The history of Welsh
Dafydd o Fae Colwyn
Actually I'm Dave from North Yorkshire, English born and bred, but I grew up in Colwyn Bay, and learnt Welsh for just over 3 years in the early 1950s - that dates me! Since I retired, I've taken a bit of a renewed interest in Welsh. I don't think we were taught very well - I don't recall us having much of either conversational Welsh or basic language structure. As far as I remember, we never learnt the Welsh for such basic words as 'please, hello, goodbye, if, when & why'. I was fascinated to read the "views" on this message board. I agree with some of the comments, but I think some are ignorant and bigoted. Ger from Newtown claims that first-language Welsh speakers are poorer at English, but I'm sure I've heard of surveys which show that children who grow up bi- or multi-lingual are more fluent all round. I tried to translate some of the passages in Cymraeg (eg. Myfanwy's) with the help of my Welsh dictionary, but quite a lot of words weren't in - I guess some were colloquial contractions (and yes, I know about mutations!). It would have helped if these contributors had included English versions, as the Irish gentleman (or was it a lady?) says.
As a boy, I was told by my elders about the legend of Welsh speakers breaking into Welsh in the presence of a Sais. I was never aware of this myself, although it seemed perfectly natural, when I was in a shop in Blaenau Ffestiniog, for people there to speak Welsh to each other - like hearing folk speak French in France! Nerys Jenkins's remark that people who make no effort at Welsh have no right to live there is a bit extreme, but I've some sympathy with it. My parents, grandparents and many of their neighbours lived for much of their lives in the Colwyn Bay area, and none of them made the remotest attempt to learn anything about Welsh. The general opinion was, and is (eg. Aidan Work), that it's all totally incomprehensible - spelling, pronunciation and grammar. The grammar certainly seems pretty erratic to me, but the pronunciation is straightforward - just a few rules, which can be learnt in about 5 minutes. Infinitely simpler than English (with eg. 7 ways to pronounce "ough"!!) The sample of Irish Gaelic shows how relatively simple Welsh is! Joe from Sheffield says some folk "just can't learn a language" - if so, how do they learn to talk?? Of course some people will find languages much harder - that's quite a disadvantage, like being unable to spell or do basic sums, but knowing other language(s) is a very useful skill. Personally, I've never been good at following people speaking in other languages. This is my own problem, but I don't think it would be a good reason for giving up.
One thing that struck me in many (but not all) of the comments was the poor standard of English. I was brought up with the old-fashioned idea that a text should consist of sentences, which begin with a CAPITAL and end with a full stop, and that spelling, grammar and punctuation matter. Have these people ever heard of Lynne Truss (of "Eats, shoots & leaves" fame)? I may be prejudiced, but I always get the impression that folk who can't (or won't) be bothered with these details are either uneducated or just lazy - the same applies to the huge number of typos in some comments. A reply to Aidan Work from Down Under. There are websites, guide books, postcards etc galore which give the full version of Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. But here it is, Aidan, with the words numbered, and a translation to follow:- (1)Llan (2)fair (3)pwll (4)gwyn (5)gyll (6)go (7)ger (8)y (9) chwyrn (10) drobwll (11)llan (12)tysilio (13)go (14)go (15)goch. (1)Church [of St] (2)Mary [in a] (3)hollow [of] (4)white (5)hazel, (6)quite (7)near (8)the (9)rapid (10)whirlpool* [and the] (11)church [of St] (12)Tysilio, [by a] (15)red (14)cave. * The notorious
Aneirin o Gaerdydd
Any language such as Welsh has more than a simply utilistic value; it also has a sentimental value, forming part of a persons or a nations cultural identity. Of course Welsh should not be killed off as some here would seem to suggest. But at the other end of the spectrum, Welsh speakers have no right to force their language upon other Welsh people who may have no wish to speak the Welsh language and are content with keeping a Welsh identity without going through all the hassle of learning another language. Diolch yn fawr am ddarllen a chyfrannu i'r drafodaeth hon. (Thank you for reading and contributing to this discussion).
