21/11/2012

Why I send my kids to a Welsh medium school



One of the kids - enjoying Cyw and Rapsgaliwn!

Wales is lucky to be a bilingual nation. Having two languages, especially two languages that come with such deep and vibrant cultures attached, has been a great asset to this country.

I consider myself lucky to have gone to a Welsh language primary and secondary school.

Being able to speak Welsh gives you access to a whole other culture. Countless books, festivals, television shows, songs, stretching back decades, centuries, and millennia, all are made available to me by the simple fact that my parents decided to give me a Welsh medium education.

Languages aren’t simply an interchangeable series of signs. They create meaning in different ways. A different language allows you to see the world differently.

Having access to this second world hasn't hindered my ability to speak English in any way. I am now a university lecturer and teach through the medium of both languages.

I can enjoy what the Welsh language has to offer as well as the English language. I can read the Mabinogi one minute and turn to Shakespeare the next.

I can flick over from the X Factor to the Eisteddfod and back again (although the latter has by far the better singers).

Learning a new language is a win-win situation. It doesn’t push any other information out of your brain. You get what you would have gotten anyway, and a lot more besides.


Why I'd want to deprive my own kids of this same benefit, and confine them to one language when the local school offers a linguistic BOGOF, I can't possibly imagine.



This may seem obvious to you, reader, but it seems that one particular anti-Welsh language ‘campaigner’ in Ceredigion has a hard time swallowing these basic facts.

A website run by this anonymous fellow received a large amount of press coverage in the Daily Mail and Telegraph last week, despite the fact that his claims were wholly unsubstantiated.

Note: He refers to himself on the website and twitter account as ‘we’, but I’m quite sure that this is the royal ‘we’. There’s no one else involved. (Although there seems to be a remarkable correlation between his opinion and one other account he's retweeting).

On his website he claims to be an entirely reasonable fellow who wants a discussion about Welsh medium education in Ceredigion.

However, his website originally contained allegations that children had been punished for speaking English in the classroom – allegations which have now been removed (because they were untrue).

Being a parent myself with children who are and will be attending a Welsh medium school in Ceredigion, I decided to challenge this fellow on Twitter.

His responses revealed the true nature of his ignorance regarding welsh medium education. Consider a few of these pearls:

“Join us on our glorious march out of the dark ages - we say ONE world ONE language.”

I can imagine Spanish, French and Chinese may have something to say about this.

“Let's talk economics - welsh is fine for songs and poetry at the Eisteddfod but English is the exciting language of science and progress.”

So English isn’t allowed to discuss songs and poetry then? Or does this arbitrary rule only work one way?

“When schools become all Welsh it is a statement to the world that says we do not want progress.”

No, they think ‘Oh, there’s another language. There’s thousands of them’.

So do French schools not want progress? Arabic schools? What about those Japanese schools? Urdu? Who wants progress and who doesn’t, hands up.

Unsurprisingly, what is taught at these schools is actually a rather better indication of the quality of the education that the language in which it is taught.

The ironic thing perhaps is that those opposed to Welsh medium education underestimate the spread of English. They seem to think you can live your life as a monoglot Welsh speaker. That hasn’t been the case since the middle of the 19th century.

Every Welsh speaker can speak English! I cannot emphasise that enough.

“If the world didn’t waste time catering to different languages, science would be more advanced. Its political correctness gone mad!”

I wonder if scientists at the multi-lingual Cern laboratory are saying ‘If only we’d abolished all these pesky languages, we’d have found that damned Higgs boson by now!’ Probably not, they’re clever people after all.

“I am proud to be Welsh but it doesn't look good to multinational businesses that we school our kids in Welsh.”

What multinational businesses are these? McDonalds? Apple? Google? Microsoft? Exxon?

Since these companies deal with hundreds of languages world-wide from day to day, the fact that a few kids were taught in Welsh is likely to be the least of their worries.

So I doubt ‘multinational business’ are particularly perturbed to be honest. Even if they did have a requirement that staff can speak English, let us not forget that all Welsh speakers can also speak English too.

And so on…

As a lecturer in the history of journalism these statements are very familiar to me. In fact you could pick them out of a manuscript from the 16th century, or a 19th century newspaper.

Here we have the age old and endlessly debunked, argument that the Welsh language is somehow holding back the people of Wales.

In fact historically the opposite is true. This attitude helped to keep Wales in the “dark ages” far longer than it needed to be.

The charitable trusts that were sent to educate the populace in the 17th century insisted on English only education, for the precise reasons outlined by our friend above.

They failed, and Wales was only dragged out of the “dark ages” when pioneers such as Griffith Jones introduced Welsh medium schools in the 18th century.

The idea that you have to speak only English to get a good job in Wales in also an anachronism, that dates back to the Acts of Union that legislated that only English speakers could hold important posts in the country.

Luckily today we live in a more enlightened Wales where neither language is a barrier to progress.

My children can attend a Welsh medium school in Ceredigion and I can be confident that they will be able to speak both English and Welsh by the time they’re five years old.

The Welsh language is no more of a hindrance to speaking English and getting a job through the medium of English than, say, being able to drive a car hinders your ability to be able to climb a flight of stairs.

It’s an extra skill, and a handy one to have in many cases.

When I challenged our friend on this, he claimed that he represented “the silent majority” who are “campaigning for fairness”.

As a journalist I’ve met people the length and breadth of Wales and can confirm that there isn’t an anti-Welsh language majority in the country. Especially in Ceredigion, where roughly 50% of the population can speak Welsh themselves. Even amongst those who are able to speak English only, the vast majority are supportive of the language.

He then argued that “the child cannot focus on the language of business. The science says two languages is at the expense of things like maths .”

The science doesn’t say anything of the sort. In fact it seems to suggest that bilingualism enhances cognitive activity.

When challenged to produce evidence he retorted: “we must not waste time arguing about minor details, we should think about grand ideas and plans for the future though”.

Minor details? Either Welsh medium education is bad for our children or it isn’t. Unless he can provide any evidence that it is, it’s time to pack up the campaign and retire.

He finished with a plea: “but does progress count for nothing? Does it mean anything to you?”

Yes, progress does matter to me. And yes, it seems as if we have not advanced as far as I had hoped. I thought we were done rebutting arguments like this back in the Victorian age!

80 comments:

  1. Brilliant blog!

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  2. Be mae Mr Bilingo heb ddeallt ydi, dros y byd i gyd, mae tyfu i fyny yn siarad dwy iaith (neu fwy) yn llawer mwy cyffredin na medru siarad un iaith yn unig...

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  3. I went through a Welsh medium education, and I think it was one of the best decisions my parents ever made! I know when I be having children they be going to a Welsh medium school, as I believe that I have benefited significantly from being able to speak both languages fluently. The benifits of having two languages over one are endless.

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  4. I can only speak english i wasn't given the luxury of having Welsh education. I want to send my future children to Welsh Medium School, but more must be done to move all of Wales schools over to a bilingual model. So every child benefits from it and we can truly claim to be a bilingual country.

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  5. Ma'ch dadl mor syml i ddeall, dw i'n rhannu'r post 'ma nawr. Diolch.

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  6. Ie, mae Rhys W uchod yn gywir. Dw i'n magu fy mhlant yn y Gymraeg, er fy mod i'n Sais sy wedi dysgu Cymraeg fel oedolyn, a hynny yn Sussex, lle nad oes dim ysgolion Cymraeg. Mae'r ysgolion Cymraeg yng Nghymru'n drysor cenedlaethol.

