Is learning Welsh a waste of time?


#1

Hi all. An inflammatory question for this forum, but is learning Welsh a waste of time?

I started classes last Autumn in a serious attempt to start learning the language again (many years since ‘O’ level). I am Welsh, live in Wales, hear the language a lot and my father spoke Welsh. I have been really enjoying the course, so it was a bit of a slap in the face to be told (by someone close to me) that Welsh is a pointless language, waste of time and will never lead to anything! Redacted by moderator - explanatory private message sent

Apart from being furious, I do feel a bit disheartened and part of me is wondering if he is right.


#2

I live in the US and I have not had the opportunity to visit Wales yet, but I have found I have a lot of Welsh ancestors after my birth-mother’s adoption records from the 1950s were finally unsealed after her passing three years ago. I can say from my perspective that it is very worth it to me to connect to this part of my identity and help keep this wonderful language alive and to help it flourish. I wouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise, especially if it is coming from a cultural perspective that oppressed Welsh speakers to start with. It seems similar to how many Native American tribes are trying to save their languages from extinction in the face of similar opinions from English speaking Americans. I say, “No!”


#3

No! No! No! It’s NOT a waste of time! As I learn the language of my birth it is opening up a whole new world, a new perspective, and brings me closer to people I’ve known all my life. It gives me pride in who I am and the nationality to which I was born. It’s teaching me that being Welsh isn’t being inferior and our language and nation has something so big to add to the world. Yet I saw none of this as a Welsh woman who did not know her own language.
Please do NOT let this person discourage you! Keep going! Not only are you keeping YOUR language alive, you’re benefiting yourself and generations to come.
When I feel discouraged, I always come for a read on this forum. The positivity and energy are infectious!!


#4

I second whole-heartedly what Esther said! I can understand why you would be furious, but remember this, you are learning Welsh for YOU, and YOU have so much to gain by learning it - something that people with that unhelpful attitude sadly fail to see. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but it’s just that, a personal opinion which, though hurtful, does not automatically apply to anyone else.

Carry on learning and using your Welsh - many of us have come across similar scenarios and have managed to prove to ourselves that it is neither pointless or a waste of time - you don’t have to prove it to anyone else!


#5

Some people think that if a language does not make them lots of money (economic reasons) … its pointless …

If this is not your guiding life philosophy - reject it thoroughly

“Language x is more useful than Welsh” … yet you hear more Welsh in my street than language x - so which one is truly more useful in my area?

And many times those comments come from someone who will never bother to learn these so called useful languages, funny that :smiley:

You can find interesting literature on the psychology of colonialist and imperialist mindsets if you want to understand the phenomenon further (frantz fanon has a book discussing this)


#6

You have a right to feel angry but please don’t feel disheartened. Welsh is a wonderful, exciting and growing language. Definitely not pointless. I love Wales, her people, the language and culture. I thought I must have some Welsh blood in me. (I’m English)
I did my family history and was absolutely gutted that I could not find even one Welsh blood relative. Just cousins by marriage. They too love Wales. Don’t allow anyone to take away what is rightfully yours. I would imagine the person you are speaking about, simply doesn’t fully understand. If that’s the case perhaps lovingly explaining how you feel might help. Don’t give up there is too much to lose


#7

Two Welsh-speaking super agents meet in a dark alley in a distant land. They whisper important secrets to each other - knowing that the chance of anyone else understanding anything is very low.

Can’t do that in English. :motor_scooter:


#8

“Oh! It’s Evans the Spy you want; e’s on the top floor”.

(punchline of very old (English) joke). :wink:


#9

I can’t answer this for you, but I can answer it for me, and hopefully that contributes in some way to the discussion.

I like languages, and I tend to think (and other people, too) that I’m good at learning them. In part, this probably goes back to starting to pick up some French on holiday, from the age of about 4: although I’m not properly bilingual in anything, it’s a long time since i was ever wholly monolingual English.

