Welsh medium teaching

What is so sad is that when I was younger there were far more areas where Welsh was naturally spoken. I blame TV before S4C for a lot of loss!

That’s a little unfair - a lot of it is parents just simply not choosing to raise their kids speaking Welsh that led to it crashing hard in the 1900s. If I take my grandparents generation (70+), an awful lot of them are raised Welsh speakers who spoke it at home with their family as their first language. Skip forward a generation, and most people there were raised in an English speaking environment by their parents instead (even though their parents were fluent Welsh speakers). I’m sure there’s plenty of socio-economic reasons people might have done that, and thankfully that problem seems to have disappeared now (possibly as people realised how hard the language was crashing – take a look at the demographics of Welsh speakers, the ages make a big “u” graph with lots of old and young speakers, but very few middle age speakers), but I wouldn’t necessarily blame tv for it.

For starters though, kids raised in English speaking homes won’t be watcing S4C outside of school anyway :wink:


A serious piece of social history research is crying out to be done on what happened between, say 1890 and 1920 that led to parents not passing on the language to their children. This is when the trend really took hold, and it sometimes happened right in the middle of a generation - take Aneurin Bevan’s siblings for example: The elder brothers and sisters spoke Welsh, the younger (including Aneurin himself b.1897) didn’t. What happened?
I wonder if the Empire jingoism of the late Victorian age (which ultimately, of course led to the 1st World War and even more intense jingoism) had anything to do with it? And was this a time when it became apparent that English-speaking kids from working class backgrounds could aspire to less back-breaking jobs in commerce and administration?
I don’t know. These are just guesses.

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I don’t want to go into the blue books, because I think it is a lot more than that (world wars and things), but it has to be predominantly down to education and standardisation of education across England and Wales.

A curriculum based on learning English language and English history. 1880 - compulsory education to Year 10; 1891 all elementary schools are free of charge; 1902 - local authorities run all schools; 1918 - compulsory eductaion upto 14 years old.

In the village I grew up in, the local historian says that the village was Welsh speaking until the late 19th century and then a new school was built and a Teacher from Bristol was employed, who spoke no Welsh - all teaching was in English.

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That’s a factor, but…
If Welsh is still the language of the home, you’re still going to be able to speak Welsh. It’s not going to disappear from the family, is it?
My daughter speaks Welsh at school, for example, but that doesn’t mean she can no longer speak English.

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There are quite a few people in the village where I live and a couple of mates I grew up with who are first language Welsh who only speak English to their kids . Quite sad to see really. I had Welsh speaking great grandparents from Bethesda who refused to pass the language on to my nana all those years ago

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I do truly believe that some of it was bosses (mine owners, iron masters, quarry owners etc) who preferred an English speaking work force as easier to deal with! In the overseas colonies, the “natives” were taught English, so why not the old fashioned Welsh? Schools were provided complete with Welsh Nots! The Blue Books pushed the Chapels into Education! Education! And parents saw more opportunities for their children if the could speak The Queen or Kings English!l

Needs a study as you say. I could come up with a hundred things linked to aspirations, the rise of socialism, elitist English only professions etc, but it would be good to read some top notch dispassionate research asking some awkward questions.

Saunders Lewis was pilloried for his family wasn’t he as were many Bretons who campaigned for language rights, but then brought their kids up to be monolingual French speakers.

Family dynamics, social structures who knows, lots of dynamics, but speaking English is and was important and it’s an undeniable thing, while the appreciation that you can do both wasn’t really considered and still hasn’t really sunk in to many people.

It’s the same mentality in Britain that sees learning a language as a purely economic pursuit. Why bother? What’s the point if it doesn’t advance your chances? It’s not just languages - many people feel that about the arts. Why learn about Shakespeare? Why learn history? I did a history degree, now many said “what are you going to do with that?” - it’s this idea of input output

Now we all know that if that theory was truly taken to the Nth degree, we wouldn’t learn about cell biology, particle physics, algebra, English literature, graphics, fine art, wood work, sport…it goes on…The easiest thing to drop was language. The easiest thing to alter, was talking the language of the majority and letting the rest slip. It’s not an British phenomenon - France, Spain, Holland, Italy, there have been efforts to quash languages in all of these countries. It’s easy to talk about the big bad English but it was all major powers. The international trend was towards “advancement”. Advancing and civilising were the buzz words of 19th Century colonialism. (by 19th Century, I mean the long century of 1770 - 1960).

It’s too simplistic to blame this on a top down only structure (of mill owners etc.) this was a national shift. It’s all intertwined with Social Darwinism and Chamberlain’s philosophies of the early 1800s. There was a huge cultural shift across the European powers. Bearing in mind this was a time when it was ok to talk about the shape of a man’s skull and colour of his skin being indicators for his intelligence.

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No they weren’t. That was a local practice not an institutional practice. That’s become a folk myth. It wasn’t every corner of Welsh speaking Wales. It was abhorrent, but local.

Interestingly though, it wasn’t, was it? People may have stopped passing on the language to their children in Glyn Ebwy, but this didn’t happen anywhere near as much in Ystradgynlais and didn’t really happen at all in Bethesda and Blaenau Ffestiniog. Were the latter places insulated (by geography?) from, for the want of a better term, fashion? Or were the (English-speaking) routes out of poverty more visible in the South East?

National, as in British. Sorry should have been less ambiguous. It’s also possible to trace it along the lines of where the migrations took place. Bearing in mind that it was just English migration, also Italian, Scottish, Irish etc. English was a lingua Franca. The Irish already understood English, so they’d use that over learning Welsh. Many did learn Welsh, but when you have 3 or 4 nationalities working together and all understand and speak English, the lingua Franca is an easy shift.

Also, Wales is not the only example. Look at what happened in places like New York. Thousands of arrivals with a plethora of languages. Now look at thei descendants. Few will speak the language beyond a generation or two. Unless there is a renewed influx.

I read somewhere that in 1798 only 12% of France spoke French at home. By 1914, only 50% of French born recruits spoke French at home and now it’s somewhere in the 90% region I think. The power of lingua franca, education, and migration.

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It could also be argued that Welsh has not declined and that it has simply been diluted and not grown to the extent that English has. In 1801 there was no Welsh language census data, but there were 600 thousand people living in Wales and that is the maximum number of possible Welsh speakers. In 1891, there were 1 million declared Welsh speakers in a population of nearly 2 million and in 2001 there were 800 thousand people with some skills in Welsh in a population of nearly 3 million.

Cardiff has far more Welsh speakers now than it did in 1850 which was the last time that Cardiff had a majority of Welsh speakers and is now not far away from the 11% of Welsh speakers that it had in 1891.

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Very good point! Welsh has, through concerted efforts, thrived compared to other European languages.

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Isn’t that just semantics? I’d certainly argue that my beer had ‘declined’ if it had been diluted. :wink:


It’s a glass half-full or half empty sort of thing isn’t it. The biggest change has been the loss of it’s use as a community language in Glamorgan and North East Wales and these areas may have helped to buffer regions further west. It could be argued that there has never been a better time to increase the number of speakers - we have the know-how now to teach the language and it has official status and official uses. This could be viewed as an exciting opportunity or time for the langauge?

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Truth-conditional semantics. There are undeniable facts and there are interpretations. Your pint has been diluted by pouring it into a five pint glass full of water - the amount of acohol is the same, but the taste has changed.

And both qualitatively and quantitatively it’s no longer beer. I’m not not at all sure if the metaphor stretches this far, though. :wink:

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I think on this one that I might quit, while you’re ahead

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