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  7. Erthygl gret Ifan, ond plis: Don't feed the trolls!

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  8. Excellent post Ifan, I only wish you had the same media coverage as the original "story" last week. Our 3 adopted kids (5,4,3) came from the North of England into Welsh medium school and nursery in Gwynedd, they were all fluently bilingual within 12 months and I'm incredibly proud of them for that.

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  9. Wedi bod yn dysgu Cymraeg fel oedolyn. Sadly, my Welsh-speaking mother was one of those who thought that Welsh would 'hold you back'.

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  10. I came from abroad; it is my desire to speak Welsh fluently and for my children to speak Welsh fluently. They attend a Welsh medium. You are correct that most English-only speakers in Wales respect Welsh, however I work with several Welsh people who resent and complain daily about the language.

    From my view, the problem isn't outsiders stopping people learning Welsh, but Welsh people resenting and refusing to use the language.

    I am in the south...

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  11. This was a nice blog until I got to this comment:

    "but more must be done to move all of Wales schools over to a bilingual model"

    Why? That's social engineering...not meeting natural need. It is exactly why so many of us are suspicious of the motives of Welsh language activists. I couldnt be more supportive of an individuals right to have their children educated through Welsh. South East Wales councils are currently bending over backwards to provide this for parents (many of whom may have moved there from the fro Gymraeg). However, this is a bilingual country and therefore it should be the same for somebody moving from South East Wales to Ceredigion... English Medium should be there for their children should they want it. If you dont agree with that (as I know many Welsh nationalists dont) then you are a hypocrite. You cannot pick an choose the concept of a bilingual nation. That is not equality.

    Also, as a final point, Wales is not mono-cultural. I have lived in South Pembs my whole life and am incredibly fond of the difference and depth of culture I experience if I head north into Ceredigion.... but do professional Welsh nationalists have the same fondness and respect for my culture and history. Do they accept that the Welsh language has no relevance historically or currently here, and that we actually have our own historical dialect. Would Welsh nationalists help us protect that in an independent Wales I wonder... or would they roll through South Pembrokeshire with a sledge hammer cymraegifying all our village names and history

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    Replies
    1. Welsh medium education promotes bilingualism English medium never has and never will. That is the reality. If you are truly in favour of Wales becoming a bilingual nation then the only way to achieve that is indeed for every school to become properly bilingual and in todays Wales that means Welsh medium. Of course this could only come about through and with the will of the people. Oh and by the way that statement that the Welsh language has no historical relevance to South Pembs is totally incorrect and quite honestly daft.

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  12. It's obviously tricky to put a precise figure on it, but the general consensus is apparently that 70% of the world's population speaks at least two languages fluently.

    There's a very stupid miconception that language-acquisition is a zero-sum game. It is not an either/or issue at all. In the case of children in Welsh-medium schools, learning Welsh has no detrimental effect whatsoever on their English.

    It's an easy choice: let them learn two languages fluently, or just the one? Why on earth would anyone choose the latter? In Welsh-speaking areas in particular, that's actually weirdly and needlessly cruel.

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  13. I agree that the basis for either WM or EM education should be to meet natural need. I'm a Welsh speaker from Carmarthenshire but if I were to move to Monmouthshire I shouldn't expect obtaining WM education to be hassle free. On the same basis, people who don't wish their children to receive WM education shouldn't expect obtaining EM ed to be hassle free in a county like Ceredigion where the natural need for it is low.

    The recent fuss is in response to this development: http://www.tivysideadvertiser.co.uk/news/10046519.Town_primary_school_to_become_Welsh_medium/

    'Cardigan Primary School has provided both a Welsh-medium stream and an English-medium stream for its pupils. In recent years fewer parents have been opting for the English-medium stream and this trend required the school to re-organise the teaching groups in order to accommodate the falling numbers within a sustainable structure. The school saw the need to address the situation in the long-term and decided to consult with parents on a proposal to change from a dual-stream to a Welsh-medium primary school.'

    A couple of parents are unhappy that they don't have the choice of educating their children in English in Cardigan because the need for it is so low. They responded by spreading a couple of rumours about children being punished for speaking English in local schools and somehow a couple of newspapers picked up on it. They have, of course, retracted the allegations since then.

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  14. @comment 11/22/2012 11:11:00 AM
    Also, regarding your final point, I'd assume that every country in the world by now has a variety of cultures. Even the most exclusive countries have other cultures influencing upon it. But, when I speak of Welsh culture, I speak of the culture specifically related to Wales rather than all cultures in Wales. So, in terms of promoting Welsh culture and heritage; it is Welsh culture and heritage that should be promoted in Wales rather than all cultures in Wales.

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  15. Well put Ioan but is it not a legal requirement for ALL Welsh councils including Monmouth to survey the appetite for Welsh medium education... yet no similar legal requirement exists for surveying the desire for EM in the fro Gymraeg. Also there is no English language commissioner that people can take their concerns to. Where is the equality in that?

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  16. There's a valid reason for legal requirements to promote the Welsh language and that is because of its historical decline partly due to the oppression upon it.

    If you go back to the beginning of the sixties the Welsh language had no rights in the public or private sector in Wales; all documents and signs were English only. There was hardly any WM education; the first publicly funded WM school wasn't opened until 1947.

    The legislative law since then to protect and promote the language have been to right the wrongs of the past. The same cannot be said for the English language. Saying that there needs to be an English language commissioner to promote the English language in order to right the wrongs of the past isn't a very credible argument.

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  17. ... but on your second post, not so well put I'm afraid. When you say 'Welsh culture', there is no doubt you mean Eisteddfod's/the language/Mabinogion/Glyndwr etc etc. Can you not see what it's like telling somebody from certain parts of Wales (i.e. South Pembs, Monmouthshire, VofG and to a lesser extent anyone outside the fro)that the only culture that should be promoted in Wales is your particular interpretation of Welsh culture?? That's no different than a British Nationalist telling a Scot or a Welshman that the only culture that should be promoted in Britain is the British Culture! Now I know that Welsh Nationalists wouldnt like that, so why should I like what you're suggesting when here in South Pembs we have never spoke Welsh, our towns (Pembroke, Milford Haven and Tenby) have never held an Eisteddfod and the only thing we know of Glyndwr was when he popped in to burn our towns to the ground!

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  18. As an Englishman living in England and paying taxes where a small portion will end up subsidising the Welsh language - I actually think it's money well spent.

    Wales is very lucky to have this bilingual culture and parents in Wales would be mad not to take advantage of it for their children even if they speak no Welsh themselves. I just wish that the Saxons hadn't managed to make such good progress across the rest of Britain so we could have enjoyed the same benefits across the UK !

    Having English as our only language both an advantage and a curse. It's an advantage that the rest of the world has, luckily, adopted English as the international language and therefore everybody is equipped work internationally but it makes us lazy and deprives us of linguistic capability because of our pervading monoglot culture. Language teaching is depressingly poor in most state schools in England.

    If we were to have bilingual schools in England, what language would we also use; French (probably politically unacceptable :-)), Latin (nobody left to speak it), Old English (ditto) or British ?

    I, for one, would be keen to see a revival of the 'British' language (i.e. Welsh, since Cumbric and Cornish have already been driven into extinction) across the whole of the nation so we can all enjoy the benefits that Wales enjoys. I'm pretty sure that I would be in a minority though as I bet most English people don't even realise that Welsh poetry like Y Gododdin is actually describing events in and was probably written in what is now England !

