Welsh is the only language on the planet that gets attacked simply for existing. Two odious Tories who make a living picking on the weak and bootlicking the powerful, Jeremy Clarkson and Roger Lewis, are the latest in a long litany to express this deep-seated animosity, proudly parading their profound stupidity recently via rightwing London rags The Sun and The Spectator. Objecting to a language is so obviously insane – a bit like complaining that humans come equipped with a voice-box – and violent antipathy is so universally understood to hold within it a suppressed affinity with the very thing hated, that one must conclude both Clarkson and Lewis are overcompensating for a dim awareness somehere in their tiny minds that the language they malign is the true native tongue of their beloved Britain (until the 19th century it was actually called “British” rather than “Welsh”).
Affronted by the sheer persistence of Welsh, an uncomfortable reminder that they invaded and seized the British Isles by force, the English/British have been trying to wipe it from the face of the Earth as stated aim and policy since the 16th century. In what would today be seen as ethnic cleansing, the full weight of state apparatus has been marshalled against the Welsh language for century after century of repression, penalty, discrimination and contempt. No other language in human history has ever been subject to such a sustained, systematic and deliberate onslaught. There’s a word for this: Genocide. A language is not just vocabulary and syntax; it’s a way of thinking, an accretion of knowledge, a state of mind and the greatest feat of any civilisation. Leading linguist KD Harrison has likened the loss of any language to “dropping a bomb on the Louvre”, and Welsh has endured an unprecedented bombardment. Clarkson’s call for it to be “abolished” is thus as old hat as his fast cars, bubble perm and faded double denim – the idea has already been tried.
Incredibly, and entirely due to the people’s resolve, Welsh has survived when over 350 other languages have become extinct due to imperialism and colonialism since the 1536 ‘Act of Union’ outlawed it. Given that English would become a monster international language with the spread of the British Empire and the rise of the USA, that Welsh would remain unrecognised by the UK until the first Welsh Language Act of 1967, that equal status with English was not achieved until the 1998 Government of Wales Act which set up the National Assembly (and then only in the public sector and, of course, only within Wales – Welsh still has no legal recognition in the rest of the UK), and that the right of every child to be taught Welsh in school did not arrive until 2000, it is one of the miracles of human resilience that Welsh is still spoken at all here in England’s backyard. We have reached the position where the near-catastrophic decline vastly accelerated by mass English and Irish immigration from the mid 19th century onwards has against the odds been halted, and even slightly reversed. Much is owed to the leadership of a few true Welsh heroes: Saunders Lewis (1893-1985) galvanising resistance with his 1962 radio lecture Tynged yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language); the young activists of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (The Welsh Language Society) painting out English-only road signs and picketing hostile institutions; the brilliant Cardiffian poet and teacher Bobi Jones who founded CYD (Cymdeithas y Dysgwyr – The Learners’ Society) in 1982; and Plaid’s first MP Gwynfor Evans (1912-2005), whose 1980 hunger strike forced Thatcher into an unprecedented U-turn allowing S4C to be established. None are commemorated in Wales’ capital city, incidentally, despite the vast benefits Cardiff has harvested from the revival of Welsh national identity, whereas every two-bit murderer, usurper, collaborator, traitor, enemy of Wales and Brit mediocrity who happened to swing by is lauded from the roof tops. Such is the enduring creepy Britophilia of Cardiff’s rulers that a “Jeremy Clarkson Avenue” in Cardiff would come as no surprise.
Welsh is now the fastest-growing minority language in Europe and the thriving adult learners movement operating in every town and village is the model that defenders of other threatened languages around the world seek to replicate. Even Cardiff is 11% Welsh-speaking, more in percentage terms than at any time since the 1921 census, and more in absolute numbers than at any time since 1881. The supply of Welsh-medium education in the city cannot keep up with demand, yet the foot-dragging Council still only has a mere two Welsh-medium secondary schools (Ysgol Gyfun Glantaf in Llandaff North and Ysgol Gyfun Plasmawr in Fairwater), a total that has not increased in 14 years. Despite being in breach of statutory obligations, the Council allows itself to be intimidated by a very vocal minority determined to block and delay expansion led by the mouthpiece of Cymruphobia, Trinity Mirror’s South Wales Echo. It beggars belief, but there are still people who object to the use and appearance of Welsh, here in Wales. Obligingly given a platform by the Echo letters page to appear more numerous than they actually are and rabble-roused by the paper’s main columnist Dan O’Neill, the belligerently fearful ‘Brits’ expend much energy foaming at the mouth at any tiny hint that Welsh hasn’t been entirely eradicated while O’Neill treats Welsh as some sort of alien imposition cooked up by a few Pontcanna intellectuals just to make monoglots like him look stupid. Fact: Welsh has been the majority language of Cardiff for its entire history apart from the 12th century (French) and the 1880s to date (English). But facts never get in the way of O’Neill’s rants in which Cardiff ‘history’ only commences when his illiterate Irish grandfather honoured us with his presence.
Some people in Wales say we should ignore the Cymruphobia of the likes of O’Neill, Clarkson and Lewis, rise above it and treat it with the contempt it deserves. I am not of that view. The Welsh language remains in deep jeopardy; to turn the other cheek while it is traduced by philistines is to collude with their agenda. Cymraeg might have defied logic by staying alive, but the damage has still been devastating, especially in the language’s strongholds. The rich and deep mother tongue Welsh of living communities has been largely replaced by the impoverished and shallow Welsh of schoolchildren, adult learners and S4C soap-operas, the fussy official Welsh of local authority notices and reversing garbage trucks, and the throwaway token Welsh hanging above the supermarket aisle. So much needs to be done, and done quickly: I would prioritise more Welsh-medium schools (immersion is needed if fluency is to be acquired), extending the Welsh Language Act to the private sector, the provision of a Welsh language daily newspaper, and a much more aggressive response to Cymruphobia.
We await the figures from the 2011 census, but it is estimated that Welsh is currently spoken by just 23% of the population of Wales (compared to 95% as recently as 1840) and a miniscule 0.0001% of the world. Crunching the numbers, insignificant Welsh thus has a grand total of 750,000 speakers while English, the global lingua franca of finance, commerce, the UN, diplomacy, computing, music and Hollywood dreams has 1,500,000,000 speakers. So for ludicrous British Nationalists like Clarkson and Lewis to work themselves up into a lather over little old Welsh is akin to a herd of elephants stampeding at the sight of a gnat. They cannot grasp that, unlike them, not everyone is into world domination. Nor do they realise that, if their dream of everyone speaking one language ever did come true, then that language would be Mandarin.
In 2011 the world has approximately 6,900 languages left. It is predicted that half of these will have vanished by the end of the century. To make sure Welsh is not among that number will take more than passive resistance. The only language that English monoglots feel perfectly relaxed dismissing while simultaneously announcing their complete ignorance of it, and the only language BBC announcers routinely mis-pronounce (with a chuckle), has suffered for far too long. Attack is the best defence, and a start can be made by exposing the most oft-repeated lies told about the language of heaven:
“Welsh is not a real language, it’s a dialect” – The oldest surviving language of western Europe is an Indo-European language, Celtic branch, Brythonic sub-family, sister language of Breton and Cornish. Ych chi’n deall?
“Welsh is a dead language” – No, no, get it right: it’s a language that Cymruphobes are trying to kill.
“Welsh is ugly” – With its unique system of mutations, based on the physiology of the mouth, Welsh has a supple lyricism, rich musicality and sonorous clarity far superior aesthetically to the glottal stops, brittle vowels and gutteral Germanic grunts of English.
“Welsh is unpronounceable” – Wrong: it’s almost entirely phonetic and therefore very easy to pronounce – unlike, for instance, English (eg: through, plough, cough, borough…enough).
“Welsh has no vowels” – On the contrary, it’s overloaded with seven of them – two more than English.
“Bilingual signs cause traffic accidents” – There hasn’t been one recorded in Wales yet, nor in calmly quadralingual Switzerland.
“Welsh uses made-up words” – Yes, like every living language does – none more so than English, the ultimate linguistic tart with 75% of its vocabulary borrowed (eg: ‘television’ from the Greek ‘tele’ + the Latin ‘videre’).
“Welsh speakers get all the good jobs” – For 400 years English was the language of personal advancement and Welsh condemned as the tongue of peasants which would hold you back; after just a decade or two of nominal parity with English in which speaking Welsh has developed a few advantages it’s suddenly unfair!
