Welsh Elitism

I just saw this post on the SSIW Facebook site about a speech to be given tonight by Wales Office Minister Alun Cairns. I look forward to hearing his speech…

Cardiff-centric misperception - he should spend more time in somewhere like Sgubor Goch. And the stuff about speakers being nicer is just silly - some aren’t, lots are, that’s people for you.

Even I wouldn’t venture into Sgubor Goch, Aran… :wink: God! I hope no one on the estate, who knows me pops on the Forum…Actually, I used to work with a few of the local lads: every Monday morning one or two would turn up at work with black eyes…Their weekend wasn’t complete without a bit of a ruck on, Y Maes. Caernarfon is so tame these days. :smile:
Seriously though - there’s alotta nice people in Sgubor, if they like you.

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Surely Alun Cairns is from Swansea?

Unless I am mistaken, he says you can’t legislate to increase the use of a language. But you can boost it enormously by having nursery and primary school education conducted solely in Welsh, wasn’t there a proposal to do that?

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Alun Cairns is our local bod in the Vale of Glamorgan - he’s clearly refering to our area.

Lot of interesting debate on, Alun Cairns and the Welsh language on Taro’r Post today…

Yes, he is, but the lazy perception that Welsh is elitist is largely driven by the movement of Welsh-speaking professionals to Cardiff for work (and often the Vale for housing).

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I don’t usually rush into these discussions as I feel ill equipped to comment. But, I have felt for a long time that if more people are to learn the language several things need to fall into place. I also feel that things like this ‘Elitism’ thing are really just excuses for not bothering.

  1. It is human nature to ‘kick’ against anything that appears (and I stress appears) to be being forced on them, especially teenagers! Learning Welsh therefore needs to be seen as something positive to do rather than something people feel they are being forced into.

  2. Shameless plug for SSIW here, but learning Welsh has to been seen as being ‘fun’. Not sure if fun is the right word but nearest I can get. I would never have got as far as I have without the fun of doing it the SSIW way. I would have given up in a classroom two years ago.

  3. We live in a world where most of us are used to getting ‘stuff’ quickly. As a society we generally give up when we don’t see instant results or success. Things are often too much effort. When people start learning Welsh they need to have some ‘quick wins’ and more importantly lessons in how to not worry about mistakes. I wonder if those doing more traditional courses don’t get this opportunity and give up too quickly? Are there any stats on this, i.e numbers who start and numbers who end up with functioning language skills?

  4. With only one exception, every single person I have spoken to in Welsh has been warm, friendly and helpful. Most of all highly delighted I wanted to learn. But I still have to remind myself, over three years after starting to learn, that if I get something wrong nobody is going to die… Do 'traditional courses stress this like SSIW?

  5. A bold initiative, such as all the Welsh Language interest groups and societies joining up to open ‘Learners Cafe’s’ in all towns so that those learning can ‘drop’ in and feel ‘safe’ in practising. Perhaps do a quick SSIW lesson or similar. Swap stories, books and tips etc etc. There are plenty of empty shops and they could be run along the lines of Charity Shops.

Ultimately I suppose what I am getting at is that it has to be as much a ‘Hearts and Minds’ thing as anything else. I am not convinced by the schools learning thing (Edit: Although of course, Welsh HAS to be taught and in all schools too!) I work just over the border in Oswestry. Families often send their children to Welsh Language schools because they are seen as 'better. The parents see learning Welsh as a very positive thing but have no intention of learning the language themselves. Day-to-Day activity in these households is conducted in English, including access to all forms of Media, so Welsh is never seen as anything more than a Second Language, and not as something for every day use.

I don’t suppose this makes much sense, but I think that the whole problem needs to be looked at in less ‘traditional’ ways. Dare I say a bit like SSIW does in its approach to learning!


Diolch. aJay! On the stats: Well, I heard a figure that less than 1% of learners on adult courses go onto being effective speakers: This was mentioned on Ar Lafar a programme on S4C.
As to the bold intiative(s) one that resonates in my own mind is something I read on the Dyfodol i’r Iaith website: http://www.dyfodol.net/cymunedau/?lang=en

“The language should also be central to economic development so that decent jobs are created in those parts of Wales that are linguistically sensitive.”

Even in the twenty years I’ve spent living and visiting - Y Gymry Gymraeg - the lack of jobs and opportunity for young people to live/remain in their own milltir sgwâr has been a tragedy in the communiy.


Less than 1 percent is truly truly shocking. How much money is poured down that particular hole!! It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Perhaps better spent on more creative initiatives like those we have mentioned. Allowing people to remain in their own communities has to be some of the answer?!?

Someone once told me that one of man or woman’s greatest failings is doing more of the same, but harder, when their plans don’t work out!! :-S


I’m sorry a_jay, but I’m surprised it’s as much as 1%. Academics design courses, not people who just want to chat to the neighbours!!


Actually, they said it was half of that one percent in the programme: I was trying to make the figure look more positive…I reckon it roughly ties in with the number who take the Uwch exam.

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I am spitting feathers about this story!

Golwg has the proper story, that Alun Cairns says that he doesn’t see the point of legislation if we neglect promotion “ar lawr gwlad” (amongst the people), he says that we need to concentrate on improving employment in the Welsh speaking heartlands, and that there is brilliant work happening amongst movements such as the Urdd, Merched y Wawr and the Mentrau Iaith taht should be encouraged.