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  19. Ioan Teifi 02:04:00 PM:
    Please try and be reasonable here. You commanded my respect with your first post but with your second and now this 3rd one, you are becoming self righteous! This is 2012 and I'm afraid the old 'righting wrongs' argument holds no weight amongst the objective. You are falling into the '2 wrongs to make a right' trap.

    An English speaking Welsh Person in Gwynedd has no right to an English medium education for their children. A Welsh speaker in Monmouth does have a right to a Welsh medium education for their children... and if it is not provided they have a Welsh language commisioner who can appeal their case. You speak of 'equality' and 'rights' but are quite happy to turn a blind eye when some are clearly more equal than others! That smacks of a 'What's mine (the fro Gymraeg) is mine and what's yours (the rest of Wales) is ours' attitude.

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  20. I am being reasonable and since when is righting wrongs not relevant in the present age? I'm not 'falling into the 2 wrongs make a right trap' because the system we have in place currently is not, in my opinion, wrong.

    'An English speaking Welsh Person in Gwynedd has no right to an English medium education for their children. A Welsh speaker in Monmouth does have a right to a Welsh medium education for their children.'

    Could you explain how an English speaking person in Gwynedd hasn't got the right to an EM education? Gwynedd is a broadly Welsh-speaking area of Wales and as such it is difficult to acquire EM education there. Monmouthshire is a broadly English-speaking area of Wales which makes it difficult to acquire WM education there. Everyone in Wales has a right to either a WM education or an EM education but it is more difficult to find the service for both in some areas over others- corresponding to the natural need.

    That's the difference between the situation we have today and the situation if you go back half a century which makes your '2 wrongs' argument nonsense. There was no WM education publicly funded before 1947 even though that the most recent census before then in 1931 showed that 36.8% spoke Welsh, with Anglesey recording a concentration of speakers at 87.4%, followed by Cardigan at 87.1%, Merionethshire at 86.1%, Carmarthen at 82.3% and Caernarfon listed 79.2%.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Welsh_language

    There wasn't a choice back then; the only choice for state sponsored education was through the medium of English.

    For that reason; following a great deal of campaigning, legislation has been passed to right those wrongs. There isn't a need for legislation to be passed to right any wrongs done to the English language in education because there aren't any. It's not a case of a lack of equality and frankly, arguing that because the Welsh language has received legislation the English language should also receive some is just immature.

    As a final note; you’re not kidding anyone by trying to make out that you are being objective here.

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  21. Rhodri ap Dyfrig11/22/2012 03:21:00 pm

    @Anon

    "An English speaking Welsh Person in Gwynedd has no right to an English medium education for their children. A Welsh speaker in Monmouth does have a right to a Welsh medium education for their children..."

    Dependent upon Welsh language ability and then split into streams, some children in Gwynedd already receive parts of their education in English at secondary level. I'm afraid that your argument is based on a false premise.

    Gwynedd schools aim to: "...ensure that all pupils in the County possess balanced bilingual age related proficiency so as to enable them to fully participate in a bilingual community. Age-related bilingualism
    implies that pupils possess appropriate language skills in Welsh and English." see: http://www.gwynedd.gov.uk/upload/public/attachments/1110/gwynedd_welsh_education_scheme__2011.pdf

    Which begs the question - why would any parent exclude their children from having full experiences in the bilingual society in which they live? Unless that objection is founded the idea of rejecting society as it is, and creating a monolingual English language society within / parallel to the rest of that society. How is that a healthy attitude to full and responsible participation in civic life?

    "and if it is not provided they have a Welsh language commisioner who can appeal their case."

    Commissioners are put in place in order to ensure that government policy (on language, children or disability etc) which aims to address current imbalances that are laid out in government strategy, and to make sure that those policies are adhered to and developed according to the government's wishes.

    Seeing as the English language is pretty well catered for in Wales already in pretty much every domain conceivable, I doubt whether there would ever be any legislation put in place to protect and promote the further use of English, and if even if there was, I doubt that that English Language Commissioner would have any work!

    The government is committed to developing Wales as a bilingual nation. This does *not* exclude English. The point of gov language strategy is to make Welsh a language which is available to everybody (to whatever degree of proficiency that might mean) alongside English.

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  22. It's not difficult 2:26, pupils who have attended Welsh medium schools will be bi-lingual when they leave school. On the other hand, pupils who have attended English medium schools, will only speak English when the leave. You are not comparing like with like. It really isn't that difficult to understand......

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  23. You seem to be losing your cool a bit here Ioan. I have not resorted to personal insults so I dont see why you need to.


    I do not need a history lesson on the Welsh language. What I need is for somebody to address these 2 irrefutable facts:

    - There are no English medium primary schools in Gwynedd... NONE! ZERO! In fairness, you do not seem to be aware of this (and you may want to read up a bit before responding) but saying that it 'can be difficult' to find a Welsh medium school in some other parts of Wales is not equitable to that fact! That is not equality! Again, as I said, there is also no legal requirement to survey appetite for English medium education in Gwynedd like there is for Welsh medium in every other county in Wales.

    - The Welsh language commissioner is there to defend the rights of those in Monmouth wanting Welsh medium education. Your explanation as to why there is no English language commissioner to defend the rights of those perhaps wanting EM education in Gwynedd is simply not acceptable and it is here that your bias and self-righteousness creeps in.

    I have only been entirely objective in what I have written and simply query why there is not complete equality. Telling yourself that I have not been objective does not alter that... it's above in black and white for all to see.

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  24. In relating to your earlier post Mr Anonymous Said, following the Anglo Saxons' arrival in Britain many of the many of the Britons retreated to this part of the island which made up the Welsh population. Different kingdoms were formed with different entities but the all had a common identity. They all shared the same language, law and culture. Two of those three are still with us today; just about!

    The arrival of the Normans and Flemish changed things dramatically and they formed their own societies in Wales. The Flemish arrived in south Pembrokeshire and made a lasting impression upon it which still lasts today. The Flemish gradually gave way to English as the dominant culture and language and has been known as 'Little England Beyond Wales' ever since.

    More recently, the effects of globalisation has had its effect on Wales and the Anglo/American culture influences heavily upon Wales as it does around the world. So, Wales is a diverse multicultural country but the same could be said about most other countries in the world. There are all sorts of different cultures in England; Eastern European, Islamic, Jewish, Irish, Welsh and so on but there's only one state sponsored culture which is, of course, English culture. It's Shakespeare rather than the Welsh language as one commentator posted above. The same should be true in Wales. Although there are many different cultures in Wales, and although that our culture hasn't been relevant to some parts in centuries; Welsh culture is the only culture that should be sponsored by the government. What would you call for? Investment in promoting the culture of the ancient Flemish society in Wales, or the Norman culture, or English culture for that matter?

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  25. Thanks for your thoughts Rhodri

    "Which begs the question - why would any parent exclude their children from having full experiences in the bilingual society in which they live?"

    It may well beg that question Rhodri but you are changing the subject entirely. I am speaking about rights and why there is not 100% equality. Please no more subject changing... I really do want to know why my two bullet points in the post above are wrong. Without that all I am left with is the impression that there is equality throughout the majority of Wales but not the fro Gymraeg. Unless you prove my points wrong then we are left with is clear indication that A Welsh speaker moving to Monmouthshire has more rights than vice versa.

