I wonder if an element of this is the challenges of helping school leavers believe that Welsh has a place outside of school. Especially in areas where there are less Welsh speakers in the first place. I think maybe more child friendly events where you get a mix of ages and a mix of the community.
I’ve been reading quite a lot about language revitalisation in other countries - Wales is actually well placed compared to most and we need to keep hold if what we’ve learned and what works, but one angle I think might be useful is putting more emphasis on bottom-up appproaches.
The strongest unit for transmission and maintenance is the family unit. You could focus most effort on that, and we probably should and maybe we do, but I think that wouldn’t help much to seriously grow the language and its usage. I think personally that we could do more thinking in terms of structuring our planning and thinking around small groups of say 3-5 people. What I mean is that if this is central to our thinking then we wouldn’t have just dysgwr y flwyddyn, but grwpiau y flwyddyn. A group can be a strong enduring unit.
Communities aren’t homogeneous and people tend to cluster in small groups when socialising or working. In a room of twenty people there will be a collection of smaller groups always interacting independently - cliques if you like, but that has negative connotations. The negative connotations come from cliques being very effective and resilient social groups, who sometimes act negatively. We need to harness the strengths positively.
We have Cylch groups etc and things focussing on small family groups and these are probably some of the most effective things we do, but perhaps the main focus is on the child and it’s the parents and grandparents who probably need to learn the most and there’s less focus on the family groups as a whole than there perhaps could be. I don’t know what exactly, but we have to somehow get parents and grandparents in the driving seat and not simply passengers while the child does all the learning.
For teenagers - we need to think of them as small groups of friends, rather than thousands of individuals or a generation and think about what we can do to inspire the creation of strong and enduring groups, that support each other and how can we inspire them to think of ways for themselves to want to become strongholds of Welsh language use - you can’t tell a teenager how to do that and somehow we have to create something that encourages it’s creation.
A bit of a ramble, but I haven’t fully thought things through yet.
I am joining this thread late - possibly too late, but I think the following points have relevance as to the difficulties faced in increasing Welsh speaking. One problem is that, whilst there appears to be increasing interest by motivated people in predominantly non-Welsh speaking communities: so we may see a modest rise in Welsh speakers in Sir Fynwy, for instance; this isn’t enough to create Welsh-speaking communities on a day-to-day basis. At the same time, there appears to be a decline of Welsh spoken routinely in some of the Welsh heartlands such as Sir Gar. So, even if the overall numbers of Welsh speakers remained the same, it may be less so as a first language basis but more of an interest or hobby.
The problem is mainly caused by the increasing fluidity of the population, with a natural exodus of Welsh-speakers and an influx of non-Welsh speakers, making it difficult to regard a community as being settled or permanent: a moving target.
The dilutional effect is important because the presence of a non-Welsh speaker in any given group, means that everyone would have to speak English to be inclusive and avoid appearing to ostracise that person.
There is also an embarrassment factor, in that a lot of people, even proficient Welsh speakers, would not risk rebuff if the person they speak Welsh to says that they don’t speak it.
Add to this the perception, even amongst some of my own Welsh relatives that it is a “Dying language so what’s the point?” Wouldn’t it be more useful to learn French or Spanish? Add the fact that one can always get by in English, and the advantages of speaking Welsh appear slim, the laudable aim of increasing Welsh speaking poses quite a challenge.
But that’s fine: I don’t think Cymru or Cymraeg have ever had it easy, so what’s new?
I wonder whether one way forward is to accept more of a mixture of Welsh and English rather than being overly purist about it. I know that some of my Ffrindiau mam Iaith from Sir Gar are not too proud to use some English rather than it get in the way of a good conversation. There must be quite a lot of Welsh people who speak some Welsh, but currently feel excluded because they can’t say enough to converse; or children who have learnt some in school but are nowhere near fluent and may just give it up entirely. If we could encourage these people to join in Welsh discussions without the need to be fluent, this might be a ladder, not only to increasing the numbers of Welsh speakers, but by making those non-Welsh speakers who might feel that Welsh speakers have formed a closed-shop, better inclined towards the language, even if they don’t actually take it up. I liken it to a golf club: I have a set of clubs in the garage and have been to a driving range several times, but I have never played on a proper golf course - Why? Because I haven’t been invited, don’t feel I’m good enough and might be embarrassed, and feel that it is a bit of a clique. Sound familiar?
I know some will say that inviting people to speak Welsh as best they can, but with English thrown in as required to keep them talking, will lead to a weakening and decline of the language by erosion and anglicisation but this need not be the case, since there is nothing stopping existing or keen Welsh speakers using the highest forms of the language themselves. If we are teaching all Welsh children to speak Welsh, it is vital that the parents feel included and able to give it a go as well. Making it acceptable to say something in Welsh also helps to normalise it, which is essential if it is still to be regarded as the legitimate language of Wales.
So my message is “Let’s not make it all or nothing”. We may have to be more inclusive, compromise, and speak more Welsh as part of a mixture of Welsh-English conversations, where it is appropriate, rather than not speak to those people at all. I’m sure this is nothing new and already goes on, but is perhaps frowned upon by some.
Well, I’ll go and get my clubs out and have a put o gwmpas fyn ardd!
@nic: And I could suggest precisely the opposite, that your suggestion may lead (in Wales) to the partial Welshification (?!) of English! Your suggested approach is excellent.
… And can someone please tell me the correct word for ‘welshification’?!
