The demand for Welsh medium education continues to rise – in RCT the Local Authority have struggled to keep up, so the demand is obviously there.
Yet the census figures also showed that there is a decrease in the number of Welshspeakers which has led to calls on the Welsh Government from opposition parties to get their act together and look again at strategies which are obviously not working.
The political attacks are predictable, but what I find more surprising is the level of attack from some members of the public who claim that money spent on the Welsh language is wasted. Take for instance this thread on the Pontypridd Town Forum. Just look at some of the comments on there:
· This pointless Welsh language is quite simply the most underhand, calculating,and divisive stunt imaginable. A classic example being the appalling spreading of rumours that unless your child can speak Welsh, they will find it much more difficult to find employment.
· There is no need for Welsh as an everyday language, Wales won't die because everyone doesn't speak Welsh. If the money and time spent on Welsh language promotion, was put into attracting business and industry to Wales we would be a damn site better off
· Welsh is dead - admit it.
Admittedly much of what is said on this particular forum is designed to needle and cause argument, but the basic messages show a disturbing amount of animosity. I know a significant number of people who think that bilingualism is a waste of money, many see it as inextricably linked to a nationalist agenda. They don’t speak the language and so do not see why any else needs to. Yet these same people would class themselves as ‘Welsh’ and fly the flag with pride.
I am not a fluent Welsh speaker, although I have a reasonable degree of understanding of the language. I don’t read information other than in English, I can’t fill in forms in Welsh. I wish I could, and yes it is my fault for not making the effort learn more and upgrade my level of understanding and ability to speak the language. But this is and should be a bilingual country.
The argument that by having Welsh taught as a compulsory subject in schools we are affecting the quality of education in other subjects is nonsense. The question is whether what we are teaching is adequate. Are we merely paying lip service by insisting on throwing the odd Welsh phrase into conversation in our schools? Does it actually instil any love of the language? Forcing students to take exams in it is not going to endear them to the subject. Forcing teachers some of whom may themselves have no love of the language to teach it isn’t going to build enthusiasm.
Encouraging growth in the language needs more than Government policies and strategies and forcing businesses to put up bilingual signs. It needs a change in people’s attitudes – and no, I don’t know how we achieve that!