“Welsh is rammed down our throats” – Funny how this is always uttered by those who have managed to cruise through life without knowing one word of Welsh.
“They only talk Welsh when someone English walks in” – One of the great myths of the English dinner party. The condition is known as monomania, a delusion that one is the centre of the universe, most prevalent among 2-year-olds.
“There’s no point learning Welsh, it’s no use anywhere else” – Just like Albanian, Basque, Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Estonian, etc, etc, etc…they all seem to cope with the handicap.
“You’re not really Welsh unless you speak Welsh” – I don’t speak Welsh.
I’ll conclude this piece with the words of Bobi Jones from Cyfarthfa Street, Roath, who when Professor of Welsh at Aberystwyth in 1969 had the thankless task of trying to cram the language into an unemployed 21-year-old with learning difficulties and a speech impediment called Charles Windsor: “…learn Welsh…to be confident in one’s own identity, interested in the roots of one’s own country, its recent society, the explanation of so much in the national psyche and history, the environment of places and their names, the marvellous literature…and to resist the pressures of uniformity that prevent an understanding of the multiform world of relationships…”
Right, back to my mutation tables: p,t,c,b,d,g,ll,m,rh…p,t,c,b,d,g,ll,m,rh…
Picture: Daily Mail
This has the potential to be an excellent article if you correct two things. First of all Welsh is not the most persecuted language, the fate of other minority languages is far worse. Secondly, there has been no genocide and it’s insulting to others such as the Rwandans to suggest that there has been. It’s true that the language is under threat, but please delete the mention of the word genocide. This comment comes from a pro Welsh language, Welsh speaking Welsh nationalist so please take me seriously and tweak the article a bit.
As a fellow Welsh speaker I agree, the sentiment of this article is correct, the vitriolic language and insulting tone isn’t helpful to anyone. Particularly the reference to genocide is insulting and only serves to undermine the cause. There is some irony in fact that the source for your image of Jeremy Clarkson is none other than the Daily Fail. Also undermining Welsh learners and schoolchildren who are, frankly, the future of the language smacks of elitism. We should be encouraging people to learn Welsh, not ridiculing them.
And Cardiff now has Ysgol Bro Edern – a new welsh medium high school
I agree, I’m a Welsh learner and may not know much Welsh but try very hard to get right what I do know! However, the sentiment of the article is in the right place.
While the Rwandan Genocide and other such atrocities cause people to view ‘genocide’ only as horrific violence towards a cultural group, the definition is more complicated than that. The author is totally right to use it in this context. It’s defined as “the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.” That can mean extermination over time, through cultural repression and indeed “century after century of repression, penalty, discrimination and contempt.”
another “like” here-can’t just tick it as I’m not on wordpress.
Unbelievably good. I haven’t read such a thorough myth-busting before! As a saesnes who learned Welsh entirely through using the BBC website, the online geiriadur and maes-e.com I really struggle with the concept of ‘language ramming’ as my other half still claims it is…
When you consider how low the percentage is of people who speak Welsh It’s truly amazing that so much work, music, literature, tv is produced. Pobl y Cwm is the oldest televised programme produced by the BBC, the Urdd Eisteddfod is the largest coming together of youth in Europe, every Welsh language school ( primary and secondary ) in Cardiff is full while English medium schools have about 5000 empty places. If Clarkson had talked about Punjabi in the same way he’d have been arrested and chrged with racial abuse.
Da iawn chi.
Erthygl ardderchog, ond hoffwn i ddweud bod, yn fy mharn i, mae mwy o Wyddelod wedi bod yn ffafriol tuag at ein iaith na sydd wedi bod yn ei erbyn. Gwyddel oedd fy nhad, ac mae’r 4 ohonom ni ‘blant’ wedi ein magu yn siarad Cymraeg a dwi’n nabod llawer o deuluoedd ar Ynys Mon ac yn Ngwynedd ble mae un o’r rhienni wedi bod yn Wyddelig a’r plant wedi eu magu i fod yn ddwyieithog.
(Just saying that this is an excellent Blog but I would like to say that in my opinion, more Irish newcomers here, in the north west of Wales at least, have been favourable towards our language than have been anti. My father was Irish and raised all four children to be Welsh speakers, and I know of many other families here on Anglesey and in Gwynedd where at least one of the parents has been Irish & the children have been raised to speak fluent Welsh.
Re: Ramming the language down people’s throats. How exactly do you do that? Can you get classes, because I’d like to learn? Is it dangerous?
Excellent article, will be shared immediately though bigots will never ever read or understand what you are saying away, and some people so idolise Clarkson that they will accept anything rather than his fall.
He is dichotomy to me. I have genuinely found myself very entertained by the bloke over the years, he is not all bad, but equally I’ve been disgusted when he makes some comments which are just so appalling that is shows him to be a complete ‘sh*t’ upsetting many people in the process.
So do I just not watch anything he does ? Do I try and take everything he does with a pinch of salt and assume it’s just piss taking humour and everyone is game ? Is it just modern day TV, which I find creates entertainment in the most banal and unethical of subjects ? I hate the endless perpetuation of killing, violence and torture as ‘entertainment’ on the majority of mainstream films, TV and computer games, yet people seem to lap it up and celebrate it when I find myself sickened by it.
Ultimately, is there any hope for the human race who seem to have been destroying other people ad cultures for thousands of years and it’s still happening world wide as I write this. Is it any wonder that Clarkson says what he says when perhaps he is just giving the mindless mob exactly what they want and expect ? Is he any different from any of his viewers ?
Llawer o ddiolch beth bynnag, am eich erthygl chi diddorol iawn 🙂
My children were born in Cardiff; there was no Welsh Lang School for the two older ones but the two younger ones had all their schooling at a Welsh Lang School. I was a Gov at a Welsh Lang Primary School and as Chairman of the National Equity Committee I introduced the first Welsh Lang Contacts to BBC Wales…….I am very much for the Welsh Lang…..It’s the Welsh-Speaking Facist that does more harm to the Lang than any number of Clarksons……as much as I can’t stand him. No, it’s the Welsh-Speaking Bigots who say “If you 80% dont speak Welsh you are 2nd rate Welsh Citizens.”
I’ts strange, in my 48 years I’ve yet to meet or hear any ‘Welsh speaking fascist’ refer to non-speakers as ‘second class citizens’
You must have lead a very sheltered existence Anthony. My parents are fluent welsh speakers, but come from an age when it was frowned upon and actively discouraged in schools, my parents are in their 80’s. I have come across “welsh language fascism” quite a few times. In North Wales, but more actively from the Welsh language media, and i can give you specific examples. So i can quite categorically state that this form of behaviour does exist.
I stand by my comment Huw Rees, and you do not know me or anything about my life to make your ignorant comment about having led a sheltered life. I look forward to you providing details of this extensive ‘Welsh fascism’ that you have experienced.
I once had a double-barreled shotgun pressed against my adam’s apple by a Powys hill farmer who told me that I couldn’t call myself Welsh unless I spoke the language. I told him that I had played rugby at the Arms Park (didn’t mention it was a schoolboy cup final) and that my great-grandfather had been one of the great Hwyl preachers. He apologized profusely and we ended up as pals. It’s the only time I’ve been threatened, but on more than one occasion have been chastised for not being a Welsh speaker.
But loved this piece – succinct, entertaining and detailed. No mean feat.
I haven’t, I am 21 and went through all of primary and secondary school in North Wales (a strong welsh language area) and my secondary school was full of Welsh fascists who didn’t consider you Welsh unless you spoke the language fluently. There was blatant favouritism towards Welsh speakers even though the rest of us all learnt the language too.
FYI – Fascism is where the private sector owns the tools of productivity and industry while the government controls everything.
Wales is now quite accustomed.
ar diwedd y dydd bobol os hyn yw eich ceneladwriaeth a’ch calon PAM cecran am rhywbeth sy wastad mynd i fod yma? I ni yma o hyd fel canodd sant Dafydd Iwan a fyddwn yma am sawl mileniwm bellach hefyd xx ‘rwyn diolch am fy ngeni yng Nghymru x diolch Gymru lan
I agree with Welbru about the points he makes about tweaking the otherwise fascinating article. On that note of being insulting the article feels too loaded with resentment and actually is insulting towards to me as an Englishman as it assumes I’m ignorant. Clarkson and Lewis are not to be heralded with the claim of so much influence and authority as to represent a Nation ( please deal with them as individuals ) If you understand the fundamental truth of suffering, you will know that it is a Universal phenomenon and so yes I will speak and say that includes the English also as being a subjugated peoples.
