SSi Forum

What are the problems? What needs to happen differently?


I am sorry if i upset you but back in the 90’s it was not unknown for people to work in what were then very Welsh speaking areas with no real intention of learning. Now, all election and referendum results are announced in both languages very beautifully. If one person does not know how to give a number in Welsh, another member of staff takes over the mike for that announcement. That could have been done then. Instead - well, I honestly thought he was laughing at us, showing what he thought of our language! It was a horrifble experience hearing that! 20 years later it is still vivid in my mind and still painful. It wasn’t an attempt to speak the language.
I do not want to upset you. I value all who want to learn and help others learn. But I heard what I heard and it hurt.


Good! so let’s focus on this bit then.


Your insight closely matches my personal experience. Thanks for sharing :relaxed:


This article was in the New Statesman last week:

It’s from an adult Welsh learner and highlights some of the issues the language faces from the lack of political will. (The headline, which was written by someone else, is a harsher in tone than the article itself).

In addition to the points he raises, would it be worth reaching out to people like him (Prof Roger Scully @roger_scully ‏) who are advocates of the language and have a wide audience?


[quote=“ianblandford, post:104, topic:8733”]
worth reaching out to people like him
[/quote] Absolutely. He offers some interesting reasons for learning Welsh, and of the benefits.


Yes, I think so - but maybe once we’ve actually got some initial efforts up and running?

Also - Ian, can I tempt you onto the Project Structures team? There’ll be virtual cakes.


Go on. Why not. As long as the virtual calories aren’t fattening.


The lack of calories and the imagined taste are the best things about them… :slight_smile:


Yes that was me too, I did well in O level back in 1986, but I never uttered a word outside the classroom. This is probably not within the scope of our sphere of influence but I would not make GCSE 2nd language Welsh compulsory, but put all the resources into earlier years, nursery to year 9, and make sure in that time every child had lots of opportunities to hear Welsh “in the wild”. And try and attract good Welsh teachers to consider the English Medium schools, or set up some exchanges, perhaps with both teachers and children from the Welsh Medium schools providing more practice and shared socialising in Welsh for the children and teachers from the English Medium schools.


I was in the last year of secondary schools where Welsh was not a compulsory subject (around the turn of the millenium I believe)

I wanted to do it but it fell in the same option group as “IT”, which had been my dream job since I was about 6 or 7 - so there was sadly only going to be one winner. I was gutted to be honest and it meant that by the time I started SSIW last year, I remembered pretty much nothing from school.

I believe schools should become far more bilingual. Even English medium schools should be doing a fair amount of their teaching in Welsh, in order to get kids to pass the new GCSE Welsh that I hear is being prepared (i.e they are doing away with Second Language Welsh in order to encourage more students to reach fluency stage)

I think the problem lies in most language teaching at secondary schools though. I mean, there must be tens of thousands of kids taking and passing GCSEs in French, German, Spanish and Italian every year all over the country - and how many of those can actually use the language to a functional level?


Diolch yn fawr for this, Ian! I was very struck by :-" almost pathetically grateful that I have shown their culture some respect. They should be entitled to expect that as a matter of course." Prof. Scully is clearly a lovely man and a wonderful advicate for Cymraeg and our culture. It would be great to have him working to help the project for a million speakers!


Me too! Turn of the Millenium, p’ah! it was 1988, when I did my ‘options’ I choose French, because of a timetable clash, as I wanted to do all three Sciences and Music, so Welsh was not possible. I don’t think I missed much.
Sad to hear that English medium schools are not attractive to Welsh teachers.
Perhaps 2nd language Welsh in schools is part of the problem. What exactly was the point of mutating words we didn’t know. There should be much more structure on language acquisition, rather than rote learning, like SSiW!

In every town in Wales there are schoolkids learning Welsh and adults learning Welsh and what they both need is practise speaking. Someone should organise something. Yes, they’ll be child protection issues, but solutions can be found. There will also be help to build up peoples confidence and normalise using Welsh with strangers. Normalising use of Welsh more widely will make a massive difference.

Yes, I was was at the election count in Cardiff, what was amazing was how so many people didn’t react to the results in Welsh, but waited for the English before clapping. With compulsory GCSE 2nd language Welsh, you would think people could get:
“Y blaid llafur, dau deg chwech mil a wrth deg un”
5 year olds can count to ten, what does 2nd language GCSE teach?


i cannot help but wonder, does it teach how not to listen?:smile:


Universities - definitely.
Parliament - we’ve got our own. Ours is structured to enable Welsh to be used in debates and speeches, theirs is a less civilised affair that doesn’t seem capable of catering for bilingualism.
I believe that the best way to normalise the Welsh language in the UK as a whole, as opposed to Wales, is by using the British mass media, especially TV, by making more bilingual programmes like Y Gwyll/Hinterland for ‘British’ viewing. Having contributed to the decline of Welsh use, TV has the potential to reverse the decline.


Well one of the reasons may sound a little controversial but it’s borne out of first hand experience. Firstly I should say that I’m part Welsh, pro Welsh, am learning Welsh and am going to become a good Welsh speaker if it kills me. Hopefully it won’t!

