How to quantify the number of speakers

Hi guys,

I’m really excited about the Million Speakers Project. It really warms my heart to know that there are solid efforts being made to ensure the growth of the language.

A couple of questions I have regarding this though are:

  • Does anyone know how they are qualifying a “Welsh Speaker”? Is there a certain level of fluency that would qualify someone as a Welsh Speaker, such as anyone who is at or above a B1 level in the CEFR, for example? I’m just curious to know what qualifies someone as a Welsh speaker?

  • Does anyone know where the information can be found that shows the anticipated trajectory versus the number of speakers at present? I’m curious to learn if we are ahead of behind the projection.


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I’m afraid I’ve not seen that kind of detail anywhere in the project so far - or (yet) the crucial question about frequency of usage… so still plenty of work to do in all sorts of ways…

It would be interesting to see that information. Or maybe that is just my lust for data speaking!

It’s a fantastic project, so I’m not knocking it in any way. But you make a valid point when saying that there is still plenty of work to do.

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Helo JohnOwen

Stats about the Welsh language is interesting to me as well. Here is a link to the most recent summary of stats tracked by the Welsh gov’t. It includes a section on “Attitudes towards the Welsh Language”.

Here is their publication of the Million Speakers by 2050 plan. I was very impressed with this document. Clearly, this is a goal they want to accomplish and have laid out steps to accomplish the million speaker goal, and what each step should look like, i.e., so many speakers at this year maker. With reference to your question on defining a “Welsh speaker,” the Government had people self-assess their own ability as a “Welsh speaker” in the 2011 census. I couldn’t find a definition but personally, as a “data guy,” my definition for any speaker in any language is defined by the ability to hold a conversation beyond a few words. For myself, I consider myself a siaradwr Cymraeg, even though I cannot understand Cyw on S4C, yet.

Landing page for Welsh Language Use Survey

That should get you started and answer a lot of your questions. If you want to talk about Welsh stats, I’d love to as it’s a big interest for me. While I appreciate the Million Speakers goal, I think that’s not the only relevant stat to track. As a corollary stat, I’d like to see a Million places to speak tracked as well. Having a million speakers is grand, but if they are not talking to one another…well…that’s a problem.


I’ve often been in situations where I’d love to speak a bit of Welsh, but it would be odd and maybe feel a bit embarrassing, when everyone is speaking English. It reminds me of theose awkward situations, maybe at a party or meeting new people in a formal setting, where it really needs that extrovert/very confident person within a group to bring people out of their shells, feel comfortable and lose their inhibitions. A lot of Welsh speakers I know can be less confident and more shy in general than even I am and at times it needs a catalyst of some sort.

Speaking Welsh has be fun and maybe a very funny and enjoyable thing to do - where mistakes increase the fun element and it’s maybe less of a talent contest than a hopelessly bad and amusing Karaoke type of experience, where people do things they would never usually do and get a strange kick out of doing it.

I can imagine the land-lady in my pub asking for ten non-welsh speakers or learners to come up on their little stage and have a competition trying to read out something prepared in Welsh - something amusing that someone who does speak Welsh might find amusing, but at the same time isn’t meant to ridicule anyone.

Pub quizzes with a twist/karaoke with a twist - where being awful is part of the fun and a bit of an ice-breaker to try to get a bit of a language shift going on - something that’s fun for the majority English speakers in certain situations - something that might appeal to non-Welsh speaking tourists as well maybe visiting Wales and probably can’t pronounce anything at all in Welsh (for good reason), but can actually get some real enjoyment out of having a go - maybe feeling a bit daft for a minute or so, but actually loving it deep down.

The future of Welsh is in it being fun and sociable - the go-to thing when you want to let your hair down and have a laugh - in a way that doesn’t lead to ridicule of anyone or anything, which might be the problematic downside if done wrong.

I don’t know if anyone else has ever thought of funny things that could break the ice in normal everyday life situations - in the shop or in a cafe etc, that could make speaking anything at all and perhaps hopelessly badly, really amusing, enjoyable and sociable?


I can totally relate to that. Had a very similar experience at the recent NAFOW meeting in Virginia, USA. And like the next quote, it took someone external to myself to encourage me to speak Welsh (Thank you @aran). Now I don’t want to stop talking. Just need to find someone/group to speak face-to-face with.

What’s interesting about us humans, and I include myself in this, is how many times we say, “If only someone would do…I would…” or “Someone should…” I cannot begin to count how many times, I’ve said that either internally or externally hoping for that person with the courage to act. However, sometimes, when I’m being self-aware I remember this quote,

You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery and I promise you something great will come of it.

I’ll ask myself, what’s keeping me from starting this activity? Most times, the answer is myself, 'I’m uncomfortable doing…" From my personal perspective, pushing/challenging my boundaries of comfort is a good thing. Most times, I’ll open up myself. And the reason why I do that is my belief that while I am a unique human being, my feelings/ideas/thoughts are not unique. In your example, if I’m wanting to speak Welsh socially, there’s probably others with the same thoughts/feelings/ideas, and I’ll ask. From my anecdotal experience, I would say 7/8 times out of 10 I get a positive result. The 2 or 3 times it doesn’t work out, I’ve never been put down or denigrated. It’s no, we’re not doing that.

