The Welsh language is a divisive topic. Even in Wales itself, you’ll be met by people who thing speaking their mother tongue is a waste of time.
I’m going to set my stall out early here. I am a proud Welsh speaker.
I completed my education through the medium of Welsh and, although I now live in England, I am still immensely proud to speak my country’s language.
It therefore baffles me that so many of my compatriots refuse to acknowledge the language of our homeland.
29.7% of people based in Wales aged 3 and over can speak Welsh.
But this is a generation that has grown up on British media smearing the Welsh language.
It is a classic case of the effects theory (or the hypodermic needle). Mass media makes people powerless to resist it’s messaging. More on that later.
According to the Annual Population Survey conducted by the ONS in June 2018, 29.7% of people based in Wales aged 3 and over can speak Welsh.
That number has grown by over 10 percent since the national census carried out in 2011. Fantastic progress.
For those with no knowledge of the Welsh language, it must be bewildering that so few people can speak a country’s language.
Imagine if less than a third of French people could speak French?
It’s possible to trace the demise of the Welsh language back to the 19th-century — a turbulent time for the country.
Popular risings and riots broke out across the country — prompting the Westminster parliament to question why the Welsh were so anarchous.
The continued existence of the Welsh language was muted as a primary reason by some, including Welsh-born Coventry MP William Williams.
A report was commissioned — later to be known as the Treachery of the Blue Books — and poor education within Wales was one of the findings.
This kick-started a period of English oppression in Wales.
The Language Clause in the 1536 Act of Union Act of Union had long-term affects in that Welsh was not seen as an official language.
English — by convention — was seen as the only appropriate language for education.
“You must not waste time speaking Welsh. Nerys! I heard you in the yard just now speaking Welsh. Come out here.”
A clip from the BBC’s The Celts showed English attitudes towards the Welsh language
As such, methods were introduced to erase the Welsh language, including the Welsh Not.
The Not (or Note) was used to force children to speak English in schools. If they were caught speaking Welsh, the Not (a plank of wood on rope) would be placed around their neck.
At the end of the lesson, the child wearing the Not was punished.
Fast forward to the modern day
The Welsh language is perhaps still feeling the effects of this period.
Less than a third of Welsh people speak Welsh and attitudes outside of Wales towards the language continue to be contemptuous.
There are no parties guiltier of this than the British media.
Time after time, British media outlets publish outrageous articles slandering the Welsh language.
In 2011, The Sun published an article by prime moron Jeremy Clarkson calling for the abolishment of the Welsh language.
Roger Lewis of the Daily Mail called Welsh “an appalling and moribund monkey language”.
The latest guilty party is The Sunday Times.
After publishing an article by actress Eve Myles — who learnt Welsh for a role in the S4C* drama Un Bore Mercher. In the piece, Myers argued:
“It’s important to protect our heritage and language, and Wales should support that. We should be encouraging each other to keep the language alive.”
The Sunday Times tweeted the article and appended it with a Twitter poll asking ‘Should Wales continue to support the teaching of Welsh in schools?’
Perhaps unsurprising coming from a newspaper that infamously declared the Welsh language deceased in 1866.
Thankfully the reaction was overwhelmingly in favour of the Welsh language. 94% of the 11,148 votes were for ‘yes’.
The comments are unambiguous — the Welsh people are outraged at another British media outlet diminishing their language.
Why do the British media continue to diminish the Welsh language?
Perhaps that the majority of the British media are middle to upper class and, as such, are probably descendants of those who viewed Welsh as an inferior language in the 19th century.
Perhaps they feel threatened — that an increase in Welsh speakers will increase demand for Welsh-owned media.
It’s a question we’ll never get an answer to, but hopefully it’s a situation we’ll see the end of.
Welsh people are taking more pride in their country and their language. They are sticking up for what is theirs and calling out the bigoted media when cases like this occur.
Is Welsh owned media the answer? Maybe. Is Welsh independence the answer? Maybe.
The Welsh people are tough and are taking their future into their own hands.That’s a good thing. It can only be positive for the next generation of Welsh speakers.
- * S4C stands for Sianel 4 Cymru (or Channel 4 Wales)
- * Diolch is Welsh for ‘thank you’