This is a great blog. My only caveat is that I’m not sure the tone should be so combative. Clarkson and the rest deserve everything they get. But Clarkson is pretty much paid to be a recalcitrant boob. He’s far cleverer than his comments suggest. The default position of your common or garden monoglot Englishman towards the Welsh language is ignorance, rather than hate. If I didn’t speak Welsh I’d probably be just as antipathetic towards it. The problem with language is that you only know how precious it is, how ‘annwyl’, and how important it is to preserve its cultural product, when you can speak it. What the Welsh language needs is a positive propaganda campaign, basically, rather than the abrasive ‘fight fire with fire’ approach.
A yes, that other myth – ‘The Welsh Speaking Bigots / Facsists’ of the paranoid imagination, and the ‘you 80% are 2nd class citizens’ myth.
Usual Cymruphobe propaganda. Welsh speaking communities are the most tolerant communities in Britain, so much so that they will use English to accomodate any monoglot newcomers, to the detriment of Welsh.
Wales is still a part of the UK, we are citizens of the UK, not Wales. We are subject to the administration of the ‘National’ Assembly who runs Wales through the medium of English (with token Welsh) despite the supposed equality of the two languages.
The Welsh government is 90% English monoglot, by the way, and the Welsh Senedd is about 75% monoglot English.
It is Welsh speakers who are the second class citizens of the UK. We are denied services in our mother tongue, ridiculed, attacked, threatened, thrown out of pubs in English-dominated seaside towns, denied rights to Welsh speaking juries at trials, have no access to enough Welsh schools, pilloried as ‘seaweed munching hilltribes’, and as ‘bigots’ and ‘fascists’ if we ever raise our concerns. The list is endless.
The Act of Union declared that only English speakers could hold any public office and that ‘the Welsh tongue is to be eradicated from this Realm’. Our children were still punished with the Welsh Not in schools in the 20th century. So, just who are the second class citizens?
The Welsh language is not used as a measure of Welshness, or rammed down throats. Welsh medium schools advanced because of demand from English-speaking parents, not by any good will from the authorities. This demand is increasing, not by a fear of their kids growing up as second class citizens, but by English speaking Welsh people who wish their children to learn the language of their country, to be bilingual, and to re-aquire the language that was beaten out of their grandparents and great grandparents.
We are all Welsh, and you don’t have to speak Welsh to be a proud Welsh person. In fact, the English speaking industrial south wales valleys’ workers contributed money from their wages to set up the National Library, National Museum, Eisteddfodau etc – all institutions that have helped to safeguard Welsh identity and the language itself. Welsh is part of our lives and identity wherever we live. It’s in house, street, village, town, river, mountains, lakes, pits, mines, factories and personal and family names. It’s our heritage whatever language we speak.
PS – I agree with the comment above re the word ‘genocide’. Surely you need to add the word ‘cultural’ before it?
Diddorol. Pedair iaith yn y Swisdir dwi’n credu.
“They only talk Welsh when an English person walks in”..
As a Welshman who lives in England I have lost count of the number of times I have heard people say this about my home town Caernarfon.
I try not to sound too annoyed when I explain “they were speaking Welsh before you entered the shop/cafe/pub (delete as appropriate) and were probably still speaking Welsh after you left.”
If I had a fiver for every time I heard that when I lived in the north east of England Andrew …….. I tried to explain to them that Welsh is a living language and that we speak it as naturally as they speak English, and not merely in order to annoy them but it was a pretty pointless attempt. Funnily enough these same people would ask me, and a Filippino colleague at work, what was the meaning of certain English words in documents or that the Filippino guy and I used in conversation. As he said to them: “It’s YOUR language …..”
this is an urban or contemporary legend which is rife amongst English visitors to Wales … one of the functions of urban legends in tradition and folklore is to control fear of the unknown but trying to define it, and I can only guess that those who peddle this legend have a fear of languages other than their own …
Dw i’n cytuno yn hollol efo chdi Tecwyn. Wnes i ddod i fyw yn Nghymru tair flynedd a hanner yn ol. Ges i fy ngeni yn Lloegr a ges i fy magu yno hefyd. Pan des i yma wnes i ymuno côr merched lleol a dechrau dysgu Cymraeg.
Mae pobl sydd yn siarad Saesneg yn unig angen dallt bod pobl siarad Cymraeg achos bod nhw’n iaith cyntaf yn Cymraeg – dim achos dydy nhw ddim isio pobl Saesneg eu dallt nhw!!!
Mae pawb wedi bod mor cefnogol i mi, efo dysgu geiriau newydd, efo dysgu sut i siarad yn naturiol. Dw i’n cadeirydd o’n côr blwyddyn hwn…
Mae fy Nghymraeg yn bwysig iawn i mi.
It’s funny how it’s only the paranoid people that don’t like the language because they’re all thinking we’re all talking about them.
As a Cornish speaker, I have often heard people say of Welsh speakers: “They only talk Welsh when an English person walks in”..
I have the perfect response. I say (modify to suit):
“Yes, when I went over the border to Plymouth the other day and walked into a pub they all started speaking English. I think they were bloody rude.”
It works a treat.
Couldn’t agree with this comment more……. I’ve actually had people apologise to me for speaking Welsh thinking that they had been impolite and were excluding me. A total reversal of the myth.
Has anyone ever ventured as to why they do not teach Cymraeg in England’s Schools – When lessons in French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Latin etc etc – no pun intended, are freely available!!!
Surely Cymraeg would be of far better use to English people being as a vast amount of them seek employment in Wales!!!
There are schools in England with Language College status who, in turn for their eagerness to develop other languages receive an extra £100,000 from the Government!!! No Cymraeg taught though. Strange that isn’t it…
Cymerwch Catalonia fel enghraifft o genedl o iaith-garwyr. Ers diflaniad Franco a’i ddilynwyr a’u ddelfrydau afiach, mae’r iaith Gatalaneg wedi ei hatgyfodi o’i bedd, mewn llai na chenhedlaeth. Mater o hunan-barch ydio’i gyd. Pwy sydd yn cymryd sylw o ddifri o rai fel Clarkson, A.A,Gill a’r gweddil yn siarad mewn iaith sydd wedi ei bastardeiddio o gymysgedd o ieithoedd eraill? Mae’r hen ystrydebau am ymwelwyr o Saeson sy’n honni ein bod yn troi i’r Gymraeg cyn gynted â’u bod yn dod i gysylltiad â Chymry Cymraeg mewn tafarn neu siop, ac ati, yn y fro Gymraeg, angen ei chladdu bellach. Rydym oll wedi cael profiad o benna’ defaid felly dros y blynyddoedd. Yr angen mawr yw ceisio addysgu ein cymdogion dros Glawdd Offa ein bod yn dal i arddel iaith a diwylliant ein cyndadau, cyn iddynt gyrraedd yma. Mae’n syndod cymaint o Saeson sy’n bod nad ydynt yn ymwybodol fod yr iaith Gymraeg yn dal i gael ei siarad yma yng Nghymru. Oni ddylai hanes Cymru fod yn rhan o gwriciwlwm cenedlaethol ysgolion Lloegr? Mae’n plant ni wedi eu trwytho, (neu eu gorfodi, yn hytrach i ddysgu) am hanes ei cenedl hwy erioed.
Heb Iaith, Heb Genedl!!
Diolch, Stiniog. Boed i chi ddiwrnod da.
I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. I took ‘Welsh as a Second Language’ as an evening course here at our Public Schools in 1989. Some of my Welsh ancestors emigrated from Wales in the 1890’s, but my grandfather & sib’s were not allowed to speak Welsh in public. They were punished when they spoke it in school here. This would be in the period 1906-18. My father never learned it from his father. I used to enjoy my grandfather speaking his little ditties or singing a song in Welsh for us when we were children. I only wish I had written them down or recorded them. It is a very difficult language to learn but quite interesting intellectually to try to figure out the many mutations & genders of different words. I’m not fluent & I don’t get a lot of opportunities to use what I do know, but I do enjoy trying. I have a Welsh/English dictionary & use Google translate too if I get stuck on something. I was able to practise translation a lot in the last few years as I inherited some boxes with many old photos, documents & letters of my great grandparents, the two who originally immigrated to Canada in 1895. I was able to translate many of these items into English for my cousins to enjoy. I also sent copies of these translations with the items when I donated them all to the City of Edmonton Archives in March 2011.