This discussion list keeps banding about figures on language and so forth so I thought I'd straighten a few things out. These are facts and figures I encounter everyday, facts that I am in fact taught as a student of linguistics. Roughly 20% of people in Wales speak Welsh as a first language. Most of whom are bilingual in Welsh and English. The statistics are measured by counting those who use a language as a first language, therefore if you are bilingual, you will be counted in the Welsh speakers statistics and in the English speakers statistics. Here is something else to consider. 20% is a fifth of 100%. Only a fifth as some on this list would look at it. 20% of the population of Wales is roughly 600,000 whilst 20% of the world's population is 1.2 billion. Statistics don't give a very clear impression then do they?
If you take, for example, Iceland. Assuming 100% of the population speak Icelandic as a first language, then still only 300,000 people speak Icelandic. Half the number of people who speak Welsh. This gives a slightly different perspective on 'how well' Welsh is doing. With regards to it being a dead language, that is a very inaccurate and hurtful language. The 'moribund' languages as listed on the ethnologue total 516 languages worldwide, none of which are in the UK. As for endangered languages, Welsh isn't one of these either. These are languages which are being learnt by fewer children than there are adult speakers. Welsh is not one of these either. Roughly 5% of the World's languages are spoken by 5% of the World's people. It's an interesting statistic.
Adam Johns from Cardiff. As has already been pointed out on this list, Welsh is not a useless compulsory subject compared with other subjects, depending of course on the individual. You can choose to sit the second language Welsh papers, just like you can choose to sit the lower tier maths paper. Education is about educating people with regards to things which will be relative to them in later life, therefore, people living in Wales should learn some Welsh. Nobody's asking for them to write a novel or give their observations on some unique grammatical function within the language. The education committee wants to give pupils a level of Welsh which will enable them to understand basic Welsh should they encounter it in everyday life. It serves also to eliminate ignorance of the language which causes people to dismiss it.
The first language Welsh qualifications are for people like me, who speak Welsh fluently already, who use it as much as they use English, who wish to gain a standardised qualification in their native language. What's the point? What's the point of any qualification. I believe the same argument applies here.
With regards to your other comments: "The welsh speaking elite" yes it's all a big conspiracy isn't it :s "are trying to create pride in the 'language of Wales' (don't make me laugh)" Sorry for making you laugh there, but Welsh is the language of Wales. Just like English is the language of England. The Welsh language developped from Brythonic Celtic in the region now known as Wales. English and Welsh are now the official languages of the country, with English being spoken by the majority and the majority of Welsh speakers being bilingual with English as their second language. "among people in the South who have had nothing to do with it." My music teacher is from South Wales. He speaks Welsh, always has. Are you telling me his family doesn't actually exist and that he was placed here by Welsh extremist conspirators? "We should never forget that Wales is 80% non-welsh fluent and a great proportion of those have absolutely no desire to learn what is essentially a foreign language." It's actually quite easy to forget that statistic where I live. And no, Welsh is not a foreign language in Wales. It is an indigenous language. Look up foreign language on Wikipedia, it might help you out there. For you, it may well be an unfamiliar language, but it is not foreign.
Ashley of pontypridd I find your comments ridiculous. Just because Welsh has not been useful in your life that does not mean it should be dismissed. You're saying that I don't have a right to speak Welsh in Wales because you don't find it useful. This is not a dictatorship.
mr james, swansea
adam- welsh was until very recently the language of the valleys. the propogated myth is the one that tells otherwise. 'people of the south who have nothing to do with it'- frankly, you follow a lie that has been propogated by certain political establishments who try to persuade us that english is the language of progress. as recently as the 50's there were vast ammounts of monolingual welsh speakers living in south east wales-according to the '51 census, 231,722, 35%. have a look at the welsh language board's website. i'm told by my grandmother that you would struggle to find a competent english speaker in early 30's dowlais. the welsh language was only recently lost in these areas-two or 3 generations at most.I think we have a right to i)know about the history of welsh and how it was until recently the language of the majority and ii)the right for it to be taught to non-welsh speakers so they can join in their actual cultural heritage.
