The politics of Welsh

The million speakers will be disproportionately young and very young. Not to put too fine a point on it, the other two million are going to die out. :wink:


Ah, but the trick is going to be to keep them speaking Welsh after they leave school…


Leanne learned via SSiW and went to Bootcamp??? Yn Wir?? Wow!! She is very brave about speaking in public on TV on platforms in Cymraeg!! Da iawn @aran, or was it @Iestyn!!
Now, I have been mulling over how to put this.
I think most on the Forum know that I’ve been a Nationalist for more than 50 years, so you know the direction from which I am coming.
However, my reaction was instantly altered to “No one can judge UKIP by NH, some of them may even know some Welsh!” (I am very suspicious of Hamilton’s claim to be teaching himself!)
Now, I think we really shouldn’t worry about them. Surely people will realise that ex-Tories, especially one embroiled in cash-for-questions at Westminster, who lost his seat to a decent journalist who stood to represent Decency against sleeze. well, surely Mostyn Neil represents no interests but his own?
Now, to the real subject:
Plaid values all that is worthwhile in Wales and Cymraeg is part of that. BUT, more people do not speak Welsh than do. Sad fact, but true fact. Already, Plaid suffer from monoglot English people thinking and saying, “Independence is only for Welsh Speakers, Plaid is for them!” Those of us who think the people of Wales should run Wales, that governments in London with different lifestyles, different values, different everything, are less good than the people of Wales at choosing what they want - e.g. no nuclear weapons, no illegal wars,
no taking of water from Wales without paying anything for it…
To ever get a majority, Plaid must make clear than the party does not want English speakers to stop speaking English!
Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Finns, Germans, French, Netherlanders, Belgians…all speak excellent English. It is one of the most useful languages on the planet. It would be crazy to discourage Welsh children from learning and speaking it. Oh, I should add Slovenes to that list and others too!
being able to speak English does not stop all those other Nationalities from speaking their own languages!!
So it is not foolish to value an ancient and beautiful language and to want to keep it alive, to encourage people to learn the language of their fathers.
Catalans, Basques, Kurds have had to fight to speak their own languages and value them. The Kurds still have no land to call their own and only their language to show that they are Kurds. Cymraeg is an asset, not some sort of curse - ask the French, German, Greeks, Turks, Slovenes… if they want their language to die!
It is easier for Labour or Lib Dem to get this over to people than Plaid, but it is, I think, the view of all those parties. I am less sure about the Tories. Time will tell.
Sorry for length of essay.
If I have offended anyone, I did not mean to unless you are Mostyn Neil Hamilton, in which case, come on the Forum and explain what I said that was not true!

That’s the trick anyway, isn’t it? Whether there’s a million of 'em or fifty thousand.

1 Like

Agreed. This is actually the main source of my reluctance when it comes to requiring all children to do Welsh up to GCSE in school - kids do not like being forced to do things, and they come to resent the thing that they’re being forced to do.

That said, here’s one thing that might make for an interesting change: instead of the Welsh language being taught up to GCSE whether the kids are interested or not, it might be a better idea for the kids to learn enough Welsh to get by during primary school, and then receive lessons about Welsh history and culture through the medium of Welsh when they go to high school.


I think you should toss that one to the Senedd request for ideas for increasing the numbers of Welsh Speakers - I think it’s a briliiant notion! And some Primary schools already have working methods for getting children speaking Welsh quickly, so monoglot English children moving into Welsh speaking areas can cope in Ysgol Gymraeg!
click here for link

You wouldn’t use that as an argument to excuse them from Maths though. Or [whispers] English.

1 Like

Actually I would; I’m very much of the opinion that once a kid has learned enough of a subject for it to be useful in everyday life, there’s basically no point teaching them more unless they are interested in learning more about it.

I think most of us here in Wales are also mindful of the sensitivites as well. The link between the language and nationalism is a turn off for many people who lean towards the traditional political parties - which is most people in Wales at the moment. To me the language is a cornerstone of Welsh identity and culture - it has to be something that is kept above ideas of nationality or governance etc, because we won’t hit a million or more speakers if the language is seen as a threat to anyones particular view of the world.

As far as I’m led to believe. I learnt this on a bootcamp so the conversation was in Welsh but I’m pretty sure she did.

Interesting point - I will blow my trumpet and say that I was brilliant at English in primary school and I resented having to do turgid English lessons in secondary school - I didn’t have the motivation to learn any more and it showed in my increasingly poor results in English exams as a I got older. I was no better at English at 16 than I was at 11, in fact I might even have been worse. I think maths might be a bit different, because I have never reached a point where I have ever thought that I know enough maths - it is something that continues to motivate and frustrate in equal measure.

Teaching kids to appreciate different styles of prose or literature is a strange concept - you acquire appreciation of these things by wanting to and through a sense of indulgence - without that personal desire or motivation then teaching is futile.