There are not a lot of Welsh speakers here but there is a St. David’s Welsh Society that has existed here since about 1905. It has between 100 – 125 members annually. They were the ones who sponsored the Welsh courses & brought the instructor over from Wales. They also have a St. David’s banquet & Gymanfa Ganu every year. They are also one of 60 participant groups every year in our annual Heritage Festival in August. The festival draws 300 – 4000 thousand people in 3 days to celebrate our different cultures. Even the English participate in this (please take note Jeremy Clarkson & Roger Lewis).
There were are also 2 other communities in Alberta that had large Welsh immigrations in the late 19th & early 20th century; Camrose & Ponoka. Even today when you look at county land maps with landowners names on each 1/4 section, many are traditional Welsh names. I often wonder if any of them can speak Welsh.
Lastly, I want to say that I met my wife of 20 years at the Welsh classes I took; so it was worth going even if I hadn’t learned anything!!
Recte: Switzerland is quatrilingual, you forgot either German, Italian, French or Rumantsch. But the argument still stands of course 🙂
Rog writes: No, it’s the Welsh-Speaking Bigots who say “If you 80% dont speak Welsh you are 2nd rate Welsh Citizens.”
I’ll put to one side the fact that you called Welsh speakers fascists, I suppose you mean activists. Look up Godwin’s law.
If you’re going to make a claim like that, bring some examples. Who has ever said that to you?
What I say as a Welsh speaker is that the language is central to my Welsh identity. That is how it is for me personally and for some other Welsh speakers. I don’t make any comment on the Welshness or otherwise of non-Welsh speakers when I talk about my own identity.
Dicomortimer: again thank you for the blog, but would you please come below the line to explain why you want to keep the word genocide and not change it to cultural genocide or ethnocide.
Da iawn! It’s late, so just brief remarks:
Language oppression has a long and world-wide history; there was a tragi-comic instance in London in June 1966, with a sequel in 2000:
Closer to home, the late Dr Ceinwen Thomas (1911–2008) relates her mother Catherine Margretta Thomas’ experience of the Welsh Not at ysgol Fynnon Daf in the Welsh biography linked from
“ysgol Saesneg mor filwriaethus Saesneg a gwrth Gymraeg a’r ysgol waethaf yn y wlad, a’r Welsh Not mewn bri ynddi. Yr oedd y gansen mewn bri ynddi hefyd… Gwisgai’r Welsh Not a chael cwfa dda am hynny bron bob dydd o’r wythnos ac yr oedd ei hatgof am ddyddiau ysgolyn hunllefus… Yr oedd ei chorff yn ddu ac yn las yn feunyddiol…”
The other item on the same page, Easter Course Address (English) is about the Nantgarw Dances. Ceinwen Thomas was perhaps one of the last native Gwenhwyseg speakers, and an industrious academic, as a web search for “Dr Ceinwen H Thomas” will show.
Concerning percentages and language issues, it’s worth remembering the rather different make-up of the populations of England and Wales –
from the 2001 Census Data:
England – Born in England: 87%, b. in Wales: 1.2%,
Wales – Born in Wales: 75%, b. in England: 20%,
(with large variations from place to place, of course.)
Welsh is spoken in Patagonia as well.
You can have cultural genocide, so I don’t really mind you calling it that. My own people’s language suffered from genocide, a large number of speakers being killed either in battle or summarily executed afterwards, and has never really recovered, but the future is looking bright now. From a handful of surviving speakers we now have hundreds if not thousands.
Rest assured that neither my language nor yours will die out within the next century. People are too passionate about them and have the knowledge down on paper or on the internet. It is the unrecorded and unloved languages that we must worry about, and, using our knowledge gained through experience, help to survive.
Some responses to issues raised:
1) I am satisfied the word ‘genocide’ is appropriate here. Both the UN and the International Criminal Court are quite clear that the deliberate killing of a culture is as much genocide as the deliberate killing of a nation/race. Changing it to ‘cultural genocide’ would therefore be a tautology: people ARE their culture. In any case, Wales hardly got off lightly on the body count either: at least 25% of all Welsh people were killed during the Anglo-Norman conquest – a higher percentage than, for instance, the 20% killed in the Rwandan genocide – and had the refined techniques of mass murder developed later been available at the time, rest assured we would have been exterminated. They took no prisoners. Of course the word wasn’t coined in the 16th century when the English parliament unilaterally abolished Wales, its language and its laws and incorporated it into England – but just try to imagine something similar happening today: not only would it be a flagrant international crime, it would be labelled genocide without quibble. The Welsh experience at the hands of the British State is always conveniently written out of the ‘island story’ British nationalists plug, and has been underplayed and shrugged off for so long that many people are now completely unaware that Wales was seized by violence. Let’s stop treading on egg-shells to avoid ‘offence’, and tell it like it is.
2) My researches have found no other language that has been persecuted for such a long duration. Please advise, Welbru.
3) Correction made to number of languages in Switzerland – thanks Iestyn and Akerbeltz.
4) Ifan – my ‘combative tone’ is the way I write, I’ve got to be true to myself.
5) Harry – I try to differentiate between the English and the British. Some of my best friends are English but I wouldn’t let a ‘Brit’ through my front door. Cymruphobe Roger Lewis is Caerffili born and bred, but he’s not Welsh, he’s British.
6) Anthony – the Irish diaspora in Wales and the Ireland/Wales relationship generally are neglected topics that I have touched on before (see Vanished Cardiff item) and plan to explore in more depth soon.
7) Rog – you are displaying the very Cymruphobia I’m on about – your surname isn’t Lewis, is it?
This is an extremely complex issue. The best recent writing on the subject is ‘Not Quite White’ by Simon Thirsk, published by Gomer last year.
The first pages transparently lay out the ground to those who don’t know it. For those of us well-versed in the subject, Simon Thirsk does a good job contextualising the situation and ariving at a suggestion of solution that may not express ire but may help us to our destination sooner. It’s worth a read.
Welsh speaking facists? What the? Tell that to my friend of trinidad and tobago descent who is an exemplary Welsh speaker!
No one here doubts he isn’t any less Welsh, but I doubt in England he would always receive the same fair treatment….how sheltered are you rog?
As an American who has just completed a degree in Welsh from Swansea University I want to say how much I agree with and admire Mr. Mortimer and his insightful comments. I hope others will pay attention to what he’s written. The world would be a far poorer place without Welsh.
I too would like to ban ‘Welsh’. There’s no such thing. ‘Welsh’ is English, like ‘Wales’; it roughly means ‘the language spoken by that foreign lot who live over the border in Wales’. The language of Cymru, to which the above article and comments refer, is Cymraeg.
“My researches have found no other language that has been persecuted for such a long duration. Please advise, Welbru.”
Ok, you may be right but my impression was that the persecution of native Americans and Australian aboriginies and their languages was worse in many ways. France’s treatment of its minority languages is also quite bad for a modern democracy and the impression I got from the blog was more to do with strength of persecution rather than duration.
Yes, many American and Australian languages were completely annihilated – but that was the accidental by-product of invasion and land-grab not deliberate, declared policy. Only Welsh to my knowledge has had to endure specific measures aimed at wiping it out, a particularly sadistic and subtle cruelty reserved especially for us.
Thats the same story with Sorbian in Germany. There were official language bans, active germanization in church and schools and structural discrimination of speakers for at least 500 years – in fact until 1945.
Great post. My only gripe is that, unfortunately, Welsh is not “the only language on the planet that gets attacked simply for existing”. The same happed to Gaelic and Maori and many others.
The strange and toxic mix of passive aggression by English colonialists, the uncle tom-ism of native populations and continung hysterical abuse from the likes of Clarkson sees to that.
“Yes, many American and Australian languages were completely annihilated – but that was the accidental by-product of invasion and land-grab not deliberate, declared policy.”
