When looking to increase the overall number of learners, perhaps we should target groups of people most likely to suceed in becoming speakers and then going on to support speakers.
I have in mind parents with kids at Welsh Language primary schools. They already have awareness of Welsh, they have a good reason to learn, and have a potential support network around them already (school/other parents). Also if they do succeed, they go on to support their child and make Welsh a living, used at home language.
We have limited resources, so identifying target groups with the highest potential impact is probably worthwhile. Does anyone disagree? Can anyone think of any other good target groups?
In terms of a target group, I think a long term campaign to create a target group could work. By that, I mean that outreach for something l… okay, I’m not being concise.
Create a campaign to make people want to be honerary Welshmen, in the same way that St. Patricks makes every fool in America wear green. Pick or invent a cultural tradition that is easy to follow, and use it to promote appropriating Welshness. I think for a language to really thrive, the goal should be to recruit a number of non-native speakers. The language has to belong to everyone.
That said, there is a huge diaspora of people Welsh descent in the US, Canada, and Austrailia, not to mention England. Until I did my geneaolgy, I didn’t even know it though. You could find the Welsh equivellent of groups like Cornish Cousins, Cousin Jack, or just create a list of Celtic cultural groups, and make them aware of SSIW. Publish a guide to starting a self-study group of people that meet and go through the lessons togther with tips and suggestions. Make language learning a social event.
I’ve recently been looking at the Welsh language statistics for Wales by county (and no, I don’t get out much) and they make interesting reading. The highest percentages of those able to speak Welsh in predominanlty English-speaking areas of Wales are in the under-16 age groups. This presumably is due to the fact that Welsh is taught in schools up to this age but language use generally declines afterwards.
I think the key for increasing Welsh language usage and indeed the numbers of Welsh learners is to ensure that Cymraeg is spoken both in the home and in the community. The issue is that many parents of children who are learning Welsh in school have little of the language themselves and so these children tend not to use much Welsh outside the classroom.
If we can somehow ‘normalise’ the use of Welsh in the home (and not suggesting using Welsh in the home is currently abnormal!) where children have some Welsh skills but their parents do not if would be a huge aid in helping children retain those skills. SaySomething in Welsh is ideal for parents to learn Welsh but if their confidence in the language is low then they can simply start by using a few words or a few sentences - e.g. asking their children in Welsh what they want for dinner, asking about their day, if they want a drink etc. Just everyday common phrase, sentences and questions. Then they could start to substitute English words for Welsh words, such as ystafell fyw for living room, llyfr for book, teledu for television etc. Such small steps can make a big difference! That could then move on to having an hour a day, every day, when only Welsh is spoken (a difficult feat with teenagers who can go for hours communicating using nothing but a grunt), using these small steps to build up everyday normal usage of Welsh at home.
Welsh as a community language though is a different prospect in areas that generally have low numbers of Welsh speakers, but there is not a corner of Wales where people are unable to speak Welsh, even if they don’t. It would be great to make the Welsh language more visible in these areas. If businesses, particularly such as cafes, restaurants and pubs, were willing to display what level of Welsh service they provide or even partner with a program such as Say Something in Welsh to help staff increase Welsh language ability it could provide a huge boost to the language and also boost business from both leavesarners and fluent speakers. A bilingual cafe would be great, a place where you could go to practice Welsh in the community, chat about the weather (mae hi’n bwrw glaw) and ask for a coffee in Welsh but still order your lunch in English if you wanted. It would be a place to meet other learners and fluent speakers ( and perhaps for a learner to pick up the nuances of local Welsh dialect to help keep it alive) but also a great place for visitors and tourists to hear the spoken language and even try a phrase or two.
Well, thank you. That’s how I started. If there wouldn’t be rugby, Welsh team and two teenagers, both rugby fans, I’d never be here almost for sure.
And my idea was derived from the fact that famous people especially sports persons, are role model to many people, not just kids but adults aswell. Imagine: if Leigh Halfpenny or Sam Warburton maybe would agree and start to learn Welsh, for example (and publicly expressed this at one point) what impact would this have on the people, not just those who are his fans but maybe don’t speak Welsh (yet) but also on the whole team fans. There are many players who do speak Welsh though but they’re native speakers (as far as I know) and this isn’t such a “bomb”, it’s neutral.
I agree (as I’ve said already) that here is the need to be careful, but I’d never support the idea that it’s impossible to do. (well, but I’ve lost my “silver bullet” and can’t find it naymore).
And the other way my thoughts went was: OK, the Welsh assembly made this plan BUT do they all speak the language? (the rest you can probably imagine what I have in mind).
My fear with this would be that the di-Gymraeg, born and bred in Wales may find it difficult to swallow if a Welsh language event were to become very commercial. The knock of that would be that they may be even more resistant to the Welsh language.
You see, there always is some way of start … It doesn’t need to be persuading, just way of unobligatory chat and you never know where it ends. And if you don’t try, you never know if it might succeed.
I gave 4 SSiW cards last year and they were all given as a part of little chat in occassion when I greeted people in Welsh. As I see things now the thingy wasn’t too successful as I managed to inspire all but no one was inspired for such long time to really check the things up and maybe start learning. However, if I wouldn’t give those cards out and try to make people interested in the thing, I would never know if those given the card would join us or not.
With speaking the language it’s the same: if I’d not speak first - I took this right for granted since I was in Cymru and felt almost obliged to speak Welsh before asking if anyone is speaking it at all - I’d never know if one of those I encountered maybe doesn’t speak the language or maybe is willing to learn it. I agree, I could very easily be brutally rejected or even escorted out of the business, but you never know if you don’t try.
Phiew … I always say I don’t even know in how high society I am mooving around …
I think this is a very interesting viewpoint, because I’ve been thinking about Spanish in Los Angeles. Employers want applicants to be bilingual. But frankly, Spanish is strong here without being used much outside the home. Taco trucks, church, Doyer (Dodger) Stadium and home. It’s a private language. Kids become translators for their parents but the same kids speak to each other in English. It’s really interesting when compared to Celtic language efforts.