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  26. I don't understand why you would want a school that doesn't teach Welsh in Gwynedd, any more than you would want a school that doesn't teach maths or art. Welsh is a very useful skill to have in Gwynedd because most of the population speak Welsh. It doesn't make any practical sense to have English-only schools in the county.

    Children are taught Welsh and English within Welsh medium schools. I left primary school able to speak both languages, and in high school some of my subjects were in Welsh and others in English. That seems perfectly equable to me, and I really don't see what the problem is with that. On the other hand, depriving me of the language (without recompense) would not have been particularly fair given that I grew up in an area where a large portion of the population spoke it as their first language.

    An English language commissioner is not needed. English already has at least parity, and usually dominance, in every aspect of life. Arguing that we need an English language commissioner just because Welsh has one, is like arguing that we need a campaign to save the common house cat just because the panda has one. It doesn't make any sense.

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  27. Good points Ifan but you're still changing the subject. If only one of you had the cojones to admit that a Welsh speaker in Monmouthshire has more rights in relation to their choice of education than a non Welsh speaker does in Gwynedd. If you could just admit it then we could all perhaps just live it... why must there be so much smoke and mirrors where the Welsh language is concerned?

    Now I didn't really want to get dragged into your tangent argument but your point about 'why would anyone not choose a Welsh medium in Gwynedd' only stacks up if you live there from your children were born. If somebody from elsewhere in Wales is moving to Gwynedd with their 13 year old child then why should they not have the option for their child to continue his/her education in English. They are after all only moving within their own country (supposedly with 2 official languages). Again, as I said before, this smacks of 'What's mine (the fro gymraeg) is mine and what's yours (the rest of Wales) is ours'. It's not particularly inclusive for your fellow Welsh folk.

    I could go on to highlight cases where lack of choice and no legal right to English education could be a problem for people who may only be moving to Gwynedd for say, a couple of years. I suppose it could be argued that this is already having an impact on NHS staffing levels in the area... but that's a whole other conversationlow Welsh folk.

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  28. Many of the commentators above have noted the difference between students not having the opportunity of EM education in Gwynedd and WM education in Monmouthshire but whilst you acknowledge that they are good points; you accuse them of changing the subject. It's not changing the subject; it's making a valid point you seem to be unable to answer. Receiving WM education in Gwynedd doesn't deprive a child from speaking the English language; if they have difficulties in learning through the medium of Welsh there is a system in place to accommodate for that.

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  29. I don't think anyone has to 'right' to demand that a school catering for their own educational preferences are set up in any particular area. I never like sports; should I have the right to demand a school where that subject isn't taught? No, you make do with the educational provision in your area, just as many people in the centre of Cardiff who want a Welsh school have had to make do with the English educational provision in their area.

    Schools serve their communities. If those communities as a whole want their school to be Welsh, then Welsh it will be. No individual has the 'right' to come in and demand that another school be founded just because he or she doesn't want their child learning Welsh (for reasons we're yet to establish).

    If somebody is moving to a community in Wales where the settled will of the people is that their community primary and secondary school teaches through the medium of Welsh as well as English then I'm sorry but that person will just have to adapt. Why he would be aghast at the prospect of his offspring learning another language I can't begin to understand. If I moved the France, even for a couple of years, I wouldn't be shocked and appalled if my child learnt French at school - I'd be pretty damn pleased to tell the truth. It wouldn't do her any harm and it could do her a hell of lot of good.

    The problem for you Sir is that your views just aren't shared by the majority of the community in which you live. Schools teach through the medium of Welsh as well as English because that's what the majority of people want. We all know how hard to please parents can be - if something is not to their liking they're not going to sit back and take it. These schools teach through the medium of Welsh because the parents want them to do so. Should one person's opinion count for more than everyone elses? No. Should an English-only school be founded just to please one parent who, for some undisclosed reason, dislikes the Welsh language? No.

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  30. "I don't think anyone has the 'right' to demand that a school catering for their own educational preferences"

    but they do! All over Wales you have the 'right' to Welsh Medium education with free transport provided to your nearest WM school. No such thing is provided for EM in the Fro gymraeg. Now your points may be interesting but they do not alter the fact that that is inequality!


    As for English schools being founded to please parents.... How would you know?!? As I keep saying there is no legal requirement for councils to survey the desire for EM education but there is for WM. Again... Inequality!

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  31. As I said Anon schools are there to serve their local communities, not the desires of individuals. If I moved to an area where there was no desire or provision for Welsh medium education I would just have to like it or lump it. You can't set up a school no one wants to send their kids to. There are plenty of communities where no-Welsh language provision exists and I would have no 'right' to call for it if the wider community didn't want it. Where Welsh medium schools are being set up it is because parents want them. You'll find that they're quite full.

    Education in Wales is run by local councils which are elected by the people. If there was this great groundswell of opinion opposing Welsh medium education as you claim the situation would soon change (hell we've even got a campaign in Gwynedd against the closing of public toilets, yet nary a peep regarding the terrible injustice of Welsh medium education).It’s just not an issue. The truth is that the only person actively campaigning against Welsh medium education is one anonymous keyboard warrior and his prefab website. Doesn't say a lot for the strength of feeling behind this 'campaign', does it?

    You're just going to have to face it, I'm afraid. There's just no desire for English-only education in Gwynedd.

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  32. Anon- you obviously have no knowledge of Gwynedd with your repeated assertion that a lack of English medium education in Gwynedd means that parents wishing to follow this particular route have to put up with a situation of inequality.

    Ysgol Friars in Bangor is to all intents and purposes a monolingual English language secondary school- which actually draws pupils from a wider catchment area than Bangor itself. These pupils have perfect freedom to learn in English. The tragedy is that most of these pupils leave this particular school with no bilingual skills at all, and are thus at a disadvantage, not only in searching for employment in Gwynedd, but in the whole of Wales!

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  33. The purpose of school education is to give the knowledge and tools to enable a person to live their lives and prosper. In a majority Welsh language area a key skill will be the ability to communicate with the majority of the people in their chosen language. Thus it is essential that all pupils leaving schools in these regions are completely bilingual. The best way to achieve this is through Welsh medium education.

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  34. "Where Welsh medium schools are being set up it is because parents want them. You'll find that they're quite full."

    I know and I'm all for it... but as I keep saying they are being set up as a result of a legally required surveys carried out by the council. You cannot speculate about whether people in Gwynedd want EM unless you ask them. I'm not saying they'll want EM... I'm just saying it's inequality that they're not asked. You dont seem to grasp that.

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  35. Everyone here seems to be forgetting something. There is not a single designated Welsh-medium secondary school in Gwynedd, where everything is taught in Welsh. Not one. The idea seems to be that Gwynedd's demography makes each school naturally bilingual, so some classes are in Welsh and others are in English. The wisdom of that policy is a different debate entirely. But this discussion thread here is based on a false premise.

    "If somebody from elsewhere in Wales is moving to Gwynedd with their 13 year old child then why should they not have the option for their child to continue his/her education in English"
    I went to the only secondary school in Caernarfon, which is pretty much the ultimate heartland of the language. A few new kids from English backgrounds would join every now and then. But here's the thing: they were taught in English. Presumably they'd receive some Welsh lessons, but it's not as if they were plonked in a physics class while the teacher pontificated at length about electrical resistance in a language they didn't understand. You really are ranting about a situation that just doesn't exist.

