect the majority of those who're in favour of "independence" for Wales would like for Wales. The German parliament gets to see Ireland's budget before the Irish Dail (parliament)
Sian Williams12:58 am, 17-Feb-2013
Oh please Richard - I'm sure you know that law making powers over those 20 areas mean very little in the grand scheme. Take energy for instance - The Welsh Govt can only make decisions over projects of up to 50MW. Anything higher is Westminsters project. At a time when the renewables sector is only thing growing, Wales with it's ample natural resources *should* be coming into it's own.......but we're not in a position to persue ambitious projects of our own .....to make our own money, to pay for the social ambitions we lefties tend to have like looking after our elderly properly and to pull the valleys out of poverty......Simultaneously we're told by the Brit media that we're ”scroungers, unproductive, ungreatful and selfish for asking for road signs in our own language......and how's about those free prescriptions?”. Do you think we're in a good position? A nation that's traditinally left wing, and continues to vote left, but must endure a Tory govt because they've been voted in by the majority of the UK......a nation who's media is squarely in the UK OK camp? A media (thinking Wales Online here of course) that is quite comfortable and even revels in attacking any attempt to protect and nurture the Welsh Language? The situation sucks frankly Richard.
Sian Williams1:32 am, 17-Feb-2013
Additionally - understand that my comments re looking after our elderly and so on does not come from an insular, inward place. Vulnerable people everywhere matter just as much - and I think one of the best thing we can do for them is 'be the change we want to see in the world'. The Tory party is on a morally bankrupt ideological path IMO......and we 3 million in Wales have no hope of changing that democratically from here. But we can be a small country that sets a good example, and in so doing put pressure on the English parliament. Anyway, I think I'm going OT just a bit.......
Kelvin Jenkins2:17 am, 17-Feb-2013
James. Mae'r Cymry Cymraeg yn ddwyieithog. Mae'r dudalen hon yn Saesneg. Dyna'r rheswm. Iawn?
The Intruder7:54 am, 17-Feb-2013
Glŷn, I think S4C should learn from Catalonian public television (TV3/K3/C33); competing while contributing to the normalization of Welsh
Richard5:06 pm, 17-Feb-2013
Sian, surely you've got to agree that the Welsh Government does have the freedom to follow a distinctive agenda in the areas of health and education in particular. And no one can argue that those aren't two areas that DO make a difference to the lives of most people. Examples where distinctive policies have been followed include as you say free prescriptions, university tuition fees, and not setting up "academies" and "free schools". Whether or not you agree or disagree with the policies that have been followed in Cardiff Bay, how effective they've been and how much difference they've made to the lives of people in Wales is of course an entirely different matter but I think it's indisputable that the Welsh Government does now have considerable scope to "do its own thing" in several devolved areas if it so chooses and that it does not have to do the same as Westminster
Trevor6:43 pm, 17-Feb-2013
Yes I have been to Wales often visit relatives there, North and South. Was born and brought in Aberdare. My father pome Welsh as did my grandparents and most other of my Welsh relatives, my daughter and her friends speak it often, so yes I would say it is widely spoken, it's taught in schools and Aberystwith Uni too. So where is his arguement about it being suppressed by the nasty English. If anyone wants to learn the language and speak it they are free to do so. As I said it's one of oldest spoken languages in the world, great let's keep it alive otherwise it will have the same demise as Scottish and Irish Gaelic languages. "Use it or lose it" but don't bleat nonsensical crap about it being suppressed, it isn't!!!
Trevor6:52 pm, 17-Feb-2013
"John" Scroll up aand read the comments written by Kelvin Jenkins, he also agrees it is widely spoken, he's a fluent speaker too!! The bloke who wrote the article is on the wrong planet
Meredydd12:12 am, 18-Feb-2013
MAE'R IAITH CYMRAEG YN MARW OHERWYDD FOD Y CYMRY YN HUNANOL TUAG AT EU IFANC!! The Welsh language is dying because of the greed and selfish attitude of its elders, the exact people who moan how the language is dying out. There is a simple explanation to it all, and to be fair to the English, they are being used as a scapegoat to point the blame to. I can freely say this as I am Welsh and it is my first language. The problem is, the elder welsh people sell property to the highest bidder, thus outselling to young Welsh people who have lived in Wales. The edlers would rather see a wallet full of money than to HELP THEIR OWN by sellingtheir properties to young Welsh families who don't have the riches of the English. We young Welsh folk are forced to abandon our communities due to a lack of AFFORDABLE housing, lack of work, and thus are forced to migrate away to places where English is the main language, and this is whats Killing the Welsh language. The greed of their own people. If only these idiots would stop looking for scapegoats and lok closer to home and admit their shame and guilt then the Welsh language might just make it into 2030!
