Monday, 15 August 2016

Why the Welsh Language absolutely should not die.

Earlier this month, BBC Radio Live Five sent a tweet asking someone to speak on air about 'why the Welsh Language should die', before apologizing.  As it turned out, No one was found who was willing to profess such an opinion.  Such comments, did, and rightly so, trigger a hostile reaction from both the Welsh Language Commisioner and Leanne Wood, leader of Plaid Cymru.  Leanne's response, which I thought was excellent, argued that the Welsh Language belonged to everyone in Wales, and an attack on the language was an attack on Welsh people in general.  I certainly agree and believe that now is an appropriate time to argue why I believe that the Welsh Language is so important.
       I, being a language learner, did French for A Level and after my A Levels, I spent a little over a month of that Summer in Brittany, another Celtic Country, in order to practice my French and see if I could hear any Breton, an endangered language very similar to Welsh.  But it was after I arrived there that I realized how important Welsh is.  One day, my host family and I bumped into a non-French woman who had moved to Brittany and learnt French.  I spoke to this lady, and it turned out she was Irish.  Nevertheless, my host family kept referring to her as l'anglaise - 'The English Woman.'  I pointed out to them that no, she was not English, that instead she was from the Republic of Ireland which was not only not part of England, that it was not even part of the UK and hadn't been for nearly a Hundred Years.  However to my Host Family, it didn't matter, to them the Irish were English.  This was an attitude or belief that cropped up more than once while in France, and I had also encountered it on the Continent before.  
       The same belief/attitude does not appear to exist towards the Baltic States, all three of which gained independence from the Soviet Union only 25 years ago, or towards the other Post-Soviet states by that matter.  So many countries have gained independence from larger neighbors since the Ireland gained independence in 1922, and yet they are not dealt the same injustice of being thought of as the same as their former conquerors.  Why is this? Once word: Language.  In spite of everything about Ireland that is different to England, its culture, its geography, its history, its republican system of government, the be all and end all with regards to whether or not many people deny whether you exist as a nation appears to be whether or not you're ancestors adopted the language of their conquerors.  
       Wales, like Ireland, has a lot that is different from England; its geography, its culture, its architecture, its success at Rugby and its institutions such as the Eisteddfod.  But unlike Ireland, Wales is still part of the United Kingdom and is much more linked to, and integrated with, England than Ireland is; not only in terms of geography but also economically, demographically and with regards to its transport infrastructure.  Welsh people are therefore even more likely to be referred to as English by people from outside the British Isles.  It therefore seems that in the eyes of the much of the west of the world,  whether or not Wales is a nation in its own right or merely a western province of England depends on the survival of the Welsh Language.  And for those who say that Welsh no longer has a right to exist because of Globalisation, is anyone seriously saying that because of globalization, the Estonians should stop speaking Estonian and instead adopt Russian?   

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