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  36. "Anon- you obviously have no knowledge of Gwynedd"

    I'm not claiming to have any knowledge of Gwynedd.... but I do know this- Somebody from Gwynedd can move here to South Pembrokeshire and request Welsh medium education for their children and have free transport to Ysgol Preseli up in Crymych provided. If I moved to Gwynedd and asked to have EM schooling for my kids I'd be called 'an anti-Welsh bigot' and to sling my hook

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  37. Your obsession with these council surveys is quite bizarre. There are a thousand and one ways parents could let their opposition to Welsh-medium education be known if they wished. I doubt they’re even aware of these surveys to which you attach such great importance. Where the Welsh language provision has been inadequate parents haven't sat back and waited for the council to arrange a survey, they've campaigned and cajoled and written letters and made themselves heard. There isn't a great mass of parents out there who want English-only education but are patiently waiting for the council to organise a survey. Not one letter has been written to the paper on the subject. Not one placard has been waved in anger. This from parents who will complain if the school gate is opened five minutes late.

    If people want something, they ask for it. And no one is asking for it. I’m sorry to disappoint you.

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  38. If you moved to Gwynedd and demanded an English-only school be erected in the community just so that your kids could receive English-only education, when the majority in that community want bilingual education, you would be considered unreasonable, yes. The difference in South Pembrokeshire is that there are some communities there who want English-only education and some that want a bilingual education. A person moving from Gwynedd wouldn't presume to tell a community in Pembrokeshire to set up a bilingual school in an area where the settled will of the people is to have an all-English school, so I can't see why the reverse should be true either.

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  39. "Your obsession with these council surveys is quite bizarre"
    Fine... call it bizarre if it makes you feel better. It is still something that is afforded to Welsh medium education in Monmouthshire that is not afforded to English Medium in Gwynedd.




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  40. In 1929, a school story was published, about a young English woman who set up a school in Austria. Her first few pupils were English, French and German speakers and some were boarders. So she made a rule: two days for each language and on Sunday you can speak what you like. The series of books about the school (the Chalet School) ran for about 30 years and they remain hugely popular. If I were making education policy, I'd require every school to teach through the medium of another language at least one day a week - the likely reduction in performance on fact-based exams caused by imperfect understanding would be vastly outweighed by the improvement in cultural breadth and general mental expansion. Everyone would hate it and complain about it (especially the teachers!), but that's nothing new! I have difficulty believing that any educational philosophy could fail its young people more comprehensively than that which prevails in most 'Western Nations' of my acquaintance, and everyone seems to hate that as well so it wouldn't make matters any worse in that respect.

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  41. Cytuno'n llwyr!
    And the fact that this guy won't even attach his own name to his anti-Welsh language drivel says it all, really.

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  42. Anonymouse - where abouts do you live; I'd love to carry on this discussion with you in person.

    How about the Saddlers Arms; I can be there in 30 mins.

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  43. Wow! What a lot of comments this post that I have just seen has attracted. I'm replying in English as that was what Ifan posted in, just to say thanks for this, Ifan and also to say a bit more about one thing. The belief that bilingualism or multilingualism can negatively affect language acquistion and use is not just something found in Wales, as all the research on bilingualism attests. And the research shows that we benefit from having the opportunity to learn and use more than one language. English speaking Britain and America are unusual in the number and percentage of monolingual speakers. ALthough Welsh was not spoken in my home, I am enormously grateful to have been brought up in a Welsh speaking community in Caernarfon, and with my father's family (my grandmother and aunt, mainly) insisting on speaking Welsh with me. I didn't always find it easy, my Welsh wasn't brilliant, and having moved out of the area I've spent a long time re-learning. But now, like Ifan, I can enjoy Welsh novels and other cultural activities through the Welsh language. And once I retire, perhaps I will have enough time to brush up and improve my Italian and French and enjoy those more too

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  44. "The Welsh language is no more of a hindrance to speaking English and getting a job through the medium of English than, say, being able to drive a car hinders your ability to be able to climb a flight of stairs."

    Many public sector jobs now require the ability to speak Welsh, so not speaking Welsh can be a barrier to getting a job – that isn't equality. If "every Welsh speaker can speak English", why is the ability to speak Welsh essential for such jobs?

    If there is equality in terms of language why is there only a Welsh Language Commissioner and not just a Language Commissioner?

    I think that the Assembly recently passed a resolution that said the languages should be treated equally. I've attended meetings conducted in English, where mandatory Welsh translation was provided – why is that necessary if everyone speaks English?

    As I understand it (and I may be misinformed), National Eisteddfod committee meetings are conducted entirely in Welsh with no translation – apparently it's written into the constitution. This doesn't seem very inclusive and would be regarded as discriminatory if the language used was English.

    I'm not anti-Welsh. Last week I attended my first Welsh class at the local Welsh Language centre and I'm going to try my best to learn the language. At 59 years old, I don't think it will be easy.

    I'm very sympathetic to the language and its preservation, but there is an imbalance in this "equality".

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  45. Great blog - it really is quite simple isnt it? I'm writing this in English (and my English is pretty damn good!) but could equally well write it in Welsh. WHAT could possibly be the issue/problem with this 'BOGOF' (LOL) practicality.

    The essence is those that get their knickers in a twist can not comprehend this simplicity; this skill; this gift. They display their fear and ignorance (in the true sense of the word) and will do their kids a disservice in order to feed their irrational and anachronistic prejudice.

    I can not stress the simplicity for myself and for my 8 & 10 year old kids in running 2 sets of vocabulary, 2 syntax, 2 grammar concurrently. To be so transparently bilingual is no mean feat and so is a gift and serves far greater riches than 'simply' being able to speak two languages. There are far more dimensions to it - even my enhanced cultural awareness and seemingly an ear for other languages has served me well on business projects in places like Mexico, Chile and Hungary (and helped clinch the deal)!

    Forget the dinosaurs as the kids will be fine. This BOGOF is a no brainer!

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  46. @Anonymous, if you want to kickstart your Welsh, get yourself over to http://www.saysomethinginwelsh.com. There's a fantastic free course of 26 purely audio lessons in either South or North Wales dialect that you can listen to in the car, on a train or whenever you've got a spare few minutes.

    I've just finished the course and I now consider Welsh to be my 2nd language. I'm a little younger than you but not much and my previous language learning has a dismal record - aborted 'Russian in 3 months' after 7 years, and unable to order a sandwich in Subway in Caen despite supposedly having a French 'O' level !

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  47. “Many public sector jobs now require the ability to speak Welsh, so not speaking Welsh can be a barrier to getting a job – that isn't equality. If "every Welsh speaker can speak English", why is the ability to speak Welsh essential for such jobs?”

    Wow, this is quite a change of tack. Rather than arguing that a Welsh-medium education is holding our children back, you’re now arguing that those same kids will have an unfair advantage and get all the best jobs because they can speak Welsh. Which is it? You can’t have it both ways.

    The ability to speak Welsh is advantageous to some jobs in education because of the demand for Welsh-medium education. It’s advantageous to some jobs in public relations because many people prefer to communicate through the medium of Welsh. Every Welsh speaker can speak English, but that doesn’t mean they don’t prefer to communicate through their own first language.

    “If there is equality in terms of language why is there only a Welsh Language Commissioner and not just a Language Commissioner?”

    We’ve been through this already. For the same reason there’s a Campaign to Save the Panda rather than a Campaign to Save the Animal. Not all animals need saving, and not all languages do either.