He challenges everyone to help learners, including the media, and just seems to make a lot of sense.

Now, consider his comments in the context of looking down of noses at school Welsh in South East Wales, for instance (that definitely happens), or the “better than thou” that goes on between for-generations Welsh speakers and new (learnt in school) young speakers, especially where the media / government set in Cardiff meet the recently educated and not particulary confortable with Welsh set fresh from school. Then, of course there’s more that from-birth and especially from-Welsh-speaking-areas Welsh speakers can do to help the new Welsh speakers take a full part on their language and the culture that it opens up to them, and it probably would be more valuable than legislation.

But, no, the media want a fight, and what better way than to only report that Alun Cairns says that the Welsh lanugage is dying because Welsh speakers are elitist. The worst thing is, the BBC, who we pay for, has gone for that line as well.

Right, I’m off to get the brush and dustpan to sweep up these feathers…


Did they say that? I thought the whole point is that people who devise the syllabus are academics and don’t design SSiW sort of lessons!! It’s the academics who are elitist!! You can’t blame Welsh speakers for finding it difficult to speak to people who sound worse than my O-llevel French!!
N.B. There are now about 4 threads on roughly this same subject. I don’t know if any gathering together is possible???

I mentioned in another thread the need for work opportunities in Y Cymry Gymraeg. I’ve seen so many closures of big employers in Gwynedd and Môn over the past twenty years - Ferodo, Ferranti, Rio Tinto - huge employers. I have seen total changes in the local communities due to the loss of thousands of jobs. Good paying jobs disappearing that have led to a lack of money in peoples pockets: Hence the closure of pubs, local shops, post offices, reductions in bus services etc. Places where people can interact in Welsh communally…


May I just speak up for my fellow “academics” because there are a couple of inferences above that “academics” are not responsive to the needs of “real” people and the so-called “real” world. Even in my own field of Physics, we always served the dual purposes of responding to the needs of society and equipping our students to carry their studies forward into the undiscovered.
My own knowledge of academic friends and colleagues in language provision was that they were even more responsive to the needs of society than we.

I actually believe that the SSi approach is academically very sound as well as being innovative, effective as well as “fun”.

I’ll retreat to my ivory tower now :wink:


I overheard a conversation the other night between two learners at my conversation group, where they were complaining about people ‘from the Valleys’ using ‘Wenglish’: “Why use a Welshified English word when there’s a perfectly good Welsh word they could use?!” These were people who were or had been in the ‘traditional’ system, only one of whom was from Wales originally. So there’s another kind of elitism: people who have learnt to use one particular form of the language, but who think that gives them the right to pontificate on how other people should use their (own, mother-tongue) language. I don’t think that helps either. (Neither was from SSiW, btw.) But this idea that there is a ‘right way’ to speak the language comes from the system of teaching it, I think.

I have also met a fair few people who stop after Canolradd, specifically because Uwch takes 4 years to complete,and they really don’t want to be going to evening classes for all that time - they figure they have what they need from their classes, and they’re just going to carry on using Welsh and developing in their own way (which is, after all, what many of us are doing after finishing the SSiW courses). So I don’t know how much of an indication of the health of people speaking and using the language the number of exam entries can be.


I am saddened that in discussion of the Welsh language, there are seem so many claimants to perfection, all of whom consider their perfection superior to the perfections of others. Given that Welsh is so fragmented by regionality, who is to say where the real pinnacle of the Welsh language is?
As for elitism, there is also so much of the opposite. My first language 85 year old aunt who lives near Newtown and a couple of her local-dwelling first-language nephews and nieces are of the opinion that I shouldn’t practice Welsh with them because they speak ‘Montgomery’ Welsh which they see as linguistically inferior to ‘proper’ Welsh’. My sister who second-language fluent doesn’t deride but does avoid what she considers non-Welsh words such as ‘joio’.
It’s so reminiscent of the fragmentation of the Welsh Nation due to the squabbling of princes. Will we never learn?
And then there’s the indifference. My aunt’s two sons were brought up in Mid-Wales in English and have absolutely no interest in Welsh despite living in a Welsh speaking area. They have accepted the belief that it’s a pointless ability and will not enrich them either culturally or crucially, commercially.
So, I say let the schools continue to teach Welsh and let Cardiff encourage official use of the language. A-jay’s idea of language cafés is brilliant. I believe that such encouragement of community can only help. Living and learning outside Wales, we get the perception that national (as opposed to nationalistic) pride is on the rise and apparently so is the usage of the language.
I have just started looking at the new course, and it takes even further the idea of fun. We’ll probably never change the nay-sayers, but if we can make it easy for those on the fence, we could see some ‘easy wins’ which would swell the ranks of those with a practical as well as a conceptual love of the language.


Heh, don’t think that this is a Welsh only problem. Here in Finland people get annoyed when Swedish speaking Finns use lots of Finnish words. :confused:

And of course, when I speak Finnish at work, it usually is Finglish. And that’s because even though there might be Finnish words, we don’t know, understand and/or use them. :grin: (E.g. server is “serveri”, not the Finnish “palvelin”.)