History Moves On
A survey shows that the Welsh language is under threat.
It seems that its last remaining stronghold is in the North West of our country. And, even there, it seems to be used by a smaller percentage of the population.
In Mid- and West-Wales where, it seems, only a few short years ago Welsh was the language to be heard in the streets and playgrounds, English has taken its place.
I am not clever enough to discover all the reasons for this sad decline. But I can point out a few of them.
Firstly, it’s obvious that the number of immigrants from our Eastern neighbour has grown. The beautiful and, in the main, unspoiled areas of rural Wales are a great attraction to those who retire. Wales also attracts many folk who, finding that they can make a profit from the sale of their big-town properties, decide to live “The Good Life” and run smallholdings in an attempt to become ecologically sound and self-sustaining.
And we still have our fair share of dropouts – the self-unemployed – who hear that there’s hardly any chance of finding work in Wales. There is a widespread network of such people so such information is rapidly broadcast.
The really sad thing is that many – perhaps most – of these English immigrants do not do their homework before coming here. They know little about the local culture and less about its history.
The decent folk who move here do not intentionally weaken that culture. They have no need to learn Welsh, because all first-language Welsh-speakers these days are bilingual. Bilingual and polite – they switch to English simply to show the newcomers that they are welcome.
There’s also the massive effect of American television programmes – and our youngsters have learned to believe Yankee-speak is “cool”.
It has been decades since there were monoglot Welsh-speakers in our land.
Yes, of course there are those daft visitors who still perpetuate the myth that they “went into a shop and they were all speaking English when I walked in, but they switched to Welsh so that I couldn’t understand what they were saying”. My reaction when I hear that old chestnut is “Where was the shop?”. They always assure me that “it wasn’t round here” – no matter where in Wales I am when | ask!
Leanne Wood has shown her concern – and her qualities of true leadership – over this matter. She and all members of Plaid Cymru want something to be done about the situation, and are making plans to correct it.
This very day, in Aberystwyth, there’s a celebration going on marking the fiftieth anniversary of the protest in that town which brought about Cymdeithas Yr Iath, The Welsh Language Society.
I am a keen “dysgwr” of Cymraeg – a slow one, I have to admit. But, over the years, I have found friends with whom I can hold a full conversation in Welsh (even though my accent makes them smile!).
Let us choose to promote Cymraeg whenever and wherever we can. It is a very important part of our Welsh heritage.