    “I think that the Assembly recently passed a resolution that said the languages should be treated equally. I've attended meetings conducted in English, where mandatory Welsh translation was provided – why is that necessary if everyone speaks English?”

    That’s interesting. It’s usually the reverse that is true – translation is provided for English speakers when Welsh is used, but not vice-versa. In fact I’ve never been in a single meeting where a Welsh translation was provided, and I attend a lot of meetings. Out of interest, when and where did this happen? It’s certainly not the norm.

    “As I understand it (and I may be misinformed), National Eisteddfod committee meetings are conducted entirely in Welsh with no translation – apparently it's written into the constitution. This doesn't seem very inclusive and would be regarded as discriminatory if the language used was English.”

    The National Eisteddfod is conducted entirely in Welsh. See my previous post further down this blog for more details. It wouldn’t be considered descriminatory at all if the reverse was true – in fact hundreds of thousands of meetings are conducted in English across Wales every day with no Welsh translation. The majority, in fact. If that isn’t true in your case, you seem to be living in 12th century pre-Norman invasion Wales. How you have managed to access to the internet from your motte and bailey castle I’m not sure.

    “I'm not anti-Welsh. Last week I attended my first Welsh class at the local Welsh Language centre and I'm going to try my best to learn the language. At 59 years old, I don't think it will be easy.”

    Good luck! Stick with it will be well worth the effort.

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  48. “Many public sector jobs now require the ability to speak Welsh, so not speaking Welsh can be a barrier to getting a job – that isn't equality."

    ALL jobs require an ability to speak English. Not speaking English means you can't get ANY job - is that equality?

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  49. I grew up in Wales, but unfortunately didn't have a Welsh medium education. My parents also believed that learning Welsh was a waste of time that would hold you back from learning more 'useful' things. I think this was the way a lot of our parents felt and that passed down to the way us kids saw Welsh language growing up. No one paid much attention in Welsh class- it was almost seen as a free period- a chance to mess around because we didn't need to waste our time with Welsh. Many years later, I'm in my mid thirties and I am now bilingual in Japanese after having lived in Japan for 11 years (I moved away from Wales when I was 18), and also speak pretty fluent Spanish after living in South America and some French. Speaking other languages truly enriches your life. I think differently in Japanese or Spanish and there are ways to express yourself in one language that often don't exist in another. I am proud to be multi-lingual, but something I regret is that apart from a few phrases and words, I don't speak Welsh, the language of the country I still call home. Learning Welsh as a child certainly wouldn't have held me back, it would have opened a new world and given me another skill. If I were to move back to and raise children in Wales, they would certainly be sent to Welsh medium school to discover a whole world of culture and ways of expression unknown to their mother. Your children are very lucky!

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  50. What a fabulous post - shame it will be wasted on the monotone anglophonic mob. I can hear them now as the time you spent on learning those life enriching languages could surely have been spent better on err, doing Rocket Science?

    They will never 'get it' which is why those of us that do, and then do so much more must simply ignore them.

    If this was about cars they would be the ones carrying the red flag in front...

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  51. @Anonymous - 11/22/2012 02:26:00 PM

    "An English speaking Welsh Person in Gwynedd has no right to an English medium education for their children. A Welsh speaker in Monmouth does have a right to a Welsh medium education for their children..."

    You're confusing the right to be educated in Welsh, with a right not to learn English.

    Parents living in English speaking areas who want their children educated in Welsh do not object to them learning how to speak English.

    Someone demanding a right to English medium education in a predominantly Welsh speaking area is essentially demanding the right for their child not to learn how to speak Welsh.

    That is completely different from someone demanding the right to Welsh medium education in an English speaking area. The main point being that they do not demand a right not to be able to speak English. They simply want their child to be able to speak English and Welsh, and not just English.

    Why someone would demand the right not to be able to speak Welsh when they live in a Welsh speaking area is essentially like someone demanding the right not to be able to speak English in an English speaking area.

    This argument of equality is clearly contrived, and constructed by someone looking for some form of excuse to justify their opposition to the Welsh language. Why choose to live in one of very few places in the world where the Welsh language is a community language, only to work against it? Especially when there are so many monoglot English communities across the whole world to choose from, if that is your preference.

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  52. This was my first comment on your post so I wasn’t “changing tack” or trying to “have it both ways”. It is nevertheless true that there are some jobs for which the ability to speak Welsh is not only advantageous but is deemed essential, despite the fact that “everyone speaks English”.

    I do understand that people will “prefer to communicate through their own first language” but if they speak both languages, a simple preference isn’t justification for the ability to speak Welsh being requirement in public sector jobs. If a significant proportion of people in Wales spoke only Welsh then it would be justified, but unpleasant though it may be, many people in Wales speak only English.

    The principal aim of the Welsh Language Commissioner is to promote and facilitate use of the Welsh language – which isn’t the same as “saving” it. If the two languages are to be treated equally than having a commissioner for just one of those languages is discriminatory. I know Welsh was discriminated against in the past – which was unfortunate – but we live in the present and replacing one form of discrimination with its opposite isn’t really a sensible way forward.

    The Welsh Language Commissioner’s website says that “In Wales, the Welsh language should be treated no less favourably than the English language” and that “Persons in Wales should be able to live their lives through the medium of the Welsh language if they choose to do so.” If there is genuine equality for the two languages, then the reverse of those two statements should hold true.

    “Out of interest, when and where did this happen? It’s certainly not the norm.”

    It was a 10-week series of lectures about the history of Denbigh in Denbigh Town Hall.

    The National Eisteddfod isn’t a meeting, it’s a week-long, major cultural institution and I’m not convinced that an event with a similar status conducted entirely in English, but within Wales, wouldn’t be a major political issue.

    Thank you for your encouragement to continue with my studies and I’m glad you think it will be well worth the effort. Your comment about my 12th century pre-Norman invasion motte and bailey castle was perhaps unnecessary, although in Wales I do sometimes feel like I’m living on a different planet if not in a different era.

    And in respect of the following comment by another anonymous:

    “ALL jobs require an ability to speak English. Not speaking English means you can't get ANY job - is that equality?”

    We live in the UK, where the majority language is English. Wherever you live, you have to speak the majority language to get a job, but Wales is part of the UK and is supposedly bilingual. Ifan says “everyone speaks English” so insisting on an ability to speak Welsh is unnecessary.

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  53. My reply is split into more than one part, because it was too long!

    “This was my first comment on your post so I wasn’t ‘changing tack’ or trying to ‘have it both ways’.”

    If you could post using a name – any name, it doesn’t have to be your own – it would make my job of replying much easier! And if you are new to this discussion, you may want to read over the previous comments, as many of your questions have already been answered at length.

    “It is nevertheless true that there are some jobs for which the ability to speak Welsh is not only advantageous but is deemed essential, despite the fact that “everyone speaks English”.”

    I didn’t deny that there weren’t. And I explained the reasons why above.

    “I do understand that people will “prefer to communicate through their own first language” but if they speak both languages, a simple preference isn’t justification for the ability to speak Welsh being requirement in public sector jobs.”

    Yes it is. Speaking in Welsh isn’t a requirement ‘in public sector jobs’, just in a small number of education and public relations jobs, for the reasons I outlined above.

