Saturday, 30th June, 2012.

A Linguistic Insult

     I was in a small Welsh village this week.   I know the place well – and most of its residents know me.   It is in the heart of Welsh-speaking Wales and I try out my faltering knowledge of the old language when I’m there.

In the village shop, I was stumbling along in Welsh to one or two folk who tolerate my abuse of the language and encourage me to speak it more fluently.   It seems that, far too often, when a Welsh-learner attempts to communicate in the local language, people are so polite that they switch to English.

Anyway, into the shop walked a chap who’s lived in the village for some years now.   He came – as so many do – from the English Midlands and had no clear reason for bringing his family here.

“Helo – sut mae?” I greeted him.

“Me no speaky da lingo,” he said and turned his back on me.

He had come to live in a Welsh-speaking village.   He had lived there for quite a while.   He had not become involved in any village event in all those years.   And he ridiculed the Welsh language.

He had brought his English culture here and seemed to want these colonials to drop their own language in favour of his.   That has been a trait of imperialism for centuries.

Perhaps, when our Senedd really has teeth, we shall have a law which insists that immigrants find jobs before they get here and agree to learn the language of this special land.

Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics

     Continuing on my journey, I stopped for a break in a tiny Welsh market-town.   It was small enough to be a mere village, but there are obvious signs of civic pride there.

A few years back, when the last Census was taken, it was shown – statistically – that half the population was Welsh-speaking.

I wandered round the place, looking at the many blue plaques which note past history.   I spoke with some of the passers-by.   I went into a couple of shops.

Nowhere did I hear the Welsh-language spoken!

If the Census scribes got it right, and if half the town is Welsh-speaking, I should have heard at least one “bore da”.   In fact, most of the people I encountered were – as the man in the village mentioned above – immigrants from the English Midlands.

Do not be lulled into thinking that, due to the hard work and dedication of so many proud Welsh people, the language is no longer under threat.

If we lose our history and traditions, we lose our identity.   So, my fellow learners, help keep the Welsh language a vibrant treasure.

And, if you haven’t tried yet, give learning it a go.   You’ll learn a lot more than just a language.


About Archie Lowe

Though not born in Wales, I have lived and worked here for many years now. I love the place and love that mercurial thing "Welshness". I have been accused of being "a Taffophile" - which is pretty near the truth. The question I ask whenever some idea comes up for the whole of the UK is: "What's in it for Wales". I believe in an independent Wales and am so pleased that our Assembly is a big step on that road.
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