That’s not the impression I had. Weren’t children even abducted from their parents and sent to boarding schools so that they wouldn’t learn the native languages? As fullcatastrophe says Gaelic and Maori are other examples as are many of the minority languages of Europe. Basque and Catalan were banned from the public sphere under Franco if I’m not mistaken.
Those languages either perished or rode out their relatively brief onslaughts. Welsh, on the other hand, has had to endure centuries of codified discrimination continuing unabated to this day – the techniques have just got a bit more subtle. With the Tories in power and lining up their pet hates for special attention, the Welsh language is under new forms of direct attack – the huge, unnegotiable, unilateral cut in S4C’s already threadbare budget being an early statement of their intent. I presume you are a native Welsh speaker, one of the 25% or so not robbed of your birthright. Well I am in the 75% who have been, so I can’t find consolation in, say, the Navajo having had it much worse. I managed to go through an entire Welsh schooling from age 4 to age 18 without ONCE hearing the word “Cymru” and have had to expend years of effort and expense as an adult trying to claw back some of the knowledge I should have possessed all along. And that’s just to reach my current level of kindergarden Welsh. Generations have been diminished and mutilated in this way. The UK government has never apologised nor offered recompense for their wicked anti-Welsh policies. The reason they haven’t is why Clarkson & Co feel able to say the things they do: it’s still going on.
Yes, I am a native speaker. I don’t think it makes it any easier though.
Yes, they were. I live in Canada (north of the USA, for those who do not know). I have met and am friends with people who suffered beatings, and worse, to keep them from learning their own culture and language. And although the native people of Canada supposedly have self-rule, the bureaucracy they deal with was created to try to destroy their culture, and has not been altered nearly enough. They are still suffering the side-effects.
However, what the Welsh have suffered at the hands of the British is more of the same (after all, it was the same government for a lot of that time). I would not say that one is worse than the other, they are too different to compare. I would say that Wales has more control over its own government that the Canadian First Nations people do, however. The Canadian First Nations people do not have the ability to raise funds through taxes – they are dependent on the monies they receive due to the treaties.
You may well think “The rich and deep mother tongue Welsh of living communities has been largely replaced by the impoverished and shallow Welsh of schoolchildren, adult learners” – but surely us ;’adult learners’ are helping to keep the language alive – even those of us who are English immigrants…
Bendigedig! Da iawn Dicmortimer!
Not only English immigrants but many of us English living in England are learning Welsh as never before. I have never lived in Wales but started to learn the language in the 1980.s after a scout camp in Snowdonia where i was pleasantly surprised to hear that it wasn’t a dead language as I had been told on numerous occasions. I promised myself I’d learn it. I hope it doesn;t upset Jeremy’s friends but I speak Welsh very frequently with English people in England. We Welsh language learners have formed a learners society ( Menter Iaith Loegr). Many of us meet in a number of towns throughout Britain within the SSIW organisation ( say something in Welsh) . I have lost count of hope many of us are learning Welsh, maybe more than 3000 within SSIW as we know..plus many who are learning with other organisations/ methods. I have Welsh speaking friends in Germany ( yes nationals) the USA, Australia and Italy. I’m glad to say that Welsh isn’t quite ready to lay down just yet.
Please do not judge all of us English people. Many of us are discovering for ourselves this beautiful language that predates our own. I often say that I feel more British knowing Welsh than ever i did before.
Helo! Mae tair ysgol uwchradd Gymraeg yng Nghaerdydd – ers i Ysgol Bro Edern agos ym Mis Medi. Mae’r Cyngor wedi neud ymdrech lew dros y blynyddoedd diwethaf o ran twf addysg Gymraeg. 4 ysgol gynradd newydd ac un ysgol uwchradd yn y 3 blynedd ddiwethaf.
Hello! There are now 3 Welsh medium High Schools in Cardiff, not two as you state. Over recent years, the Council in Cardiff has opened 4 new Welsh primaries and 1 secondary. That’s worth some praise……
Er, the article was written in December 2011, 9 months before Ysgol Bro Edern opened – I am not clairvoyant. Anyhow, these obviously welcome new facilities only raise the number of secondary school pupils taught in Welsh to 3,500 out of a total of 25,000 (and 5,000 out of the 30,000 primary school pupils), so I think I’ll withhold praise until those figures cover at the very least 50% of the school-age population of the capital of Wales.
People are doing real work to improve the situation in communities in Wales. It is not about bad, uncaring, stupid people on either linguistic side and implying that it does helps nobody and certainly not the language. This is a hit and run comment; I have no intention of getting into this debate (again) it is too sensitive and painful.
Born and raised on Anglesey……and now live in the south where most of the population here are so anti on race..religion and colour…..but if you say you come from wales and you still speak the language..they look at you as you were any of the above….quite fortunate that there’s are still some welsh speakers are living in the area and it’s my right to speak the language regardless where i’m living or whom i’m with……so call me ignorant…don’t care…I love speaking the language and it’ my human right to do so….i’m very patriotic but I do love my fellow neighbours.” the English” I have very good friends who are English and love the fact I do speak welsh and not ram it down there throats….like some people say we do.
This is a brilliant article, i believe that there are more welsh speakers out there than the percentage in this article. The secondary school i attended taught all subjects through the medium of welsh (except for english of course.) My mother is English born and bred, I was also born in england but we moved to north wales gwynedd when i turned 2 years old and i am proud to call myself a Cymraes and i am fluent in welsh and now so is my mother. In the town i live in ‘Caernarfon’ is apparently the most welsh spoken town in wales and i am very proud to be apart of that. Diolch yn fawr.
Yes and no. Welsh is ridiculously protected compared to the number of speakers it actually has. Scots Gaelic isn’t protected to the same degree in regards to the language and it is growing and thriving in comparison. Making Welsh a compulsory subject diminishes people actually wanting to learn the language. At school I was one of the few Welsh second language pupils to achieve Welsh fluency (a skill I have now sadly lost) and I was bullied and shoe horned into taking it at AS Level, making a class of four out of a year 12 of over 100. That’s what compulsory Welsh subject education has done.
A friend of mine went to a Welsh first language school and the standard of teaching was desultory. I mean, the idea of holding an English class in Welsh is ludicrous, especially as everybody who speaks Welsh is able to speak English at a higher level than vice versa.
You also have the problem with Welsh being protected, that candidates are getting jobs simply due to the fact that they are bilingual, and not necessarily the best candidates for the job, leading occasionally to lack of standards. Also a “cultural elitism” has developed amongst some Welsh speakers, and I find it the height of rudeness to be talking to a Welsh speaker in English, and then they start talking over you to somebody else in Welsh. A bit of politeness goes a long way.
Actually Welsh isn’t being attacked at all, and neither are THE Welsh. We have it pretty good here. Lower tuition fees, free prescriptions and many more benefits at the expense of Parliament and predominantly English taxpayers. Compared to the Scots and Northern England, Wales has it easy.
Welsh is a fantastic language worthy of protecting and cultivating, but forcing it down pupils’ throats isn’t the way to go about it, and neither is claiming victimisation. Our forebears can claim that, often they had to have separate English names, which is disgusting. There was the “Welsh Nut” in schools and the Welsh until recently were ridiculed as being backward and slow. We have it comparatively easy now, but to focus on the past transgressions, such as the fall of Llywellyn the Last, is ludicrous as they happened so long ago. Whilst we’re at it let’s moan about Boadicea being buried under King’s Cross Station.
Plus there is negligible cultural difference between South Wales and South England. Aside from the Rugby, you could substitute Cardiff with Bristol or Reading and nobody would take any notice. The shops are the same, the urban sprawl is the same and the interests of the local populace are the same. Compare that to Ireland, where Gaelic Sports are far much more popular than Rugby or Football and Scotland which has it’s own legal system.
What I’m trying to get at, is that petty nationalism is so passé. The whole of Britain and the national identity of Britain is greater than the sum of its parts and since the Act Of Union, the well being of these Isles and Wales has increased exponentially. We have Scottish academics that created a medical “renaissance” in the 18th century and Wales becoming a cultural hub in the 20th Century. What would the world be like without Sir Anthony Hopkins, Richard Burton, Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, The Manic Street Preachers and the Stereophonics? All world renowned acts. All came from Wales and all of Britain consider them part of their national identity.
Oh dear. GEZ Atherton says:
“What I’m trying to get at, is that petty nationalism is so passé.