    However I don’t buy your argument that ‘a simple preference’ isn’t justification for Welsh being a requirement in some public sector jobs. You argue that your ‘simple preference’ to have every public service in English-only overrides the rest of the community’s ‘simple preference’ to have Welsh-medium services. So, is your ‘simple preference’ more important than a Welsh-speaker’s ‘simple preference’? Is what you want more important than what a lot of other people want?

    Please remember that Welsh speakers are tax payers too. I and other Welsh speakers want services in our own first language and it is only proper that the public sector, which receives a large amount of our money through various taxes, meets that need. I’m perfectly happy to pay for other services that are of no use to me personally. Should I campaign for the abolition of treatment for lung cancer for smokers because I’ve never tried a cigarette? No. Or against senior bus passes because I’m in my twenties? Nope.

    “The principal aim of the Welsh Language Commissioner is to promote and facilitate use of the Welsh language – which isn’t the same as ‘saving’ it. If the two languages are to be treated equally than having a commissioner for just one of those languages is discriminatory.”

    What’s the difference? I think you’re reduced to arguing over semantics here. If something worthwhile is in trouble of disappearing, be it the panda or the rainforest or the Welsh language, you set up a campaign to save it. The English language isn’t in trouble. It would take all the nuclear bombs in the world to endanger the English language. Paying a commissioner to try and save it would be a waste of time and money. That’s not discrimination, it’s common sense. Just like its common sense not to pump funds into a campaign to save the house cat or the Sahara Desert. They don’t need saving so there’s no point wasting money on trying to save them.

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  54. “I know Welsh was discriminated against in the past – which was unfortunate – but we live in the present and replacing one form of discrimination with its opposite isn’t really a sensible way forward.”

    The English language isn’t being discriminated against in any way. Several people have pointed that out above but you either aren’t listening or are choosing not to understand.

    There are no barriers to person living his life through the medium of English in Wales. None at all. What you’re arguing is that a person should be able to turn up in one of the few communities in Wales where Welsh medium services are provided and demand that they are only provided in English.

    When we say “Persons in Wales should be able to live their lives through the medium of the Welsh language if they choose to do so” we don’t mean that a person should be able to live in any area and use any school or shop or company be able to demand that they operate in Welsh. What we mean is that Welsh services should be available in Wales – but the onus is definitely on the person, within reason, to seek them out.

    “It was a 10-week series of lectures about the history of Denbigh in Denbigh Town Hall.”

    Well lucky you. I’ve never come across such an English to Welsh translation service. It’s perfectly possible that you’ve managed to stumble across the only one.

    “The National Eisteddfod isn’t a meeting, it’s a week-long, major cultural institution and I’m not convinced that an event with a similar status conducted entirely in English, but within Wales, wouldn’t be a major political issue.”

    Erm, there are no end to festivals that conduct their business only in English. Most of them, in fact. The only reason the Eisteddfod is ‘a major cultural institution’ is that it is conducted only in Welsh. If it was conducted in English it would just be another festival like hundreds of others conducted in Wales. Read my blog on the subject here: http://ifanmj.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/a-message-to-those-who-want-english.html

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  55. “Your comment about my 12th century pre-Norman invasion motte and bailey castle was perhaps unnecessary, although in Wales I do sometimes feel like I’m living on a different planet if not in a different era.”

    That does seem to be the case. Reading your comments you would think it was the English language on the edge of the abyss. Your comments are a bit like a grey squirrel arguing that the red squirrel is hogging a small bit of woodland in Anglesey.


    “We live in the UK, where the majority language is English. Wherever you live, you have to speak the majority language to get a job, but Wales is part of the UK and is supposedly bilingual. Ifan says “everyone speaks English” so insisting on an ability to speak Welsh is unnecessary.”

    Here we get to the nub of the matter. This is the old ‘there aren’t many tigers left so let’s just shoot the rest’ argument.

    You do not seem to have realised that languages have worth in and of themselves. To the monolingual English speaker, languages are just a means of getting your point across, and it doesn’t make sense that some people would want to get their point across using a different system of signs. But in reality languages are more like musical instruments – you can create different meanings and different sounds with them. Perhaps English is a violin, Welsh a bassoon. Just because there are more violins in the world than bassoons, and you can play F- in both, doesn’t mean we should get rid of all the bassoons on the planet.

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  56. I’ll try to explain this to you in a way you (may) understand. More people on earth speak Chinese than speak English. Does this mean that you would be happy if everyone on earth stopped speaking English and started speaking Chinese, just because more people spoke that language?

    Imagine China invaded the UK. This happened about a thousand years ago so it’s water under the bridge. What if there were only a few English speakers left? They can all also speak Chinese. However they prefer to communicate in their own first language, which is English. That is the language they were brought up speaking, and they have their own culture which is uniquely English. Despite the fact that they can speak Chinese and take an active part in Chinese culture, they still feel a strong attachment to their own language and culture.

    They know that if they stop speaking the language that’s it for all those English classics – Chaucer, Brontë, Conrad, Dahl, Dickens... the list goes on. Someone has translated Shakespeare to Chinese but there’s no rhyme and no iambic rhythm so it’s just not the same. All those idioms, all those ways of speaking that are unique to the language, will go. It’s the same with any films, TV shows, song lyrics and so on that have ever been created in English. Apart from the occasional academic in the department of dead and lost languages in London (re-named New Beijing) no one will ever be able to read or hear and understand them again.

    You set up a festival to celebrate English language culture, conducted through the medium of English. That makes perfect sense as English language culture is, inevitably, written and performed in English. Even though it’s extremely popular, with over 60,000 visitors in a week, it faces constant demands to be translated into Chinese. Despite the fact that it’s one of the few places where you can speak English for any period of time before having to switch to Chinese, the authorities intervene. You can’t read Shakespeare in English! You must read it in Chinese, so that everyone can take part! This despite the fact that there are hundreds of Chinese poetry festivals in the area every year. The people complaining about your English festival don’t even bother attending them, and in truth wouldn’t bother attending your festival if it was changed to Chinese. But for some daft reason, the existence of this one English festival annoys them.

    Is this a situation that makes sense? No, of course it isn’t. There is worth to the English language. All those books and songs and films and TV shows and plays that have been created over thousands of years are worth something. It would be a tragedy if Shakespeare was flushed down the toilet. A crying shame if every tape of The Simpsons was lost. The language itself, with all its idiosyncratic little meanings, is worth something. The contemporary culture of the language, which continues to create output despite the massive pressures on it from without, is worth something. It isn’t motivated by money, like so much of the output of Chinese culture, because there’s no money to be had with such a small audience. It is simply motivated by a love for the language and a desire to create art with it – unique art that could not exist in other languages, because each language is different.

    If you don’t see the worth in different languages, all I can say is – learn another language! You wouldn’t see the worth in the colour blue if you’ve never seen it, you wouldn’t see the worth in a piano if you’ve never heard one. In the same way it’s impossible to truly appreciate Welsh without being able to speak it. Everyone who can speak it is agreed; it’s a beautiful language. So good luck with the lessons!

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  57. I love love love learning Welsh, which was my father's first language and one I have begun learning in my 30s. I also work with students of modern languages so I am totally convinced by the benefits of learning a language, broadening your horizons, coming to a different culture through its language, seeing things in a new way... it's been a revelation to learn things about Welsh that help me to understand my dad through this medium. People who don't get that and who cut themselves off from it are missing out, it's that simple.