But being able to speak other languages, perversely, makes me aware of just how much I am rooted in English: English is the language I mostly make silly jokes and bad puns in; English is the language I do, say, Maths in; English is the only language I can do cryptic crosswords in. Sometimes, when I look at the behaviour and attitudes of some of my fellow-countrymen, I might not be proud to be English, but it is what I am, and I can’t (and wouldn’t) pretend not to be.

But that awareness of how central English is to my identity, of the extent to which I will never be as fluent in any other language, is precisely why I recognize the value and importance of other languages, including (perhaps especially) minority languages: other people may be just as deeply, to-the-core, Welsh, or Catalan, or whatever, as I am English, including not being quite as at home in any other language, no matter how bilingual they may be. (A Catalan writer once said that speaking Castilian was like wearing smart shoes – interview shoes – whereas speaking Catalan was like walking in espardenyes – comfortable, informal, homely, and moulded to the shape of you, rather than stiff and posh and unyielding.)

And there is no reason on Earth why those people should not have the same rights and expectations of the world as I do, but yet that is often not how it works: years ago, I was chatting to a presenter for Radio Perpinyà who told me that his grandfather was monolingual in Catalan – but that the rest of his village now spoke French. He hadn’t moved, hadn’t changed, but the world had moved on around him, and I find that sad.

As an Englishman, living here in Oxford, it is arguable that the comments you received about the pointlessness of learning Welsh would go double for me. But I don’t think they do. Yes, I’m learning Welsh for purely personal reasons; yes, at this point in time everyone with whom I speak Welsh could actually communicate with me more efficiently in English. But every time I buy a book from Y Lolfa, every month that I continue to subscribe to SSiW, every time I go to Welsh-speaking areas of Wales to practise my Welsh and spend money there, every time my kids tell some random stranger that their dad’s learning Welsh, I’m contributing in some very small way to a Welsh ecosystem, if you will; I’m contributing in some tiny way to a world in which Welsh continues to exist. And I think that’s important, and worthwhile, whether I am ever personally terribly fluent or not.


#10

I would add, as a thoroughly English person learning Welsh for the joy of it, the best part is meeting all these lovely fellow learners. Can’t get better than that!


#11

A Welsh speaking person has a dedicated official government hotline for every official service. One where you get a special service and don’t have to wait in a really long queue.

Who wouldn’t want that?


#12

When the Welsh-speaking person watches Lord of The Rings, he doesn’t think to himself “Elves are great, I wish I could speak Elvish”.

He thinks “Wow, that’s Cymraeg. I can speak Elvish.”


#13

That explains why the girl who was speaking Welsh to a friend on her mobile phone in Sydney the other day almost had a heart attack when I said 'Bore da! Shwmae?" as I walked past…


#14

I suppose it is a waste of time, if time = money. In thee same way that art and poetry and landscape are a waste of time if you happen to be a computer. That music is a waste of time if you are deaf (and even then Evelyn Glennie proves me wrong). Love is a waste of time if it leads you to do for free what others charge for. Volunteering is a waste of time if you think that watching TV is more important. But you, as a Cymraes, know that knowing Cymraeg links you to your history, personal and national. That it links you to your neighbours and your family, to music and poetry.

Early on in my learning career I had a Cymro as a Welsh tutor who said that while it was quite possible to live a good and fulfilling life, without Welsh, in Wales, knowing the language gave you insight into a different view of the world. Those who were at the last SSIW birthday party will remember Mererid Hopwood saying that every language learned gave you an understanding of those differences. Personally I think that, as Doctor Who is now made in Wales, that having the two languages is like having two hearts. I am never going to stop being an English woman living in Wales, but that second heart, however imperfectly, is now mine too.


#15

To make very short answer: that person is not right IN ANY WAY!!!

(continuing with longer version :slight_smile: )
If we, who don’t live in Wales or UK and above all have no one to talk with on daily basis think learning Welsh is not waste of time and more it isn’t useless in any way, then no one living in UK should think the way that person close to you thinks either.

I’m repeating over and over again: Every language is useful and the more you speak the better!