Hmmm. And imperialism? And unionism, which is imperialism in the context of Britain and (Northern) Ireland? Is that not….passé?
It seems not. Your screed is full of tendentious unionist twaddle, assumptions, half truths and misinformation.
“The whole of Britain and the national identity of Britain is greater than the sum of its parts and since the Act Of Union, the well being of these Isles and Wales has increased exponentially”
this is absolute bunkum. The centre – London and SE England – has grown fat on wealth redistributed from elsewhere. Cornwall, Scotland and Wales all contribute more to the Exchequer than they get back. Whitehall and Westminster propaganda has it otherwise, but the facts are there if one digs for them. See, for instance, re Cornwall:
In the October 2001 Business Age Magazine (p18), Kevin Cahill wrote about the economy of Cornwall. In “The Killing of Cornwall”, he notes that HM Treasury in London extracts £1.95 billion in taxes out of Cornwall’s GDP of £3.6 billion. The Treasury returns less than £1.65 billion, so there is a net loss to Cornwall of 300 million pounds, where the total earnings figure is 24% below the national average. Cornwall is getting poorer by the day, and Cahill offers this explanation: “One very simple and easily provable answer is because the Government in London is raping Cornwall fiscally. The fiscal deficit of over £300 million all but completely explains the increasing pace of impoverishment in Cornwall.” Cahill concludes his Business Age article with the lament that Cornwall will not recover until the gap between the tax take and the exchequer give is at least neutralised and better still, reversed.
Fantastic and well written article… Diolch yn fawr. Only one point to make – you mention at the end that you don’t speak Welsh. Whilst it’s fantastic that you’re speaking up for the Welsh language – there’s something far more powerful that you can do for the language than to write articles about it and that is… learn and use it! Not meant to be a dig/preach, but if you feel so strongly about preserving the language (which is fab) and wish more people to be speaking it then it’s surely important for you to increase the numbers by 1 yourself. Other than that… thanks for writing that!
Gez Atherton, who in the Labour party wrote that comment for you? Such awful nonsense I don’t know where to begin.
“since the Act Of Union, the well being of these Isles and Wales has increased exponentially”
Dear dear dear. The Act of Union denied the existence of Wales!
Erthygl hynod o dda. Gwerth ei ddarllen a rwy’f yn falch o clywed bod y nifer o siaradwyr yn tyfu!
I doubt that ‘Welsh is the ONLY language on the planet that gets attacked simply for existing’. One example (of probably many) is China banning Tibetan. Considering the first sentence of the article is so hard to believe, it makes me skeptical of the rest. How much research has gone into this article? How valid are the other ‘facts’? Although I am a welsh speaker and agree with a lot of what the article is trying to say, I dislike the use of such sensationalist exaggerations. Convince me with well researched facts.
I have to agree with Gez Atherton. Some people have been bemused by the idea of Welsh language fascists but I don’t see why. I have encountered many people over the years who felt that if you weren’t fluent you weren’t Welsh. That everyone should speak Welsh. That all public sector jobs should be filled by Welsh speakers. Now I am not against the language and am a Welsh learner and can hold a conversation just about in Welsh, but I have met many bigots who discriminate against those who don’t speak the language. More and more jobs are set aside for Welsh speakers when surely we should employ by merit. The world is a much smaller place these days and we have to be able to compete, so ring fencing jobs for the 20% minority is devastating.
Also to go back to Welsh Nationalist fascists. During the Second World War some Welsh nationalist went over to Germany to become spies with the aim of aiding the Nazi’s. Also RAF bases were sabotaged during the war, again from the nationalists ranks. Yes these people are the minority and do not represent all Welsh speakers but to deny they exist or ever existed just allows them to continue. The people you meet today who feel Wales is for the Welsh speakers are the ones holding the language back. Causing resentment towards the language. You should really sort that chip on your shoulder out and just put bit more effort into learning Welsh if it bothers you so much.
Put up or shut up.
Clarkson and his ilk make a tidy living from ‘comical’ attention seeking opinionated buffoonery… “look at meee I’m un-peeceee”.
The perfect response would be to ignore his (let’s be fair tongue in cheek) ‘Alf Garnet-ian’ rants and render them as impotent and as unimportant as they actually are…
…but then that wouldn’t be much fun would it, so the quintessentially Welsh response would be a well informed, intelligent, passionate riposte and in some respects Dicmortimer’s Blog achieves this, but then he uses vitriol and resentment and self justification… Oh dear, he lost his cool, and one can only imagine Clarkson’s smug satisfaction watching his prey rising, incandescent with rage, to the bait.
In case you’re wondering, I am a Welsh speaking Welshman. Clarkson makes me laugh… at him rather than with him, and I really can’t see him being the influential English role model that Dicmortimer seems to think he is.
“Gez Atherton, who in the Labour party wrote that comment for you? Such awful nonsense I don’t know where to begin.”
Incidentally I’m centrist, of no political party affiliation and would have voted for devolution had I been old enough at the time. I won’t deny I’ve voted Labour in my time, but I’ve also voted Plaid Cymru and Lib Dem, so I’m politically confused.
Nonsense? You’ve only proved me right by saying that the state of Wales (as opposed to the Principality) didn’t exist legally before the Act Of Union. Therefore Wales has benefited since, through the recognition of its existence and national identity, even if it agreed to the Act of Union by proxy. Compare Wales before the Act to Wales now, after the act.
Everything I have written is historical, verifiable fact. Do you deny the fact that Wales has lower tuition fees? Do you deny the fact that we have free prescriptions? Do you deny the fact that Parliament pays for this and not the Senedd?
I don’t live in an idealistic world where I have a huge chip on my shoulder due to being Welsh. I think the time has long passed for resentment over the way we were treated. Nevertheless I am burdened with having an English accent despite being born and raised in Cardiff. I get it in the neck from some Welsh people for being half English and I get it in the neck from English people because they can’t be bothered to pronounce my first name properly. Hence the shortening of Geraint to “Gez.” I’m proudly Welsh, as proudly Welsh as anybody else who posts in response to this blog, or who wrote it in the first place. But it is time for us to move on from the past, and accept that Welsh residents have benefits that most English people do not. How can it be fair for Welsh people to pay less at Welsh universities than English people? How can it be fair that bilingual English/Welsh people are preferred in jobs due to their bilingual abilities, over those who speak English? By doing so you’ve automatically discriminated against 80% of Welsh people and the overwhelming majority of the UK. It is an unfair and pointless elitism and surely meritocratic reasons should always be first in mind when choosing a candidate for a job?
The standard of teaching the Welsh language was appalling when I was in school (1992-2006) and it doesn’t look like it has improved. By making the language compulsory, you only make young children very confused and teenagers resentful of the subject. It’s all very well going into an Infant school where you have a bilingual education and answer questions in Welsh, but how is that going to help a child when they go back home to their parents and speak English? They will be completely baffled and will not see the point of learning the language as fluency not necessary to live and work in Wales. It is due to this that “learning by immersion” is also impossible, thus making the Welsh language as a school subject seem like it is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Make it a bonus subject, optional for those who want to learn it. Make it a novelty, make it fun. For goodness sake don’t make it a bloody chore. It shouldn’t be a chore, but it is. And that’s the sad fact of the educational system.
The Welsh speaking families will pass the language on to their kids and so on and so forth. The language will survive, as it has done for thousands of years, and hopefully for thousands of years to come. By making it optional, you make Welsh a novelty and a curiosity for children and therefore they will want to learn it more. This attitude has rejuvenated Scots Gaelic. It’s also the case on the continent that local languages have survived and thrived despite overwhelming state pressure to eradicate them and Welsh is one of the most successful examples of this. I need only talk of the Basque and Catalan languages during the dictatorship of Franco in Spain, and the indifference to Breton in France. Other examples are the Lombardy and Piedmontese languages that are still thriving and like Welsh, are in no danger at all of going extinct.
So it is not through the protection alone that Welsh has survived, and it doesn’t need the protection and favouritism to survive. Keep the signs bilingual, keep it as a subject in school, make it a fun subject to learn, teach Welsh history and cultural identity; but don’t discriminate against the majority of the country for a small elite. As proven countless times in history, that is completely and utterly ethically wrong.
I want to see the language propagated and nourished, but I don’t want to see an independent Wales, nor a break up of the United Kingdom. As I said in my previous post, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Nationalism is an outmoded concept any way and it’s better for everybody if all countries learn to get along and find common ground, than put up walls and declare fanaticism to what is only an area of land.
