To speak or not to speak, that is the question

Thing is, there are a lot of ‘invisible’ (or, rather, ‘silent’) Welsh speakers in the world. People can go for a long time talking to each other in English before they realise they both speak Welsh, and by then it can be hard to change the linguistic pattern. So I wish more people would have the confidence to start off in Welsh and only change if they have to. Unfortunately, everyone has had enough exposure to anti-Welsh sentiment to feel that this is a risky strategy that could probably do without on a Thursday evening when they’d far rather be at home in front of Pobol y Cwm with a nice glass of wine.

It’s sad, and it’s complicated. I’m spending my time at the moment studying the phenomenon and trying to work out ways that things could be changed but there are no easy solutions.

Welsh learners do a great job of trying to initiate conversations in the language, but unfortunately there are many underlying and subconscious prejudices having an effect. Perhaps, for example, this Welsh teacher ‘feels’ that English is the appropriate language for speaking to parents, that somehow it shows that she is more serious about education (I know - to most people here that will be preposterous - but those prejudices are ingrained with a lot of people). Or perhaps she had prepared her little speeches about the students in advance (we all do that - templates that we tweak to suit circumstances) and it was too much mental energy to ‘translate’ it into Welsh on the spot.

The issues are many and various, unfortunately :frowning:


PS Richardmountart: your avatar combined with this story is now making me imagine you to be the dad in that car advert dropping his daughter off at school (who is cool until he tries to fist-bump her…)


Dueling banjos…[quote=“gruntius, post:19, topic:8125”]
In a Welsh medium school I would say yes but in an English medium school, no

Yes, I agree with that but also do wonder if the very question being asked might act as a reminder to the parents that there are choices available. I’d only suggest the Welsh speaking teachers ask the question.
Maybe the solution would be some sort of clear indication on the tables in addition to 'Mrs Smith, teacher of Blogology, (then in bold bright colours) ‘Siaradwr Cymraeg’?


I imagine that’s one of the things the Dechreuwch bob sgwrs yn Gymraeg “Start every conversation in Welsh” movement(?) is trying to help break down – once you’ve started with Bore da, you can still figure out whether to continue in Welsh or whether that’s the extent of your interlocutor’s skills.

I’m reminded of the last work eye exam we had; the external doctor who comes in once a year is British, as I found out, so I started speaking to her in English last time she was in.

But then she asked me whether it was all right for me to do the actual exam in German, because she had this script she was used to, which is what we ended up doing.

I think such indications are a good idea.

I had to think of a recent episode of Rownd a Rownd, where there was a scene at the police station where one could see a sign next to the window saying something along the lines of “you may speak in English or Welsh, as you prefer”; and in an email footer from Cwmni Da when I ordered the Popeth yn Gymraeg DVD from Siaron, where both she and a colleague of hers had a footer saying essentially the same thing.

I think I’ve seen other signs in shops as well before.

So “advertising” the fact that a given person speaks Welsh non-intrusively at the point of contact is good idea, I think.


Yes that all strikes a chord.
I remember last year watching an episode of Question Time from South Wales when a lady in the audience, with a glorious Welsh accent, was ‘strongly confrontational’ when discussing with Leanne Wood how wrong it was to make the learning of Welsh compulsory in primary schools. I remember wondering if she’d hold similarly strong views about the learning of other European languages, such as French, which so many primary schools across Britain have to include as part of their curriculum.
I suppose all these are the moments that I give a heavy sigh in private, and then crack on regardless trying to speak Welsh when I can find willing victims!

Nah, I sport a small excuse for a beard more in the style of the Velazquez, Caravaggio and other similar arty types! My avatar is a portrait of my Welsh-speaking neighbour who I painted last year, looking like a bit the windswept mountain dwelling types that we are! (he’s shaved it off now)
Oh, I’ll have to try the fist-bump thing - it’s usually ‘high-five, to the side, to the other side, down low too slow’!!


Yes, spot on.

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Also a question of teachers just being extremely busy, probably a bit stressed out and needing to prioritise their energies. They have a duty to teach Welsh to your kid, but not to you!

Rightly or wrongly, for the first few years of learning, I always felt conscious that a teacher speaking Welsh to me was doing me a favour. If it would be quicker and easier for them in English, you probably want to pick your moments - and that’s ok.


You might find this recent 5-minute Ignite talk interesting. It was entitled ‘Why speak Welsh, Dadi?’ and given by a father who has learnt Welsh and uses it with his children.