Report says Welsh language 'losing 3,000 people a year'

The number of fluent Welsh speakers is falling by around 3,000 people a year, a new report suggests.

The Welsh Language Board (WLB) said deaths and people moving from Wales are having the biggest impact.

The report says that around 6,500 Welsh speakers die annually and 5,200 move away, out-pacing adult learners and children learning or raised in Welsh.

It found the number of people who say they speak Welsh fluently is approximately 300,000.

The WLB is being wound up by the Welsh government following the appointment of Wales' first Welsh language commissioner.

Its report, which uses the 2001 Census and other public data as well as its own research, is one of its most comprehensive in recent times.

New legislation passed by the assembly last year requires the new commissioner to publish a similar report every five years.

The WLB report assesses changes in the number of people speaking Welsh, as well as geographical and generational differences.

It found four areas - Anglesey, Gwynedd, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire - remain important for the language, accounting for 56% of all fluent Welsh speakers.

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Media captionThe report's author Hywel Jones says it's a changing picture on the Welsh language

It concludes that the number of people able to speak Welsh rose between 1991 and 2001, mainly because more young people were learning the language at school.

Brieg Powell, a first language Welsh speaker who now lives in Plymouth, said he left Wales for personal reasons.

"I did a PhD, I'm a lecturer and it was a matter of getting a job where I could. My wife is also a lecturer and in our line of work it's actually quite common for academic couples to be split between two cities."

He said he was passing on Welsh to his daughter.

"My wife is half Iranian so my daughter is learning Persian from her, Welsh from me, and then she's picking up English through childcare and through the environment here in Plymouth," he added.

"It's a conscious decision to pass on the language."

Dr Charlotte Davies, a recently retired senior lecturer in an anthropology at Swansea University, learned Welsh after moving to Wales from her native United States in the 1970s.

"I was doing research on the Welsh national movement for my PhD," she said.

"As an anthropologist you really are expected to learn the language of the culture that you're studying. There was really no question about it."

She said large numbers of people had been moving into predominantly Welsh speaking areas.

"To be fair, many of them do attempt to learn the language and many of them learn it successfully, but the numbers are not large enough," she said.

Further analysis of Welsh speaking is expected to come from the 2011 Census released later this year.

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