Most prospective learners get pushed towards the various Welsh for Adults course. They have a poor record of numbers to fluency, for lots of reasons. You need to be committed to succeed. This is also true of SSiW, yet SSIW manages to keep people’s motivation up, partly through an encouraging community.
The taking part is really important to put into use what we learn.You develop friendships and feel as though you are letting people down by not improving your Welsh and our encouraged. An interesting question is how much better do learners do who live in 50%+ Welsh speaking communities, with daily chances to practice without making a special effort to travel to them.
Stigma, stigma stigma. It’s partly the UK media’s negative view of Welsh, partly the idea that a lot of people grow up with that they are not part of the Welsh speaking community. A community may be very welcoming, but if you are on the outside, it doesn’t always seem that way.
Perceived bias: We love it as learners when we are somewhere like a shop, and we are treated as a random stranger, until we start speaking Welsh and quite often, suddenly people’s eyes light up and we are quickly out of our depth! However, often there are other people around who are not learners, all they see is special favour being given to the Welsh learner and this gets ingrained.
It’s weird, you travel the world speaking English and no-one bats an eyelid. Yet walk down a street in Wales as a group chatting in Welsh and people check it, I’ve had dirty looks off people. This I’d like to understand. I used to clock Welsh speakers, but it was a jealousy thing and I don’t think that’s what it is for most people.
The English speaking world problem. As native English speakers, we can travel the world without having to learn languages for communication, everyone else is learning English, well thats how it seems
Solutions: Make it easier to learn and easy to find non-threatening chances to practice. SSiw does this really well. The problem with lessons is finding the time, when a lesson is available. No-one at my place of work speaks Welsh (apart from me and a Polish girl), but we could easily have a lunchtime lessons/ chat sessions in Welsh if there was enough people and someone fluent enough to lead it.
There are host of challenges, but most of them are social barriers. It’s getting the balance right.
You’re absolutely right, of course @ElenTylwythTeg, I didn’t mean to make light of your post.
I agree 're the apparent invisibility of the use of everyday Welsh. People tend to socialise in their own group and may rarely hear the language spoken / watch s4c/ radio cymru etc and hence do not appreciate it’s value or experience the culture.
This then becomes an issue when trying to provide services through Welsh especially when there are competing needs e.g. in the health service.
This can lead to the impression that those promoting the language use are too nationalistic/ extremist.
Have created account :AnneE
And, related to what @RichardBuck has said, even if there’s only one monoglot English speaker in a largely bilingual group that socialises together there’s likely to be an inevitable tendency for everyone to speak English.
The main problem of the whole thing (as I see it from the outside) is EXACTLY! this attitude
Too much of looking back and what the language had to overcome and overlive instead of thinking about the future and what could be done. With eliminating these two attitudes - this means thinking that you don’t need to speak Welsh in Wales and deeping into history every time one mentioned the language would be crucial to do.
I know that changing people’s minds is the hardest thing to do in our life but something should priorly be done in these direction. What SSiW can do in this matter I have no idea at the moment but there’s surely something we can do.
The problem I found just some days ago when reading (too) many articles about declared plan of 1,000,000 speakers is also that this plan is by many even in the beginning marked as ambitious or even too ambitious and this was not only by those who feel negative about the language but also ba supporters of it. With this attitude I’ve got the feeling that actually no one believes in the set goal at all what of course downgrades it immediately. Why not simply saying We will have million speakers by 2050. and then set to work toward the goal.
So in short, the major problems for me are
- attitude as that you don’t need to speak Welsh in Wales
- too much digging in the history and dragging old reasons why people didn’t speak Welsh in the past as an appology of why they don’t want to speak the language even nowdays
- attitude which already in the start downgrade the deceision of having double amount of Welsh speakers.
Oh, and there’s one more (but pay attention I’m outsider though): I’m always initially angry when reading the debates whether sending children into Welsh medium or “mixed media” school (if they exist) in Wales or not! This shouldn’t be a question to me! People live in Wales and this for it should be natural that children start in Welsh. If they speak the language at home or not, there really can’t be too much influenced by outside whether they should or not, but at least the kid has the basics and can communicate in both languages - English and Welsh.
So, this is how I see the problems. There of course are many more and they start by the people as individuals themselves but those are far enough to solve in the first place.
What can we do: as the learners or “newly fluent” spakers we’re almost obliged to start or continue conversation in Welsh (at least) while in Wales). That’s what I regularly did when staying there and it wasn’t just after-bootcamp effect, that was the wish everyone would at least understand if not speak the language. If we try we can succeed if we don’t we’d never know if we had the chance of success.
(end of media breefing … )
What provision is there for families with learners to get together to learn and practise in an enjoyable way as a family group? I.e. promoted as a fun thing to do rather than ‘classes’.
