Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why do so many Welsh people reject their own language?

I cannot understand why there are so many Welsh people who appear to have such animosity towards their own language.  The 2011 census for the first time provided a tick box for people to describe themselves as Welsh if they so wished. Results showed that the sense of national identity is strong, with two thirds of people describing themselves as Welsh on average across Wales and 73% in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

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!



DutchEnery said...

Clywch, clywch.

Bruce said...

I was born in Wales and have lived here pretty well all my life and therefore consider myself Welsh. My parents are of mixed British heritage including some Welsh. My point is that although I am Welsh my language is English and that is not a contradiction, in fact it is probably the most common situation. When you refer to Welsh being 'their own language' that is simply not true. The Welsh language is the language of some Welsh people not all Welsh people. The assumption that English speaking Welsh 'should' learn Welsh is partly where the animosity arises. Why 'should' they? The reason is romantic. There is no practical need to learn Welsh.

DutchEnery said...

Wel,cefais fy ngeni yn Iseldiroedd ond achos wi'n byw yng Nghymru nawr dysgais i yr iaith. (Yn wael) :-))

Karen Roberts said...

Da Iawn Hendrik

Anonymous said...

Because people like Karen Roberts seem to feel that to class yourself as Welsh you HAVE to speak Welsh!!!!!

David Walters said...

Given that she SAYS no such thing, what's your basis for believing that she feels that?

Karen Roberts said...

And given that I have already said I am not a Welsh speaker but am most certainly Welsh first and foremost I find that very puzzling.

Anonymous said...

Karen Roberts cannot be bothered to learn the language, a large majority probably "cannot be bothered" so why the criticism?

Leanne Wood is only now learning the language, and that is for political reasons only! The double standards of these would-be politicians never ceases to amaze me.

Karen Roberts said...

I "cannot be bothered" as you put it to hone my Welsh language skills, my level of understanding is pretty good.

The criticism is of intolerance, of people who knock the Welsh language and have no regard for it. There is nothing political about it, it is a personal view of mine. In this neck of the woods being pro the Welsh language can be as much of a vote loser as being against it so I'd be better off 'politically' saying nothing.

Some people don't half talk some nonsense - in any language! Still when you hide behind an anomymous tag I suppose you can afford to take the risk of sounding a bit daft like innit?

DutchEnery said...

Karen, don't bother you cannot dissuade a bigot, in either language.
Try to learn Dutch, and even there the Frisians of the north have a problem with that! Funny, I am a Frisian but don't speak their language!