What are the problems? What needs to happen differently?

As a first step, how about we start by thinking about why we don’t have a million speakers already?

Thinking in terms of adult learners, I mean - we don’t need to rehash the history of the language!

Why aren’t the numbers of learners exploding every year?

Why aren’t learners pushing through to fluency, and to taking part in Welsh speaking communities?

What are the main problems facing us?


Surely the problem is that you don’t NEED to speak Welsh in Wales. We took a group of 6th formers to Poland a couple of weeks ago and we were there for 4 days and didn’t need to speak Polish once. Even there everyone was speaking English to us. And in Wales it is even more then case as English is one of the official languages.


I also wonder if the welsh speaking communities are insular (or appear to be insular) and so newcomers don’t feel as if they can get involved.


Excellent initial points.

  • no external NEED for Welsh

  • barriers to community involvement

[I don’t think Welsh speaking communities are by their nature insular - I’ve always found them very welcoming - but there certainly aren’t clear, consistent and widely known routes to involvement].

And now I’m wondering if there’s a good tool somewhere for list-keeping…


Which is why I added that they may APPEAR insular to outsiders. :slight_smile:


I think that one of the problems- a similar problem to that faced by Irish -is that there’s no provision for higher education exclusively in Welsh. Its use in academia would really help to drive home the fact that it’s a language with a place in every facet of society.

To be clear, I mean universities and colleges that teach every subject in and conduct all of their daily dealings in Welsh.

Edit: what about allowing Welsh-speaking MPs to use Welsh at all times in Westminster? There are parliaments around the world (Spain, Belgium and Finland spring to mind) which allow discourse in multiple languages with no restrictions. It’s more of a symbolic gesture than a practical one, but I think it would make a statement of intent.


Yes you do! :wink:

A small contribution by all SSiWers would be to speak Welsh everywhere. I’ll be in Wales during the first half of August, I that is what I plan to do.


No you don’t. You can get by absolutely fine in Wales by speaking English only. Unless you move to an area that is very welsh speaking you don’t need to. In order to get to the million speakers the areas for targeting need to be the ones that don’t have high percentages of Welsh speakers.


Barriers ( as I see it)

  1. You don’t need to speak Welsh
  2. Because learning Welsh at evening class is so slow, Welsh speakers in the community get used to speaking English. Once that becomes the norm it is very difficult to switch the language in which you know someone. You almost need to get up and running quickly.
  3. Learners confidence or lack of.
  4. Being scared of making mistakes and looking stupid.

Terrific - thank you everyone for all the input!

One early comment from me - in my experience, one of the biggest markers of success in volunteer projects is when people really, truly become close to and supportive of one another.

We’ll all have different ideas, and different ways of communicating - in true SSiW style, the more we over-cook the politeness and friendliness in the early stages, particularly when we might be dealing with differences in opinions, the more chance we’ll build the kind of close-knitted community-within-a-community that can make this project a real, world-changing success… :slight_smile:


On the list side of things, I’ve set up a Trello board - you should all be able to see it by following this link, without creating a Trello account:

If you set up a Trello account and tell me in here the name of that account, I’ll add you to the board and you’ll be able to edit… :slight_smile:

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Welsh culture is to a large extent invisible to non-Welsh speakers. As a result the benefits of participating in that culture are not obvious to those who don’t already speak or learn Welsh.

I wonder if a TV company could be interested in this … a documentary about the quest to recruit more speakers could be of interest to people both inside and outside Wales, and could stir up interest.


Added to the Trello list (link above). Can everyone see that Trello list okay?

Yes, I think media coverage will have an important part to play here, good call - maybe we should have some stuff up and running first, to show it’s more than just an idea…

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I always talk about TV when I try to explain why people speak English well in Finland but not in Italy and why not many Finnish people learn Swedish as well as they learn English.

I think that TV has a huge effect on how much and well a language is learnt in a country. I’ll give some examples…

In Italy, everything is dubbed. Every movie, TV show or interview or programme. You never really hear English unless you really want to. You want to speak better English but would never switch to an English langauge channel, because it’s your freetime and you have all the familiar Italian options. In Finland our TV is either in Finnish or has subtitles, which means that hearing other langauges (especially English, but also many others) is very normal. You don’t have to look for it or decide to watch something in English in order to learn English. It’s just there. And while you don’t have to actually listen to the English, you’ll be hearing it very often. At some point it might be easier to just listen if you can understand, since reading subtitles takes more work :smile:

Same thing with Finland and Swedish - we have a Swedish language channel, but not much Swedish outside of it…

I think that maybe just hearing a language on TV sometimes, with subtitles would help a lot to create that feeling that the language is useful, but very subtly. Or at least spark some people’s interest in it or let people properly realise that the language actually exists.

British TV channels sometimes have movies and TV shows in other languages with subtitles, right?


Expanding on your point about slow formal learning, at 2 hours a week (the usual pace for adult learners) it takes 12 years to get through the Welsh language syllabus to ‘higher’ level. Good tutors encourage you to continue learning outside the class, but it isn’t spelled out how much and what kind of extra work is needed to really kickstart language acquisition. Before I discovered SSiW, I was plodding through the system, wondering if I’d reach the end, or die first… No wonder most learners get discouraged by their dismal lack of progress, and their inability to hold a conversation in the real world after 2 or 3 years of classes.


I think that may be the reason for the prevalence of English in the Netherlands when compared to Germany, say, as well, TV shows & films are not dubbed - whereas in Germany they usually are.


Brilliant insight! @Novem


Oh, and I just created an account. I’m Milla (@novemt) :slight_smile:

It says @amandalaing3 is that what you need?

I just read that as ‘I think that I may be the reason for the prevalence of English in the Netherlands’, and I thought Louis, I’m so disappointed in you…

Added… :slight_smile:

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