Totally agree, Tatjana - we, as learners, are not bound by social language norms that often constrain native speakers, by virtue of them having grown up with the conventions of the current climate where Welsh is languishing and almost always plays second fiddle, no, we can set our own social language norms - start every conversation in Welsh, using Ifor ap Glyn’s Popeth Yn Gymraeg as an example.
I agree with a lot of what has been added so far. I wonder if it’s helpful to divide the adult-non-speakers into a few groups, because different tactics will be needed to reach each of them. For eg
- The "why would I want to do that?"s - those who don’t see the need.
- The "love to do that someday but"s - me until 90 days ago
- The "I could never!"s - eg those who would like to speak it but don’t think they can learn languages for whatever reason
Group 1 will be hardest to persuade, but how many 2s and 3s are there? Plus of course those who are already learning or have given up. If all those were transformed to Welsh speakers then tackling the problems leading to 1 would be much easier. For a former 2 (with a bit of 3), my list would have been
- Thought I would have to do lessons in person and the London Welsh Centre is too far away to want to go every week.
- Thought with Welsh in particular it had to be all or nothing, ie no need for “get by” in Welsh.
- Thought it meant nights bent over a text book.
- Thought at 46 I might just be too old, after trying and failing to to learn lists of words in both French and Welsh.
- Thought it would take years.
At some point I will write up how wrong I was about each of those points.
I haven’t watched Popeth yn Gymraeg, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with this approach as a general tactic, because will it actually persuade anyone? I think (being completely honest) as a former non-speaking-Cardiff-resident, I would have avoided situations where I thought I might be spoken to in Welsh first. Because as monoglot English speakers we are not used to not being able to understand people, so we feel anxious and embarrassed, which leads in turn to fear and as Yoda said “fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering” and none of us want that!
Perhaps it is different in areas where there are more welsh speakers? Or perhaps some form of dual approach, is better eg “Good morning, Bore da”. Some way to signal to people that if they DO speak Welsh you are ready to continue in that language.
In many ways this is easier for all you wonderful Welsh language tourists than for people living in di-gymraeg areas of Wales.
I’ve hesitated to contribute to this discussion so far as I’m afraid my feelings are rather negative at the moment.
I have actually felt less comfortable initiating Welsh contact, where it’s unexpected, the better my Welsh has got. (When you’re a cheerful early stage learner you can get away with anything!)
I work in Cardiff University and I know a fair number of Welsh speakers there. However a minority of them actually use the language on a day to day basis. The three Welsh speakers I see most often all learnt at Welsh school, but rarely actually speak it. Two of them are in fact less comfortable in Welsh than I am these days.
You can’t force people who speak a language to use it, if they don’t see the point in their lives.
Also, there’s the funny situation of our Welsh primary school. Quite a few of the parents went to this school themselves, so they clearly want the same for their own kids somehow. But the Welsh speaking parents all have English-speaking partners and practically always speak English to each other. But they will speak a bit of Welsh to the kids coming out of school sometimes. I hardly ever hear a Welsh conversation between adults in the school yard.
It is an unusual and conspicuous thing for me to go and change a conversation to Welsh, and I tend to do it less often these days. I’m not sure that I want to be an evangelist.
I’ve had a huge amount of personal satisfaction from learning Welsh, but I’ve been very disappointed to find so little genuine Welsh language life round here. I’m not sure what I think.
It would be lovely if it were different, but in some areas the task is huge.
I understand your feelings. Canton and Pontcanna is a slightly different experience to Barry, but it’s hardly a Welsh Mecca.
Starting Welsh conversations is difficult. Certain cafes in West Cardiff are an exception to that. A drive to start in Welsh would be nice. I think it would have to start with businesses.
I wonder also if one of the problems or at least a problem for reaching the target is the degree of engagement of Welsh speakers. Some may feel that this is a target/project for the Welsh assembly and that is left up to national policies around education. I think we need all Welsh speakers to feel that they have a stake in and can positively influence the acquisition and degree to which Welsh is spoken in an area.
This is key of course. But what if they’re not too bothered either way?
There’s a huge range of attitudes amongst people who happen to speak Welsh already, from the aggressively political to those who wouldn’t be bothered if they never spoke it again. It would be interesting to know the figures, but nobody would dare do the research!
At the moment, we’re focusing on identifying the problems, rather than starting to generate possible solutions.
Sorry, my bad. At the time of writing, there were three threads on the “mission” plus a Trello link. My little head got confused.
One problem/challenge may be establishing reliable channels of mutual confidence between SSiW and the person/people in the Assembly charged with achieving the target.
I’ve just signed up as steveburrow2