Saturday, 11th July, 2015.

Still Under Threat?

     I pass through many parts of Wales, and each part has a special magic brought about, I reckon, by the magic of Wales.   Each area, it seems, has its own, individual community culture, and there’s a variety of countryside and local architecture.   That architecture, we must remember, often echoes the past.   It is part of our Welsh heritage and can tell us much about what happened in our land in times past.

The Welsh language – Cymraeg – is a very important part of our culture and heritage.   There has been, at least since the 1960s, a strong and active movement to protect our language.

Alas, I have to report that Cymraeg is still very much under threat of extinction!

Up in North Wales recently, I seemed to find that most shops – both in towns and in small villages – did not have a Welsh-speaker serving there.   Many of the people serving in shops did learn Welsh at school, but have never found the need to use it in their everyday lives.

And the dear old “Gog” was once a place where it would be difficult to settle in without at least trying to learn the language.

In places like Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion which were, I recall from not very long ago, strong centres of the Welsh language and culture have become very English-ised.

When I ask local folk why there’s been such a swing to English, the answer comes out the same in all places:  English is the language of commerce.

And there are many, many more English people coming here as immigrants these days.

What can be done to help the survival of the ancient Welsh language, which is a Celtic tongue?

Our schools are playing their part, of course.   But it’s no good learning something you’re not going to use once you leave.   And I hear, too, lots of English immigrants openly ridiculing the Welsh language.

I’d be interested to hear your views, dear reader – especially if you live and work in Wales.

Picture in Archie Lowe, Editor.docimg201

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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1 Response to Saturday, 11th July, 2015.

  1. Maia T. says:

    I have a slightly sideways perspective; I live in Wales, and came here from the US. I have reason to watch the Welsh-language struggles with some interest (and concern); I’ve seen this before.

    I lived about 25 years in Louisiana. The southwestern part of the state is the only enclave in the world of Cajun French. It is not just Parisian French with an accent; it’s a distinct language, French-based and well-laced with borrowed and assimilated English, Spanish, Native American, and even some German and African words. It’s also in a fight for its life. The population of speakers was never very large, the language never took root anywhere else, and first-language home speakers are aging out of the population.

    When I moved there in the 80s, it was still common, especially in small towns, to hear CF spoken on the streets and in stores. The thing was, everyone who did seemed to be over 50. Nearly all my friends’ grandparents spoke it; many of them spoke it as their first language. Almost none of their parents did, though a lot of them had working use of it. None of my friends understood more than a handful of phrases.

    CF started being taught intensively in schools in the 90s; an 80s graduate, I could have taken Parisian French in high school, but Cajun French wasn’t offered, largely because it didn’t meet other states’ foreign language requirements. There are immersion programs now, but the problem with that is that the kids come out of school having learned “school” language; most can understand it, and with some effort speak it, but they can’t really use it. They don’t think in it the way a home speaker does. The language is being preserved, but as a museum piece rather than a living language.

    Much of this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

    (A moment of wuhfuh: I went to Wikipedia looking for a current number of speakers. It insists that Cajuns don’t actually speak Cajun French and are wrong to call what they speak that. News to me. And to them, I’m sure. Not to mention to the people who speak Creole French and are now being told they all actually speak Cajun. That is roughly the equivalent of someone announcing that people in Wales don’t actually speak Welsh; only people in Cornwall do.)

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