Robbie of Cardiff
The Welsh language means nothing to me. Couldn't care if it lives or dies. I do know however that the Welsh speaking census is not a true measurement of the numbers who actually speak Welsh. Several of my friends, (who I know cannot speak Welsh)told me they ticked the Welsh speakers box 'in order to boost the figures'. I have a suspicion that a lot of this 'wishful thinking' goes on, and the actual numbers of Welsh speakers are a lot less than we think. Also, the imbalance in the pro/anti representation is really bad. For instance, the long preamble leading to these letters was 100% in favour of the promotion of thw Welsh language, when clearly there is a large (probable majority)number who either don't care or strongly oppose the expensive and pointless forcing of Welsh upon them. The fanatic dominated media should be made to get it's act together and present a fair reflection of views.
Bleddyn o Landysul
To those who say that bilingual signs and our efforts to keep Welsh alive is pointless, just think about what you would do if German or French became the prominent language and English became a minority. You'd want to keep it alive and be different to the majority. Ry'n ni yma o hyd!
Rwth in Norwich
Ger of Newtown; I was always under the impression that bi-lingual place names were erected not to provide a literal translation for interested wordwatchers, but rather to reflect the fact that some places have historically laboured under two different names (which may or may not convey the same meaning) and therefore to bypass confusion by providing both forms. Why do these places have two names? Because English monoglots at some point entered the country and drove rough-shod over existing place names either because they contained unpronouncable phonemes or as an act of colonisation - you decide.
Ger of Newtown, Mid Wales
Bilingual signs? My home town is called Newtown and it has a welsh translation next to it but any town with a welsh name does not have the corresponding english! Why not? I suspect it's the welsh extremists push to get rid of anything to do with english. I just hope Westminster notices the trend and steps in before us english speaking welsh people are pushed out of our homeland.
Ger of Newtown, Mid Wales
It's easy to lose sight what a language is mainly for i.e. to communicate, if you want to learn welsh fine, but the children that learn welsh as a first language have poorer english skills which is not good if they seek jobs outside little ole wales(obviously some welsh speakers will argue different). Also its a shame of the huge ammount of money spent printing everything in welsh as well as english when our poor welsh hospitals are deprived of much needed funds. Who are we kidding that welsh is as worldly useful as english.
Aidan Work from Wellington,New Zealand.
Welsh must surely rank amongst one of the world's most difficult languages to learn.I am very surprised that there are Welsh people who know how to spell the full 58-letter version of LlanfairPG (which is located on the island of Anglesey) correctly without leaving out a single letter,let alone pronouncing it.Here in New Zealand,we have a Maori place name in the Hawke's Bay region that is also claimed to be the world's longest,but it is one letter short of LlanfairPG's fully spelt out name.Can anyone please spell out LlanfairPG's name in full & tell us what each part of the name means?
Eira Goss, Rhondda
I am very passionate about the Welsh culture & very proud of my Welsh identity but am very frustrated by trying & failing to speak Welsh. I did a fantastic evening course called Cwrs Wlpan which I can recommend to anyone wanting to learn the language, but my problem is that I do not know anyone with whom to converse in Welsh. As a result, everything I learnt on the course is now so rusty in my mind that I struggled to get the gist of most of what has been written in Welsh. For the moment, I have given up trying to learn the language.
I think everyone who treasures Welsh culture as I do & has the opportunity to keep the language alive should realise what a lucky position they are in. Also, I agree with SD in England who says he doesn't believe that people whose native tongue is Welsh would choose to speak their 2nd language English until an English person walks in, then switches to Welsh! I heard Dennis Waterman say something similar in a television programme "New Tricks" (I think) & I was really fuming over such an outrageous comment. I have spent alot of time in North Wales & have never experienced this - I'm sure they don't wait to hear my accent before they decide which language to speak! Anyway, I believe the Welsh language is on the increase again & just as well - we need to nurture what's left of our heritage.
duine eile ó Bhéal Feirste, Éire
Welsh is a language which is spoken to various extents in all of Wales. It does play (and always has played) a much bigger part of Welsh life than any other language apart from English. Practically speaking, Spannish, French, and German etc. have virtually no impact in modern Wales. Although Wales is not billigual (which in my belief is not neccessarily an asset), it is nowhere near being a mini English-monoglot 'West' England. To Joe from Sheffield - ok, you live in Sheffield, but for most people living in Wales, I would presume that Welsh would perhaps be more useful in day to day life than Geography or Chemistry, and probably as important as History and Biology.