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  58. Peidiwch dod ar eisteddfod i mewn i'ch dadl oherwydd mae cannran mawr iawn o hanes cymru yw'r eisteddfod a dylai bobl sydd ddim yn deall yr iaith fod yn fawr ddiolchgar bod yna ddewis i wylio s4c gyda is-deitlau saesneg! Mae gan bob person hawl i ddysgu'r iaith ond mae gan y Cymry hawl hefyd i gael ysgolion uniaith Gymraeg yn ogystal a rhai dwyieithog.

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  59. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  60. Mi wnaethon ni symyd i Gymru pump blwyddyn ers talwm i give y plant dwy iaith. Dan i'n Saesneg. Ond dan i'n weld y opportunities yn giving y plant iaith cymraeg am y future. Ers talwm i symyd, dw i'n dysgu Cymraeg hefyd, i helpu y plant yn y future.
    PS.....Mae ddrug gen i, mae fy nghymraeg yn ofnadwy!!!!!

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  61. Dal ati Jane! Roeddwn i'n deall bob gair!

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  62. Like you this is post of two parts.

    PART ONE:

    I tried to post using my Wordpress ID, but Blogger didn’t seem very keen on that, so I selected anonymous.

    “I’ll try to explain this to you in a way you (may) understand.” – A bit condescending perhaps?

    You referred me to previous posts, so if you look again, you’ll see that I didn’t say that I want every public service in English only – that would be ridiculous.

    If you inferred that, I apologise for the lack of clarity, but I still don’t see the need for a requirement to speak Welsh in a particular job because as you said “everyone speaks English”. The ease with which people move between the languages is remarkable, so it’s unlikely a monolingual English speaker would be unable to communicate because of an inability to speak Welsh. Obviously it’s different in a school that teaches through the medium of Welsh, but I can’t see a reason for it anywhere else.

    Compelling people to speak English is no more acceptable than compelling people to speak Welsh would be. It should be an individual choice and the last thing we need is legislation and rules because they just bring out the worst in people.

    There IS a difference between “saving” and “promoting” and it isn’t just semantic. “Saving” is an emotionally-charged word implying danger or a serious threat and in my experience of living in Wales I don’t see a threat. Perhaps if I were Welsh it might be different, but the language is definitely far healthier than it was 40 years ago and I think its future is very positive.

    We’re all taxpayers and I don’t object to services being available in Welsh, but I do object to every institutional communication being routinely produced in two languages because of the cost. It must be possible to target service users on the basis of a preferred language instead of generating tons of waste paper at our expense. I throw away the Welsh letter from the council because I can’t read it and you probably throw away the English one. That’s wasteful in both languages – particularly as we’re supposed to be thinking about the environment.

    I’m NOT arguing that I should be able to “turn up in one of the few communities in Wales where Welsh medium services are provided and demand they are only provided in English”. If that was what you inferred, I apologise.

    “Well lucky you. I’ve never come across such an English to Welsh translation service. It’s perfectly possible that you’ve managed to stumble across the only one.” Slightly sarcastic response maybe?

    Perhaps we just move in different worlds, but almost anything public that happens around here is usually conducted in both languages. I hadn’t thought of Denbighshire as a beacon of equality, but maybe it is …

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  63. PART TWO:

    “The only reason the Eisteddfod is ‘a major cultural institution’ is that it is conducted only in Welsh.”

    I know you can write, sing or recite poetry in Welsh, but I didn’t realise you could dance or paint pictures in Welsh too. (That was a bit childish, but I couldn’t resist it.)

    The Eisteddfod is a unique institution, but I wasn’t criticising the Esiteddfod, I was criticising the fact that their committee meetings (or so I’ve been told by a committee member) MUST be conducted in Welsh – it’s in the constitution. The performances are in Welsh because it’s an expression of Welsh culture, but I don’t see why you can’t be on the committee if you don’t speak Welsh. As we’ve noted elsewhere, translation services are available.

    I live in Wales, I pay my taxes here and I contribute to the Welsh economy. I went to Bangor University and one of my sons went to Glyndwr University. My wife and her whole family are Welsh speakers. I was marrried in Chapel in a bilingual service – but I couldn’t be on an Eisteddfod Committee (even though I might have something constructive to offer) because I can’t speak Welsh. I think that’s wrong – but I don’t expect you to agree with me.

    (I did understand the whole Chinese metaphor by the way, but I couldn’t give a toss about Shakespeare!)

    I don’t have the same attachment to my “culture” (or any culture) that you obviously have, so perhaps it’s inevitable that we’ll disagree, but it isn’t a question of “either/or”. A great deal of what you’ve said was very interesting and I probably need to reconsider some of my preconceptions, but it isn’t wrong to question the validity of institutions like the Language Commissioner or the Eisteddfod Committees – and the fact that the questioner isn’t Welsh-speaking shouldn’t automatically imply that they’re being hostile or that they expect everything to be conducted in English.

    I’m an outsider in Wales (just as I was when I lived in Manchester and London for a total of 28 years) and perhaps outsiders just see things differently to the natives.

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  64. Perhaps some one will advise which language is treated unfairly in Wales or rather the pupils . Council in Wales have a policy that if you want to go to an English speaking primary when your local Welsh Primary is full then your travelling will not be subsidised however you can go to Welsh school then you will get a subsidy. Not all parents are sufficiently adapt that they can teach their children Welsh and have to opt out for the least hard option

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  65. Back in the day (mid 70's) in my South Walian English medium comprehensive, we had an art teacher who came in bemoaning the fact that the BBC had done a programme on bilingual children and gone to Canada to do it...

    I spoke Welsh as my first language before I started school, but my parents fell into the trap in Wales in the 70's that English medium schools were the way to go and I lost my Welsh for the most part. Thankfully, after 25 years living in Essex, its coming back. Why? The availability of the much maligned S4C on digital TV.

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  66. http://ifanmj.blogspot.com/2012/11/why-i-send-my-kids-to-welsh-medium.html

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  69. Surely the whole point is that Children who receive a Welsh Medium Education will be Bilingual in Welsh and English. Only a few having an English Medium Education will be.

    Children in Gwynedd speak Welsh and English, Children in Monmouth mostly only English. You cant compare them.

    Bilingualism benefits all children throughout Wales.

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  72. Anonymous poster on 25/11/2012 @ 11:45 re English to Welsh translation in Lectures at Denbigh Town Hall. I was also at those lectures and no such service was provided it was Welsh into English

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  73. I hesitate to contradict you but you perhaps weren't at the lecture in question, which was presented in English by a Welsh speaker from Ynys Môn.

    At the end of the lecture (in English) a woman asked a question in Welsh.

    The question was translated into English for the rest of the audience by the translator.

    The lecturer then answered the question in English.

    I make no comment about the perceived rights or wrongs of what happened – I'm just telling you that it did happen.

    Unlike you, I didn't attend every lecture and so I can't comment on any other occasion, but it happened that time whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

    Let me reiterate. I AM NOT ANTI-WELSH OR ANTI-WELSH LANGUAGE. I am trying to learn how to speak the language, but the entrenched attitudes on BOTH sides of this "debate" don't exactly encourage anyone to continue.

    I'm not going to be put off by the endless displays of petulance from English language and Welsh language zealots, however, and will continue my studies in earnest in the new year.

    I've only been actively learning for a few weeks by the way, in case you require some sort of "proof" that I'm actually doing so, but the Eisteddfod will be in Denbigh next year and I'd like to be able to communicate at least at a basic level on the Maes.

    Nadolig Llawen i chi!

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