Tell to this person that there are people living in the countries with absolutely no Welsh spoken or heard who learn Welsh. People like me, who are many on this forum, do not think the language is useless! Even more - we are expressing pure love toward it. Language never is only just one (some say useless) language, but it’s the culture, the way (one way or another) of living, the history and the present. Viewing the minority or little language from this person’s point of view … all little “unimportant” languages are useless. No, way, I surely wouldn’t agree with this at all!

So, don’t listen to anyone who tells you the language is useless and the learning of it is a waste of time. Keep going and learn it as well as you possibly can. You came to the right place to learn the language really well and with almost the lightning speed. Enjoy the process and ignore those who say to you that you’re waisting your time. They might waste their time for more useless and unimportant things than learning whatever language is.

Dal ati a pob lwc!

Hwyl!
Tatjana :slight_smile:


#16

And it brings the opportunity, too, to see the English language afresh - to coin a phrase of Kipling: What do they know of English who only English know? :slightly_smiling_face:


#17

As an Italian who started learning Welsh just because I enjoyed trying to sing along a bunch of songs, I have to take a slightly different approach in my answer:
I realized the real problem was not people telling me it’s a waste of time, but the little voice inside of me reminding me how useless Welsh is for me and that…of course they were right!

At first, I tried to fight back. And let me tell you that hanging out with encouraging people with a positive attitude (like here in the forum, for example) sure helped: in fact, see how many good reasons you can find in this thread!
However, the little voice still had good arguments to respond like “Ok, learning a language is good for your brain and an enrichment, but why not choosing a widely spoken one or German like your ancestors and relatives” etc
So at some point I just went:

Alright, it’s really a bloody waste of time for me.
But I like it.
I want to learn it.
I’m enjoying it.
So, know what?
I don’t caaaaaare, I’m going to do it anyway! :sunglasses:

Then, pay attention to all the things you, and people, and especially people who tell you it’s a waste of time do during the day. How much time gets wasted in a whole lot of different ways?
So, with a touch of humour: take some of that time and use it to learn Welsh. It’s just a different way to waste it, after all, no big deal! :grin:

By the way, I believe that many people who try to put you down are just annoyed by your ability and determination: they’re not able to push themselves through their laziness and recycle some brainless entertainment/free time or even boring activities like waiting for a bus, or commuting or being stuck in a traffic jam to do something interesting (and if they’re Welsh I suspect might even feel they should do).


#18

If we were simple machines designed to do something specific then we wouldn’t do anything weird and wonderful.

Being human, gives us the privilege of wasting time as we see fit, so waste it blissfully and in so doing we may actually end up doing something very productive and remarkable.


#19

In a way, it’s a strange thought to tell someone else that learning a functioning language is pointless.

Imagine going to Iceland or the Faroe Islands or Finland and telling speakers there that their language is pointless. That they ought to instead speak English (or Spanish, Russian, Chinese…).

Or how about going to tribal groups in Australia, where there are hundreds of local languages, many if which unintelligible to each other.

Nobody would do that.

Welsh is a functioning modem British language. One can get on perfectly well without it, but where’s the fun in that?

If I had the ability (and the brainspace), which I don’t, I’d learn Gaelic, Irish, Scots and Cornish. Then Old English. Then Polish and Punjabi and Urdu. And Romany and Somali and Danish.

Because these are some of the languages people spoke and still speak that shaped our nation. Speaking these words taps into those experiences of people who lived in the landscapes we live in but saw them in different ways. I want to know and understand those things in ideas that don’t have words in English. I want to delve into those secret histories. I want to peel back the curtains and see old things in new ways.

I respect people who don’t want that. I can see how people might feel threatened by complexity.

But for me, it’s about - even on the tiniest scale - opening an unopened door and experiencing the richness of what’s beyond. :steam_locomotive:


#20

It strikes me that, given that it was thought at the time that all tombs in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings had been found, there were no doubt people in 1922 who told Howard Carter that digging there again was pointless and a waste of time. And yet he found “wonderful things” when he ignored them and carried on :wink: