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Berengaria
Welsh: can a language be "saved" by political will alone?

The Welsh Government has launched a plan to increase the number of Welsh speakers in Wales from the current level of approximately 600, 000 to 1 million by 2050.

The Current State of Welsh:

Today, Welsh is not an endangered language, but it is the (native) language of only a small percentage of Welsh people. School programs are in Welsh in some areas, there are laws about public signs being in both Welsh and English, and the BBC has a Welsh language radio and TV channel. 

However, many English speakers who live in or move to Wales do not bother to learn any of the language unless they have to. More and more, knowing some Welsh is a plus for finding a job, but not considered necessary. 

History and the Current Question:

Welsh, just like Scottish and Irish Gaelic, was almost made extinct by the systematic political will of England over the course of many centuries. Is it possible that political will alone can bring it back? Or are other factors necessary for the "saving" of a language (versus the destroying of one)? 

What do you think? What would you recommend to the Welsh government for their 1 million by 2050 plan?

Feb 12, 2018 6:16 AM
Comments · 34

Not an answer, but just a bit of background...The percentages on their own don't make a lot of sense. You have to look at the different regions. There are many parts of Wales where nobody speaks Welsh, and there is no incentive for anyone to learn it. But there are also some areas where Welsh is the everyday language of most of the inhabitants. 

My brother, an English speaker,  has moved to one of these regions, and he is studying Welsh. It isn't strictly necessary, but he feels he'll fit in better if he does. It's an area where you'll walk into a shop and everyone is speaking Welsh, they'll speak to you in English, and then continue their conversation in Welsh. If you don't want to live as an outsider in one of these communities, it does help to know the language. In other parts of Wales, it would be pointless.


February 12, 2018
It's true that very few people in Wales speak ONLY Welsh, but even for many who speak fluent English it is nonetheless a SECOND language for them and they feel more comfortable speaking in Welsh. I find that many English people seem to have some sort of cognitive block which refuses to let them accept that Welsh is a real language spoken in the community in some parts of Wales and not just a hobby or something which a few troublemakers and activists pretend to speak to annoy the English (and then go back to speaking English when no one's looking).
There has been a lot of talk of "useful" languages, but who gets to decide which languages are "useful"? I learned two such "useful" languages at school (French and German) and I've never used either of them since in any serious way, it would actually have been more useful for me to learn Welsh at school (even though I've never even lived in Wales (or Argentina)). Should people only learn languages, or anything else, that will offer them some concrete economic advantage? or can there be some other reason to learn? Isn't learning about the culture of your home country (be it your native country or your adoptive home) useful in some, perhaps intangible, way?
The fact that many adults in Wales cannot speak Welsh despite it being compulsory in school I think says more about the education system in general: how many people in England and Wales leave school able to speak French after spending years studying it?
I've been trying to understand the atavistic disdain that many English people have for the Welsh language, and I can only think that it's because, despite Wales being supposed to have been conquered back in 1282, the Welsh stubbornly keep on speaking it instead of behaving themselves and letting the English get on with the job of colonising and assimilating them!
February 13, 2018

"Given the shear (sic) economic advantage of speaking English as a native on  a planet where English is the language of America and the lingua-franca of Europe the idea of making Wales a second language English speaking nation is idiocy."


It wouldn't be a "second language English speaking nation" it would be a bilingual nation. I hope they succeed in resurrecting their native tongue, just like I hope Irish is resurrected here where I live.

February 13, 2018

No, the policy is just an expansion of many years of throwing money at the "problem" the result of enforced 100% Welsh education over the last 20+ years is that still most adults cannot speak Welsh and other subjects have suffered with Welsh educated falling behind in mathematics and international languages.  The 600,000 figure i laughable, many of the people who claim to speak it can't answer the question in Welsh.

I'm not against Welsh at all, I just think the policy is mistaken

See also the pressure for Irish in Northern Ireland which due to a political imperative rather than thinking about the kid's future.

I think the Scot's policy on their original language is far better with enforcement removed and hence the language is learnt for love not for adult's political needs.

February 12, 2018
Bill, clearly people may not want to learn this or any other compulsory subject in school and may have many reasons for that. It is a legitimate question. But you chose to stress, how Welsh is less useful than Italian and how THE international langauge gives its native speakers huge advantage.

It looks like arrogance.
February 14, 2018
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Berengaria
Language Skills
Danish, Dutch, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Welsh
Learning Language
Danish, Dutch, Italian, Welsh