Having lived and worked in Wales, there are in some local authorities a Welsh language mafia and that’s the locals’ term for it not mine. If a job is deemed ‘Welsh essential’ they can insist that the applicants must speak it. They then deem every single job to be Welsh essential out of a misconceived desire to protect and promote the language. The end result is that the organisation becomes very insular and parochial with all recruitment coming from a tiny pool. The effect is not only to improperly discriminate against the English Scots Irish etc but perversely against the Welsh who can’t speak sufficient Welsh.

For example I spent 2 years working in a job despite not being classed as a Welsh speaker. I was an interim because the post was legally required to be filled. It was classified as Welsh desirable and fair enough, it worked. Part way through it was redesignated as Welsh essential which didnt affect me as the incumbent. The new permanent recruit is fluent but my point is Welsh is NOT essential in that case it’s only desirable it cant be essential as clearly I was doing it in English.

A more welcoming and inclusive attitude would reap dividends Im sure. I suspect my observations apply to local authorities primarily .


My take on the matter. Firstly, I am not Welsh, I don’t live in Wales and my familiarity with its history, mentality and culture is almost non-existent.
At the same time, my gut feeling is that there is little point in trying to ‘force’ Welsh upon the population as a whole if the language is taken out of context of Welsh culture. People are quite correct, from their point of view, that there is no ‘need’ to learn Welsh. A language is an inherent part of the culture. I would think that the emphasis should be (at least in schools) on teaching Welsh culture - history, language, the lot - as a whole. And in a positive way. Of course people need to identify as ‘Welsh’, and that can only be done in positive ways. Again, I am unfamiliar with the local school curricula. But, skimming through this thread, I do think that there is too much emphasis on learning the language with little reference to the unique Welsh culture of which it is a part.


I am Welsh, but my view resonates very closely with yours. I take an “all carrot no stick” view even though I think that extravagant efforts should be made by me and others to make the carrot irresistibly juicy. :smile:


Totally agree! Stick approach stirs resentment! It makes people anti-Cymraeg. Carrot has to be the way! Can we show preople that others admire our culture, so it is something they are proud of, want to claim? Then they will be more likely to see a value in the language.


I hope that this (outside of Wales) school memory from the 70s might help in an indirect way.

I was fortunate to be able to learn German in School for four years. This was before GCSE came in and our school didn’t do “O” levels, so we had the CSE option, which was the comprehensive school qualification at the time in England, Wales and N. Ireland.

Anyway, I really enjoyed learning, possibly due to my own interest and the fact that we had some really good teachers with personal knowledge of Germany and also German students who would engage us in conversation. I also used to listen to German radio outside school. Although I didn’t excel (on paper), I found that I could actually speak some German.

Many years later, on holiday in Germany, I found that that I could still struggle-by. Some 40 years later again, although having never used the German language, I feel that I still have the ability to string a few sentences together.

Back to Welsh -
When I joined up with SSiW, I rediscovered my love for language learning in this practical way.

Finally getting to the point -
Surely, 45 years on, secondary schools should be able to match this? If not, couldn’t they call upon SSiW for advice for at least the practical (conversational) aspects of learning Welsh, as Aran did in Cambridge (for another language)?

I offer these thoughts because as I understand it, in this particular context, the target is for a million speakers, rather than qualified graduates.

Thanks for reading this.


I’m actually doing some research on this at the moment. There are a number of things that have been going on behind the scenes that you might not be aware of.

First, the proportion of jobs that are allocated ‘Welsh essential’ (WE) in local authorities will vary from county to county according to the different circumstances. So, for example, in Gwynedd all internal communication in the authority takes place through the medium of Welsh, so anyone working for the authority will need to know Welsh (because otherwise they won’t be able to do their job, whatever that is). In contrast, here in Cardiff only a small proportion of the jobs are allocated WE.

Second, all local authorities have recently had the Welsh Language Commissioner’s Standards applied to them, which have various obligations (again, varying from county to county). Part of these are that the county needs to be able to provide a Welsh-language service to its residents that require it, and many of them are finding that they don’t have the staff to provide the necessary cover. So, for example, here in Cardiff any front-line service (e.g. reception area) needs to have at least two Welsh speakers on the team so that at least one of them can be there at any given time to cater for any Welsh speakers who might arrive. That is why many new posts are being made WE where they perhaps weren’t before. Another aspect of the Standards that has had an impact here is that each new post must be assessed for Welsh language considerations (whereas previously it wasn’t obligatory to consider it when the post was advertised). Also, people working for the authority can request that their internal training be provided through the medium of Welsh, so some authorities are finding that they need more HR/training staff who can speak Welsh. And so on.

Third, ‘Welsh essential’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘completely fluent to native speaker standard’. It will depend on the job, but it might be that what is required is that someone can hold a basic conversation, rather than being able to explain the complexities of planning law (or whatever). Often, the ‘Welsh essential’ comes with ‘or be willing to acquire the skill’.

But most organisations are also very keen to use training to help the existing staff acquire/improve Welsh skills, because they will always want to keep existing staff rather than recruit new. All the people I’ve been interviewing for my research are desperately keen to provide a service to Welsh speakers that is at least approaching that to English speakers, and to encourage those with some Welsh language skills to develop their confidence, and to persuade them that their Welsh is ‘good enough’.

I’m sorry for the screed! But I read so much rubbish online (that ‘you can’t get a job now in a local authority if you don’t speak Welsh’ and that ‘they’re only doing it to keep out the English’) that’s so counter-productive, and really quite untrue.