1 Like

This thread does raise an interesting aside (forgive me if this leads to a tangent and feel free to move it if necessary :slight_smile:). I am a member of a Welsh learners group on Facebook. A very eclectic group of nationalities, including a lot of English members. A lot of posts are put up, in English, about how poorly treated the language has been in the past by a certain neighbour. I have a degree in history and a membership of a political party, however, I find that form of post uncomfortable. One particular post had also stated that Welsh had “survived the threat of Nazism”. A slight reach in my mind, otherwise it had also survived the threat of the Armada and possibly Attila’s Huns (I’m being facetious).

My question: Is it ok to learn a language and not the associated political history? As I am confident it is with more “mainstream” languages. So I’d say it is, however, I am open to other opinions. I do not mean to be incendiary with this post

1 Like

Leanne Wood on HWB, talking (mostly) in Welsh:

and here talking in English, about Welsh:

and here in spring 2015, beginning a speech with about 5 minutes of Welsh before changing to English:


Yes, of course it is (to the extent that it matters whether it’s OK or not or whether such a thing as it being OK or not even exists).

I need to tread carefully here, because these things are incredibly contentious and I’m about to mix in stuff that people might take personally, but I do find that there are people who learn/are learning Welsh (like taking an interest in many hobbies, I suppose) and then seem to need to post-justify the process by investing extra personal meaning into it. This can involve taking extreme political positions.

Conversely, there are people who learn Welsh because of their political position, and I have no doubt at all that there are people who are genuinely politically awakened by the experience of being a new Welsh speaker.

We’re all individuals, we all have different motivations and we all experience the same things in different ways with different outcomes. All of that is natural and ‘OK’. However, if you want to learn Welsh without consciously taking on the baggage of political history, then you’re more than welcome to try, but since language and culture and politics and history are all inextricably entwined, I’m not sure to what extent you would be able to avoid it. :wink:


It’s interesting how difficult it is to be involved with learning Welsh without political opinions being made overt. As you say, much is post-dated.

Some, like me, discovered our ancestry, looked at history and learned the language because “It’s the birthright we were robbed of!”
Some learn because it’s another language in their collection and histiory doesn’t interest them one bit.
Some learn because it’s on the ‘endangered language’ list, and a bit more saveable than some!
Some, like @tatjana learn because they like rugby!!

At the end of the day, whatever the politics and history, I think Welsh has survived because it is a bl…dy good language and people love it. It is that love for the language that will keep it going and will make people want to continue fighting for it. Lots of things have happened throughout the history of Wales and of Britain, but the language has somehow endured. A lot of the politics that affected the language were never directly about the language itself - the blue books was about asserting Victorian values and the power of the Anglican church over a rebellious non-conformist Wales in the aftermath of the Rebecca riots and the Chartist uprisings.

@henddraig, I don’t think I learned for any of these reasons. I learned Welsh because I found myself living in Wales, almost by accident. I could just as easily have ended up elsewhere in the UK where we could have afforded housing. In fact I had 2 interviews in Aberdeen in the three months before I got a job here. I learned it, after several years, in order to communicate with my patients, but now I use it to communicate with anyone who will listen to me! Well, to be honest, not anyone and everyone, but to quite a lot of people, including my patients.

In the process of learning the language, at least the way some of the content at higher levels is produced, of course you learn about the politics. The blue books. The earlier and later Eisteddfodau. The setting up of S4C. All the time where Welsh, language and people, have been, or are being, relegated and downgraded.

I have one or two Welsh born learner colleagues who have not liked the version of history we have learned, feeling it is too Nationalist. Having lived almost half of my life not in England, with relatives all round the world and with only one English parent (North American mother) I have certainly come to see a different view of the history I might have had inculcated into me had circumstances been different.

I once met a woman who had learned Hebrew in Israel. I think it was using the Wlpan idea that Welsh for learners was based upon (until 15 years ago?). She said that all language learning is political and I have to agree with her. Every thing we are taught is political. Everything that is omitted from our education is political. Everything that we choose to emphasize or neglect.

End of sermon.


That’s an interesting take. History and politics is such a ready source from which to glean material to base lessons.

I have an issue with history taught solely from a nationalist perspective (my terminology here is more based on approaches to history). For me it’s too “us against them” to capture the nuance of the situation.

Like you @margaretnock I’ve learnt language for a different reason too. It’s because my fiancée is a Welsh speaker, and her nearest and dearest. It’s the language we hope to use to raise our family. I have a great-grandfather from Amlwch but my he died before my Mum was born.

The politics of the language is fascinating. The treatment of the Gorsedd’s decision over the football team, fuelled by the Wales online, highlights the hostility from some elements of the non-Welsh speaking community. There was the recent BBC piece on the Welsh language that interviewed some people in Blaenau Gwent (as well as Iestyn on one of the bootcamps) who do not view the language as part of their community.

I think it would be impossible to attempt to separate history and politics, as the various elements (land dispossession, educational policies, the attitude of London) inform the present-day situation, the question being how that legacy should be treated. In the past, there was a tendency to retreat into isolationist nationalism, and attempt to recreate an impossible nirvana. Now, however, advocates for minority languages are increasingly learning from common European experiences, hopefully lowering the potential for division in the process.