Wales politics

Welsh language target of one million speakers by 2050

Carwyn Jones
Image caption Carwyn Jones will hail Wales as a 'proudly bilingual nation' at the Eisteddfod

A drive to almost double the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050 has been unveiled by the first minister at the National Eisteddfod.

Carwyn Jones stressed the workplace, family, schools and the planning process as the key areas for action.

Alun Davies, minister for the Welsh language, admitted it was a "deliberately ambitious" target.

But Plaid Cymru's Sian Gwenllian called the announcement "another superficial stunt".

The 2011 census reported a drop in the number of Welsh speakers from 582,000 in 2001 to 562,000, about one in five of the population.

Traditional Welsh-speaking communities have been said to be under threat from young people moving away to find work and new housing developments attracting incomers who do not speak the language.

Ministers who launched the consultation at the National Eisteddfod in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, on Monday cited a growing demand for Welsh-medium education as a reason to be positive.

Proposals were outlined under six key areas for discussion:

  • Planning - how to make the Welsh language part of every aspect of life
  • Everyday life - encourage people to use Welsh and respect those who speak it
  • Education - how to introduce people to Welsh in school, college and adult learning
  • People - passing the language on to children and using it in the workplace
  • Support - through dictionaries and digital tools and Welsh language media
  • Rights - ensure laws promoting the official status and use of Welsh remain effective

"We are a proudly bilingual nation," said Mr Jones.

"We are confident the discussion we are launching today will continue to help us grow the language so it thrives as a vibrant, living part of our communities."

Mr Davies added: "There are challenges ahead, but we can undoubtedly face those in the knowledge that we are building from a position of strength."

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Media captionBBC Wales' James Williams reports

The Welsh Government ran a "national conversation" consultation on the use of the Welsh language three years ago in 2013, following the Census results.

Jamie Bevan, chairman of the Welsh language society Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, said many reports had been commissioned and published since then but "not implemented in full".

He said: "It's a shock that the government is beginning another consultation.

"Welsh as a vibrant community language is on its knees - we're losing 3,000 speakers a year at the moment."

Plaid Cymru's Sian Gwenllian welcomed the one million Welsh speakers pledge but said: "There's no need for another superficial stunt and there's no time to waste."

Neil Hamilton, leader of the UKIP group in the Welsh Assembly, also welcomed the commitment but added: "We need action not words."

The Welsh Conservatives' Suzy Davies AM said the "devil will clearly be in the detail of these plans".

In response to the claims that it was just another consultation, Mr Jones said: "The target didn't exist before the election.

"A million is ambitious and it is important that we ensure that we listen to experts around us so that the target is met."

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