Matt6:27 am, 18-Feb-2013
Late, but... Glyn, your friends don't speak Welsh to each other because it's not their 1st language. All S4C programmes could be BAFTA winners, and it still wouldn't make 1st-language English-speakers speak Welsh to each other. That's just not how sociolinguistics work. Not that I'm arguing against Welsh-medium education for 1st-language English-speaking kids who(se parents) opt for it. It has its uses and benefits, it's just that getting these kids to speak Welsh to each other isn't one of them. Also, Intruder, comparing Welsh to Catalan, and S4C to Catalan TV, is comparing apples to oranges. Catalan has 20 times the speakers.
Matt6:52 am, 18-Feb-2013
Forgot to reply to Glyn about the Welsh Not. Unlikely it had much effect on that generation speaking Welsh when out of the teachers' earshot. But it would've played a role in that generation choosing not to raise their children through Welsh. It was an intergenerational effect, not immediately observable but still there. But yeah, it definitely wasn't the biggest factor in the decline of Welsh - that would be industrialization and sudden population growth through influx of workers (mostly English and Irish). It's only normal for an unofficial, unprestigious language to decline in those circumstances. On that note, I don't understand the surprise over the recent census. The language's heartlands see the highest numbers of monoglot English incomers. It doesn't take a nuclear scientist to figure out the percentage of Welsh speakers will fall. Not saying monoglot English incomers are a bad thing,just looking at it from a socioloinguistic perspective.
Michael9:31 am, 18-Feb-2013
Fred, history shows that the English oppressed all the indigenous languages of the British isles and further afield, they tied a knot round children's necks and did an even better job of stamping out Scots Gaelic, that's got nothing to do with nationalism it's the plotting of a government to stamp out a language in an effort to among other things remove a racial memory. All imperialist empires tried it, it's not right or justifiable any way you look at it
Sian Williams11:50 am, 18-Feb-2013
Hey Richard. Yes I agree the devolved powers we have are better than none at all - good progress has been made - but unless we have full political autonomy the Conflict of Interest that inevitably exists in this situation will undermine any efforts to protect the Welsh langauge. Even when/if the Welsh govt get a say on large urban development plans (plans that will change the landscape of Wales and it's communities) - and if I may go on a tangeant - trident (would an Indeodnent Wales want WMD's?) titan prisons (a very right wing idea - almost dickensian - even in the most calculating sense most experts agree these are a false economy) future nuclear power plans (we already produce more energy that we use!) - the vast majority of MP's within the Welsh assembly belong to Westminster based parties. Did you know (I only discovered this myself yesterday) that on a bill to further devolve energy powers to Wales......26 out of 27 Welsh Labour MP's voted against. That's all but one Labour MP in Wales voting that it's in Wales' best interests to have no further power over energy....................or is that Britains best interests? (That Blue Tory Right Wing Britain that Labour prop up? The one we didn't vote for? Again, please understand that this is not a lack of concern for rest of the people of the British Isles......it's a belief that to make a difference for ourselves *and* others we are more effective as a small nation.) Re the comments saying that it's up to the Welsh people on the ground to keep it alive - I agree that's part of it, but without the economic levers in the hands of people who have no conflict of interest between Wales and Britain - the Welsh Language has the sword of damacles perpetually above it's head. We need to make our own way, forge our own economy, create our own employment and wealth to keep the Welsh language alive.
dorris7:27 pm, 18-Feb-2013
Good piece, well written and accurate. It's interesting to hear people say that hearing Wlesh being spoke in Wales is 'rarer than hens' teeth' That depends on where you go and whether you speak it yourself. As a Welsh speaker myself I'm able to live my life pretty much through the medium of Welsh and I'm two a good hundred miles from the 'heartlands'. It's particularly good to see a positive attitude on a board such as this when what one is used to reading is the poisonous trolling on the Waelsonline site whenever the language is discussed
Roger7:28 pm, 18-Feb-2013
Nice article, Mr Law ! As a French, I feel the same about our local cultures and languages that were murdered by the French Jacobinism. French took the place, physically, socially and politically. Speaking a native language was for peasants. If you wanted your children to have a good social place, you had to teach them French. In public places, it was forbidden to speak Briton (celtic) and to spit on the floor ! If you were caught speaking "patois" (native language) in the school yard, you could be beaten by your teacher, who encouraged your comrades to report the names of those they had heard speaking not French... Now, there are bilingual schools in France where the co-teaching language is a native one (Briton in the Diwan, Occitan in the calandretas, Basque in the Ikastolas, etc...) A new pride is rising. But a shy one, fighting against centuries of smothering pillows on our faces... Maybe, our Children or grand children, will be proud of speaking their own native language again, and to use it not only with animals or for fun, but in every act of living?

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