“Also to go back to Welsh Nationalist fascists. During the Second World War some Welsh nationalist went over to Germany to become spies with the aim of aiding the Nazi’s. Also RAF bases were sabotaged during the war, again from the nationalists ranks.”
As for that statement Mr Gwyn, I can’t prove it and parts of it seem unsubstantiated. You have to be careful what you say as you’re in danger of tarring all nationalists with the same brush. It’s possible to be both patriotically British and patriotically Welsh, and even if they didn’t agree with British identity, I’m sure they found the idea of Nazi totalitarianism far more unpalatable. True you get nutjobs everywhere, but 99.9% of all Welsh nationalists then and now are lovely personable people. Also be aware of Godwin’s Law and possibly Poe’s Law.
That’s the only article I could find on the subject, and it is largely irrelevant.
I sort of agree with the article, but the author doesn’t do themselves any favours when they claim that welsh in the ONLY language that is attacked and is the MOST persecuted in history. “No other language in human history has ever been subject to such a sustained, systematic and deliberate onslaught”, Irish? Kurdish? Armenian? I have as much contempt as anyone towards the cohort of English upper class neo-imperialists who have far too strong a voice in our media, but if you want credibility you can’t claim things like that.
Not one to jump on the band wagon, but why not spell out your argument in welsh? as you are so passionate about the language. As a welsh speaker, I would be far more impressed, to hear someone so clearly very verbose explain their point in the native tongue. Whilst I agree that welsh is a language that should be cherished, it is not, I am afraid, a language which deservese the same place in our international society as English. While that is hard to swallow, that is the truth.
Giving children no option but to take welsh at GCSE is nigh on ridiculous. Limiting children to literally one country, outside which there is absolutely no use for the language . I agree the welsh language should be kept safe, just not forced on those who don’t want it.That’s not just the English, there is plenty of welsh that can’t speak or use the language. That’s a shame, but their choice.
‘…an uncomfortable reminder that they invaded and seized the British Isles by force, the English/British have been trying to wipe it from the face of the Earth as stated aim and policy since the 16th century.’
– aaaand you lost me. I was born in Lancashire. My schools and parents never really pushed a second language and it wasn’t anything I ever felt gifted in and so I speak only English (despite a great appreciation of many other very beautiful languages). I come across Welsh speakers who make me feel inadequate or out of place because I don’t speak Welsh but thankfully it only happens very rarely otherwise I would leave the area. I appreciate the language (I’d go as far as to say I feel some affection toward it now) but beyond a few civilities with my neighbours (who thankfully aren’t so very clearly anti-English as yourself) I struggle and will likely continue to.
I’m writing this here to basically say: If this was the general view of everyone in my community I’d feel unwelcome and leave Wales. Which would be a shame because I like it here. And I’m not a horrible person, bad neighbour or drain on my society. I just wasn’t born with parents who speak the language. Expecting me to dedicate vast amounts of time to learning the language just to blunder through a small amount of cyfarfodydd(sp?) that call for it is unrealistic. Should I ever have children in Wales I’d wholeheartedly support their use of the language (probably with great jealousy). So please drop this outrageous claim that the British want the language dead. It’s archaic bulls**t and a crude sweeping statement that undermines everything else you say. Also, learn about the origin of English as you have it skewed.
I agree with Welbru and Siobhan. This could be a really credible article, but yes; to say that Welsh has, historically, been under the greatest persecution is ridiculous. Take Aramaic (traditionally associated with Jesus Christ, Christianity, Judaism): it’s a language that is expected to die out within a generation* thanks to the dispersion of its speaking communities as a result of genuine persecution and genocide (i.e. the Assyrian Genocide). I’m proud to be Welsh and I do understand your passion behind the matter, but please remove the hyperbole; your writing is good enough without it.
* quite a moving article on the subject can be found here: http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-last-of-the-aramaic-speakers/
Hi, I’m not Welsh but I don’t think Welsh as a language is trying to be eradicated. The British used it in WW2 to send messages to each other because the Germans couldn’t figure it out as a language ! Very interesting
As someone born in Wales, who speaks second language welsh I’d just like to say thank you for this comedy gold.
No really, this is some of the highest class bullshit I have ever read. Gave me great giggles.
But no really, the welsh language is NOT the language of the ancient Britons, it is highly romanized (like English, funnily enough) and actually all 3 forms of Gaelic are much closer.
Unless you intend to get a job in Patagonia then it is relatively useless learning Welsh unless you want to a job in a local council or higher up the political ladder in good ol’ Cymru.
Number of countries where English is first language spoken: 75
Number of first language welsh countries: 3 (Wales, Patagonia, some small towns in USA)
Love the language, love the country, but it’s ancient history now, and forcing our Children to learn it over German, French or Chinese is harming their ability to gain future employment in the rest of the world.
Quite the opposite in fact. I’m lucky enough to be fluent in both Cymraeg and English and that has enabled me to pick up other languages with ease. I did my degree in English and I work through Cymraeg, I’ve also worked in los angeles, california – so where is the harm there? I would say having that skill has only enhanced my prospects. People in california thought that Cymraeg was unbelievable and it made me stand out in one of the most culturally diverse places on Earth. The female population found it particularly appealing and I’ve never felt so proud to be Cymraeg.
You could say I’m bordering on being over-confident, because I know being able to speak Cymraeg runs deeper than just language, it’s our heritage, it’s our legacy – it’s our culture. No person can touch that.
What does it matter how many countries are first language English? It just means that they were the biggest bullies in the playground – and we all know how bullies end up. Bullying – ‘use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force them to do something’. One of man’s most repulsing traits. I’ve always stood up to bullies, because I’m made of the same ilk that my forefathers were.
Nelson Mandela had this quality – “I hate race discrimination most intensely and in all its manifestations. I have fought it all during my life; I fight it now, and will do so until the end of my days.”
Our time now is just a tiny speck of the history and future of the world, the order will soon change.
Who’s forcing the language? Everyone I know loves the fact that we are able to work, live and be educated through Welsh – around our parts, it’s natural – nothing is forced. When you belong to a land, nothing has to be forced – belonging and identity are easy to find. I can even go some days without hearing a single word of English.
When we were pushed to the west coast, we were dealt a favourable hand – forced to the most beautiful part of our lands, with mountainous terrain that kept our language and will strong. Then on the other side of the mountains, the miles and miles of sand – the joke really is on whoever is stupid enough to attempt to belittle us.
I live, work and socialise through a language that has survived through the centuries – is there a better feeling? Yes – knowing you’re passing it on to your children and the infinite generation’s after that.
Tra môr yn fur i’r bur hoff bau,
O bydded i’r hen iaith barhau
I am very sorry to see, that in a country that calls itself civilised and democratic, the Welsh language is so misstreaten by and threaten. We, Hungarians have a word: you are so many people as many languages you know. So if somebody who know one language attacks those who know more languages, shows how uneducated and stupid he is.
A very important thing: I love to hear people speaking Welsh, and I hear that many people use many English words when speaking. This is a big threat to Cymraeg. So in the education it should teach a very clean Welsh. The infestation of Welsh by English is at least so dangerous as the attacks against it made by English or Irish people (these Irish should first learn Irish Gaelic, thanking of English crown of stripping them from their mother tounge, before attacking the Welsh language). Welsh people sould be more aware of their language. And I think a standardisation of Welsh should be made also, if it wasnt done yet (I do not know). Also the long forgotten words, which were replaced by English words should revive, and bring back to use. Hungarians did this is the beginning of the 19. Century, by reading the old writings, which contained forgotten words, or going to the, from the foreign influences most clean regions and trying to find words which could be introduce in the standard language, or simply making „mirror translations” from foreign words for technical loan words, which had no Hungarian variants, or simply creating new words which explain the new concept that entered in the language (like „nyakkendő” – „neck towel” for „tie”, or „rovar” – united from two words „rovátkolt barom” „animal with notches” for „bug”). This made the language expressive and clean again.