I’m not trying to be “preachy” or telling anyone how to live their life. Just explaining how I overcome my personal inhibitions and the success I typically get. Also, want to say, there are plenty of times when I didn’t act. Just didn’t want to. And that’s okay, too. Last thing I want to say about this is if I don’t act and later regret not acting, I try to remember that feeling when a similar situation arises in the future. It may spur me have 20 seconds of insane courage!

Your idea of pub quizzes and karaoke gave me an idea. When I finally get a Cymraeg speaking group, I’ll introduce the idea of Cymraeg game night. Like playing Monopoly. Give everyone, like myself who would need it, a cheat sheet of words and phrases related to the game. I don’t mind talking to strangers but the conversation is usually, “I work here. I have this many kids/pets. I like music…etc”. Game night totally opens up the group to more intriguing conversations. Thank you, Toffidil for responding to this topic the way you did. I never would have had this idea.


Thank you for the information! I’m happy to learn that I’m not the only one interested in that data.

As long as it’s not “Naughty Scrabble”. :sunglasses: Though, I remember a certain naughty scrabble game years ago with some friends. We were laughing so hard, we had trouble just putting up the letters. And the laughing started sometimes just thinking of the word you were going to put up.

"Naughty Scrabble,"like “Twmffat?” :rofl:

If I recall correctly, they should be publishing a new dataset in October. I’m hoping they go into more detail defining the level of support for Cymraeg. Overall, people want to support Cymraeg but I’ve not found statistics attempting to determine the level of support. I would love to see answers for these types of questions:

  • Would you drive an extra 5 minutes out of your way to purchase goods and services from a store with employees who speak Welsh?
  • If there was little to no cost to you, Would you be willing to learn Welsh in the next 3 years?
  • How percentage does the Welsh language contribute to Welsh identity?
  • If you could be a confident Welsh speaker in a year by spending 30 minutes a day practicing, Would you want to learn the language?

I’m looking forward to seeing this data in October. And yes I think the bullets you listed would definitely be something interesting to add to the data.

I think it’s important to use Welsh whenever you know it will be recorded. For instance I always press the Welsh button at a cash point and if you gov offer me a survey in Welsh I do it in Welsh even if it’s really hard. Somewhere those stats will be recorded.


I think the data being used for the purposes of the strategy is the decennial Census, and there people self-identify as a Welsh speaker or not (so, a binary question). If you look at the full strategy you’ll see the technical information from the statistics department that uses the 2011 Census as the baseline for the projections in the report.

There are another couple of sources of data of “number” of Welsh speakers (e.g. Annual National Survey), but they ask different questions in different ways, so can’t be compared to the Census, only to earlier iterations of the same survey (so can hopefully show us the direction of travel).

Getting stats on usage, of course, is much more difficult.

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Very optimistic of you Colin. More than likely the Welsh Government will use the latest census figures. Of course there won’t be on in 2050, maybe the results will be delayed for a year.

Also to add more detail the census does not ask how often you use Welsh, or your degree of Fluency (whatever that means). The census simply asks…Are use able to READ, SPEAK, UNDERSTAND and WRITE Welsh.

I don’t think the government will use those figures I think they’ll use the census, but the providers of services in Cymraeg will record them and use them as an excuse to get rid if them if they aren’t used.

I think the question on the census should ask for degrees of capability, there are different levels of fluency. Several people have told me I seem fluent, I know I’m not.

This is such a cool project for the Welsh government to be promoting! From what I’ve read it seems like the 1 million target is a million speakers within Wales, but it would be interesting to know how many Welsh speakers there are outside of Wales, too! I’m doing my best to represent Cymraeg across the pond, as the only Welsh speaker that I know personally (the only other person I know is my tutor, and he’s a Welsh person in Wales).
Some sort of informal online survey to self-identify as a Welsh speaker would be nice, kind of like how people sign online petitions, but just to mark off who identifies as a Welsh speaker. I’d probably wait until I’ve completed one or two of the textbooks before I’d self-identify, but I would love to help be part of the 1mil+ somehow!

Absolutely, undertanding the spread of speakers within the UK but outside Wales would be fascinating too.

Does anyone know if anyone is looking at the wider UK diaspora of first language/second language/learners?

There must surely be a fairly significant number of Welsh speakers living in England alone, given the levels of economic migrancy from the various Celtic nations.

I, too, am interested in what qualifies as a Welsh speaker for the million speakers project. I’m fairly cynical about politicians so that side of me could easily imagine a fairly low threshold set to boost the figures. I hope I’m wrong though.

Possibly over 100,000 speakers at least in England and Scotland…Huge numbers of Welsh speakers have gone to England over the centuries, few return, even fewer pass on the language - my family didn’t because they were desperate to integrate after suffering some needless bigotry.
Im much more rebellious and bloody minded in mindset which is why I am here. Most of my relatives have passively accepted the dominant cultural forces… its very taxing and tiring to counter them. Trying to learn Welsh for me has been much harder accessibility wise then learning German when I worked in Germany.