Ffwrch Cymraeg

The BBC has a piece on its website on the impact of the Welsh language in Wales and the tensions between native and ‘cultural’ Welsh speakers, following its bizarre but entertaining resurgence. Now, just as I approve of the study of Anglo-Saxon and Etruscan, I approve of the study of Welsh.

However, contrary to many of the opinions expressed in the article, Welsh is not in a meaningful historic sense the national language of Wales (any more than ancient Briton is the national language of England): aside from a few inbred hillbillies in the furthest-flung corners, the modern-day Welsh are descended from people who’ve been speaking English and its precursors since well before they even reached western Britain.

South Wales, culturally, is English-speaking, industrialised, working-class and Methodist (not coincidentally, a bit like Birmingham); north-east Wales is a holiday resort for Scousers, West Wales is the terrifying backwoods with almost no inhabitants; and the borders are England (has anyone ever encountered a less Welsh town than Wrexham anywhere ever?). The Welsh language is only of any historical import to the West Welsh; for people in Newport or Cardiff to learn it conversationally is just as wanky as 1920s public schoolboys conversing in Latin…

[disclaimer: PDF is half-Welsh, and his fathers are welcome to it]

2 thoughts on “Ffwrch Cymraeg

  1. Rob says:

    Newport is like Sunderland but full of grumpy welsh people. I can’t, however, decide whether that’s better or worse. Apropos of nothing, I once got let into a Newport nightclub wearing wellington boots and a red army tankies boiler suit.

  2. Dr Dan H. says:

    I can remember, whilst I was a student at Aberystwyth University, the insane stupidity that the bilingual policy caused there. If a student society wanted to receive money from the student union, it had to agree to produce all promotional material in both English and Welsh, which if you had to pay for translations was so expensive that you were better off not bothering.

    I can also remember a schoolchildres’ visit to the university. The teachers all spoke to the kids in Welsh exclusively. The kids chattered amongst themselves in English. Kids aren’t stupid; they can see a language which is on a sort of linguistic life support and which will drop dead if the support is withdrawn, and they mostly don’t want to know about it.

    This is really the problem; the English Government is trying to pull some sort of paternalistic leftie “language in a zoo” sort of thing, and is legislating to force companies in Wales to use Welsh even if they have no use for the language at all. Add in the Welsh Development Agency and what you end up with is a system whereby private enterprise turns into a competition to suck from the public pot, and actual enterprise slowly dies.

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