Diolch Baruch - that’s a refreshing way of looking at it: the Welshification of English in Wales, in parallel with the encouragement of the pursuit of fluency. After all, even English speakers know only a fraction of the words in the English language and the same is bound to be true of Welsh speakers, so we should see this as a spectrum rather than all or nothing. In the same way that I nearly gave up the guitar because I wasn’t very good at it: but then I thought, “Who cares - I’ll just play a few tunes” and that is what I do. If I only ever did things which I was fully conversant with, it would be practically nothing. So why not jettison the expectation of perfection in favour of joining in and doing something - this would go some way to dissolve the apparent divide and sometimes even enmity between Welsh speakers and English speakers. Hwyl, Nic
Something that took place recently in the Basque speaking regions of Spain and France: https://euskaraldia.eus/es/presentacion/
People were invited to register as Aho Bizi (Active Mouth) or Belarri Prest (Ready Ear). A dynamic map of people registered was also made available. Then during 11 days in november-december 2018, they wore corresponding tags, by which the Aho Bizi signaled their willingness to speak Basque with other tag-wearing people and to use Basque first with everybody, while Belarri Prest signaled their willingness to be spoken to in Basque regardless of what language they answer in.
I haven’t found a detailed presentation of the numbers but I have seen the total number of participants being said to be around 220,000 (out of 1,200,000 speakers). New editions are planned in the future.
The goal was to create new language habits by shaking off the tendency to use French/Spanish first in social exchanges and showing that more people than could be thought at first were willing to exchange in Basque.
Short videos were produced to illustrate various kinds of exchanges, like this one in which the customer repeats his order in slower Basque instead of shifting to Spanish/French: https://youtu.be/YIu3cXEDdWs?t=52
Is something comparable organized for Welsh? I think I have seem tags/badges mentioned here on the forum but that they were not terribly efficient. Maybe the Basque project, by making it a short time thing at first, avoids some kind of dilution?
What a brilliant idea. Definitely a model to consider. Thank you very much for sharing…
Thanks, Aran! I looked a bit more into it and some things stand out:
- it seems to have been a very well coordinated operation, prepared long in advance, so people could really plan to be involved (a quick youtube search returns a lot of videos by various local communities for instance)
- it was supported (initiated even?) by political and cultural institutions, which I guess meant that the necessary financial help could be obtained
- a controlled communication (branding, youtube account, website, etc.)
- last but not least, being planned for “only” 11 days it probably drew more support than a longer operation (maybe that’s just me but I can see myself wearing a ‘let’s speak Welsh’ badge for a few days but probably not all year round)
I don’t know if this will help the language in the long run but I like the combination of short burst approach, renewed periodically, together with realistic goals (‘initiate some change in attitudes’ rather than ‘create new speakers from scratch’).
I also see that some criticism could be made that this leaves people without any Basque on the side, and the (too real) danger of making the language a closed club has been mentioned in this thread. At the same time it is also important to get people who already know the language (even partially) to make use of it (cf. in my mind the often mentioned problem of people stopping using the language when they leave school).
That kind of detail is really helpful - diolch yn fawr iawn
I think the short burst approach is a really good idea. I can see how committing to an initiative like that for 1 or 2 weeks with accompanying TV, radio and online support could give a huge boost without trying to keep it going all year round.
I think this is a brilliant option for those who have reasonable understanding but are not confident to speak. It might even encourage them to become confident in time.
I’m trying to learn how to use the forum so sorry if this comment is in the wrong place. I think a problem is persuading Welsh speakers to let learners practise on them. I live in an area where about 25% speak Welsh. I’m an early retiree, have been learning about 2 years and now have an allotment where I see 3 men who speak Welsh. I’ve had to be really persistent to have any conversations, I usually don’t understand their replies and as soon as I ask for a repeat, they switch to English! I think they genuinely don’t understand why I want to learn Welsh and it’s a lot more effort for them. I know I need to join Merched y Wawr but that’s on a Friday evening!
The problem seems to be more serious than just not needing Welsh in Wales. It’s that I can’t find Welsh speakers where I can use the language in any authentic way at the beginner level. I can, of course, corner my Welsh-speaking colleagues and force them to interact with me, but they’re busy people, too. I would like to do simple things, like order a coffee in Welsh, or ask the price of an item, or ask for directions, but I’ve yet to encounter a Welsh speaker here in Wales when trying to accomplish any of these little tasks. I’ll keep trying and keep learning, though.
Don’t underestimate the Welsh diaspora. There are a great many of us.
Harness our enthusiasm not only for the language, but sense of connection and identity. Call on us to channel our longings, energy and passion in creative ways that would help bolster efforts in Wales. Someone mentioned the Welsh Societies—they are a great resource because those located abroad have already had learn how to survive and keep the culture alive.
If it has not been done already, invite us into the conversation or ask the First Minister for Wales to do so—he broadcast to us on St. David’s Day, so he knows we are ‘out there’
Fame at last!
I’d imagine that part of the problem is simply that learning a new language as an adult, trying to fit your learning around work, family etc is one hell of a commitment. I’d imagine if you looked at most language classes (French, Spanish etc) there would be a pretty big gap between those who start off learning and those who go on to fluency.
I think this is spot on - making the language part of everyday life is a goal for so many of us, even when we’re “fluent”. Obviously that’s easier in some areas than others! Have you seen the map on Parallel Cymru that indicates shops etc. where people have found Welsh speakers?
I appreciate this doesn’t help if you’re somewhere like Newport (and I’m working on that one…)
Also, encouraging people to wear the orange badges at work is another vital aspect - if you know anyone in any public-facing job, please encourage them to wear the badge/lanyard. If you want to get hold of one, you can ask your local Menter Iaith, Cymraeg Byd Busnes officer or the Welsh Language Commissioner’s team:
BBC Article on the Welsh Language/ BBC Erthygl ar yr iaith Gymraeg.
This BBC page has been archived so is not updated. However, it is very interesting not only to Welsh speakers and learners but to anyone with an interest in the Welsh language. Dated September 2014