On the other hand, there are still doubts about the survival of the traditional Welsh speaking heartlands of the north and southwest of the country, which is an issue that has largely been ignored in the media. Far too many young people are emigrating to the South East, and if this continues, it will have a catastrophic impact on not just the language (which might I add is the only unique resource that many of those areas poccess) but also on the entire population demographics into the future.
Focal amháin eile, ná scríobh i mBreatnias le do thoil. Ceart go leor, tuigim atá sí i lár bhur gcroí, ach ag an am céanna, is teanga an-dheacair í a thuiscint le hachan duine nach bhfuil líofa sa theanga aoibhinn sin. WHAT? Basically, while I accept that many of you have a real passion for Welsh, please don't write in Welsh, as your comments are (unfortunately) deemed useless by any one who doesn't speak the language.
AMAL FROM CARDIFF
i find this astonishing as i felt as though there were far more welsh sepakers in the wales. i would however like to know . the amount of welsh speakers in th united kingdom. as it would be nice to see how popular the language is. your faithfully Amal xxxxx
I think the compulsary teaching of Welsh till 16 in schools is a good thing for Wales, the part of Wales I come from was originally a Welsh Speaking area in the 1800's until the influx of miners in Start of the coal boom started replacing the language with English lets hope Welsh can be spoken as a native language along with English in all parts of Wales.
Ashley of pontypridd
Absolute lies! The welsh langauge has no relevance in our country. I am sick and tired of being told otherwise. I am now halfway through my life as a welsh man. I do not need to be instructed on how to be welsh from silly,power-driven activists,who will grab power from the honest working welshman. OH! and by the way, why on earth can't we get digital TV in the valleys? We pay the same licence fee as everyone else in the UK. But we get a third rate service. Not good Enough. If the small percentage of our population want a Welsh language TV channel, They should pay for it and stop inflicting their idealism on to the majority of this great nation.
Pam, Canada ex-Carmarthen
The language must be kept alive. I still speak it after many years in this country. I am proud of my language. In answer to the person who asked why Welsh needed to be propped up -- it's because far too many non-Welsh live in Wales that we are in danger of being over-run.
I use Welsh every day when at work and with my friends. There are many Welsh speakers in Cardiff, so there are plenty of opportunities to speak it and more people are learning all the time. The South East of Wales isn't a traditional stronghold of Welsh, but an increase in the number of Welsh schools and migration from rural areas means that Welsh is now well represented here. Many untruths are often spoken about Welsh that anger me. It is not a dying language being preserved by a bunch of fanatics in remote mountain hideaways. It is a modern, living language that 21% of the population speaks and this number is growing. Nor are Welsh speakers 'language fascists' that talk in 'welsh code' just to annoy non-welsh speakers. There is no seperation in the community between Welsh and non-Welsh speakers, most people probably find they have bilingual and monolingual friends (I know I do).
There are people who would like to see the money spent on Welsh being spent elsewhere but that is not really a realistic option and would succeed in alienating over a fifth of the population. Some jobs require a knowledge of Welsh but most do not and anyone who claims that they can't get a job because they can't speak Welsh is trying to divert attention from the real reason! I love speaking Welsh and it is a central part of my character. I was shocked that many of my fellow countrymen used the 'Voices' message board to take a pop at the Welsh language. To me Welsh is a beautiful language and the country would be a poorer place without it.
kerry hogins from Rhyl
I agree, we must protect the welsh language its a heritage to wales.
Welsh doesn't recieve money to prop it up - it recieves money to pay for services that already exist in English - road signs, official documents, schools etc. They are there because the people demanded it. Is the English language not also propped up by money in Wales? Are road signs, teachers, schools and lawyers all free in English?