Yes, and your right: passive resistance will not lead to victory, only active resistance, which means making people aware of their language, convincing them to use it more and more, most important in families, work places, schools. Encouraging the usement of Welsh in schools, with a mild No English policy, by rewarding the kids who speak Welsh among themselfs. Because in our schools too, in many places, were many Romanians live, the children are used to speak among thmselfs Romanian, although they are Hungarians, even in the Hungarian schools in the breaks, when we hear them speaking Romanian. I think this could be a problem for Wales too. So I think, not with punishment but with rewards (many times just a praise would help), or picking them to take in the trip and not the others who are speaking English. So we can persuade them, that their first language to be Welsh instead of English.
I hope all the best for Welsh, and I want to see it spoken actively by the majority of people from Wales. Amen.
Yes, Welsh is not the most persecuted language of the World, even in the EU Hungarian is more persecuted in the lands which before 1918 were Hungarian but in the Trianon peace treaty were given to other countries, like Transylvania (today belongs to Romania), Felvidék (today Slovakia), Voyvodina (today the northern part of Serbia), Kárpátalja (part of Ukrain) or Őrvidék (today a part of Austria). In Slovakia for example you cannot make any anouncment only in Hungarian, you have to write it also in Slovakian, although if you make your announce only for those from the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. In Transylvania bilingual inscriptions in many places are forbidden, although a law allows them, when the Hungarians made at least 20 % of the population of that town or village. Also in Romania, but not in Transylvania, but in Moldova (East from Transylvania) the Csángós (Moldovan Hungarian minority) are forbidden to learn hungarian in the school, and are forced that even in the church the worship and prayers to be done in Romanian. Their Romanised Catholic priests (who former were Hungarians, but were educated in Romanian nationalistic manner) preach in the churches, that if they use Hungarian, the “language of Devil”, will go in hell. So they managed that from 600 000 Catholic people of Moldova, who all were Hungarians (Romanians are Orthodoxes) today only around 10 000 to speak Hungarian, in a very degradated way, with half of their words being replaced by Romanian words, due to the almost 200 years of assimilation policy, which continues also today. Today the most of the Csángós are so missleaded, that they say that they are not Hungarians, but a distinct ethnic group, called Catholics. In Transylvania the situation is better, but more and more anti Hungarian laws and measures are done, and the anti-Hungarian propaganda is done by politicians from the leading parties, and all mass media. Hungarians are called “bozgors” (those without home and land), they speak “the language of horses”, and this fascistic propaganda leads to attacks against Hungarians who speak their language, many people being beaten by Romanians, when they hear them to speak Hungarian among themselfs of on phone. For example an old lady was thrown out with force from a pharmacy to the street by the pharmacist lady, because she asked the medicine in Hungarian, and she was nearly stepped by a car. People beaten or aggressed for speaking Hungarian usually do not go to the police, because the police does not find the attackers, furthermore it accuses them. For example in a town called Meggyes, a festivity for children was made by their parents and teachers, in the building of a Hungarian organisation, and a group of drunk Romanians entered the building and attacked the children, saying „death to Hungarians”, the Hungarians tried to save the children and were beaten very seriosly, many of the going to hospital. The police declared that it was just a fight between two drunk groups. In Gyulafehérvár Romanians started to throw stones in the windows of the Catholic cathedral, shouting anti-Hungarian phrases, the priest went out to make photos to the police, but he was beaten with baseball sticks (like I said Hungarians are Catholics, and Protestants, Romanians are Orthodoxes). The police sayd again: it was a fight between drunks. So it is not a good thing in Romania to complain, when you are beaten because your ethnicity.
And the EU does not give a damn about this, although many times hungarians complained to it, EU said, that it is very bad, but Romania has to resolve this. And of course Romania does not stop this, because the terror against Hungarians should continue, until they do not live or chose the assimilation to escape this.
In Voyvodina of Serbia hundreds of Hungarians are beaten from the beginning of the 2000s on, when Serbians fleeing from Kosovo or Bosnia settled down in their towns and villages, they organised themselfs in gangs with sticks and other objects, and attacked the Hungarians who they heard speaking in Hungarian. This happened hundreds of times, and occure even today. Of course police does not grasp them, but only once when some Hungarians beaten a Serbian drug dealer (who died after a year of drug posioning), who called them “dirty Hungarians”, and they were throven in jail for totally 75 years. You see the discrimination? Hunderds of beatings doen by Serbians never punihed, but one Hungarian attack, punished, and in a very hard way. (http://www.americanhungarianfederation.org/news_vojvodina.htm)
I forgot to mention that I am an ethnic Hungarian minority living in Romania. I am an ethnic minority as the Welsh are in Great Britain. So when I wrote about Hungarian children speaking Romanian among themselfs I spoke about the Hungaraian minority from Romania (around 1 300 000 people).
“You can’t put in what God left out!!!!!!
“Parch am yr iaeth”
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Whatever the rights and wrongs of Dic’s points, people suggesting his argument only has credibility while written in Welsh are wrong. People who simply say “Learn the language” I suspect either had the language from birth or have never tried to learn a language as an adult with a FT job and bills to pay.
Some people have the language ‘gift’ – for example bilingual Flemish Belgians, Dutch and Germans are often very good – or any other people who have been brought up with 2 or more languages. Some people don’t have this natural gift for languages, either out of pure bad luck of the genetic draw or from having spoke only one language for all their life.
I lived in Spain for 1 year attempting to learn Spanish on a FT basis – I found it almost impossible. I slept for 3 hours every afternoon just out of the pure energy spent every day just trying to follow mundane conversations and articulate myself in broken language. This was like a say on a FT basis, having saved for 2 YEARS to pay for the course and quit my job to go to Spain.
Imagine if you have a FT job and maybe, a partner and child. It really isn’t a case of saying “Well learn Welsh then” and to use that as a stick to beat any Welsh person is to demonstrate a lack of empathy. It can be easy for some, for the majority it will be very, very hard to learn as an adult and would take years of practically giving up every other hobby or freetime you have – including time with one’s family.
WHich is kind of the whole point of the article – Cymraeg shouldn’t have become something
which Welsh people have to seek out and dedicate extra-cirriculur time towards learning. We have been denied a birthright. Why should the fact that someone cannot use Welsh deny them from protecting it, or promoting it? This is the kind of double standard that Wales has to face in the media constantly; If an English-speaking Brit were defending the rights of any native American or African language to survive and propagate itself – nobody would be claiming his argument as redundant because he didn’t speak that language.
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I generally agree with this article, with one exception: it’s not true that ‘no other language in human history has ever been subject to such a sustained, systematic and deliberate onslaught’. I can provide you with at least one example why I think this is not the case.
In the second half of XVIII century my country of origin, Poland, disappeared from the map of Europe, divided equally between Prussia, Austria and Russia. We regained our independence only after WW1. The only reason why we survived as a nation was that we wouldn’t have given up on the language. Polish was forbidden, but there were secret lessons, secret societies where children were taught about the real history and the culture, and there was a constant resistance against depriving us of our identity among the successive generations. For that many people payed the ultimate price.
I think about it every time I hear Welsh people saying ‘we don’t need Welsh language’. Yes you do, because it’s who you are. And if you think that it really doesn’t concern you, then at least don’t stand in the way of those who have a right to speak Welsh in country called Wales. That’s my humble opinion, anyway.
Oh, and personally, I find Welsh language to be very pretty. Difficult, yes, but pretty. And I love bilingual road signs, even if every now and again they drive me to tears 😉
All the best, Anna
There is an old saying in Welsh, which says “What else do you expect from a donkey, only a kick”, so I would describe the two “gentlemen” mentioned at the start of the article as suiting the saying perfectly!! Cymro yn yr Almaen.
As has already been pointed out, saying that ‘no other language in human history has ever been subject to such a sustained, systematic and deliberate onslaught’. is incorrect. Remember that Irish was outlawed along with Welsh. Unfortunately, Irish has not fared as well as Welsh. While not being officially outlawed, Native American languages were harshly “discouraged” in the U.S. government run Indian Schools of the first part of the 20th Century. Heading south across the Mexican border, native languages and natives have been outlawed in the Spanish speaking countries of Central and South America. The excuse was that it was easier for the natives to learn Spanish than for the priests to learn the native languages and translate the Bible into all of them.
I unreservedly apologise for the comments I made seven years ago. My views have changed in the interim to be more in line with Dic Mortimer‘s blog post and I look back on my past self with embarrassment.
I apologise unconditionally for the comments I made in 2013/14.
I was an ignorant fool and I have learnt so much since.