Thursday, 21 September 2017

Nothing 'Modern' or 'Progressive' about the Collapse of the Welsh Language

Welsh-Speaking areas in 1931
Welsh-speaking areas: 1961 vs 2001.














I was once travelling from Tregaron to Aberystwyth, when a fellow passenger, herself from outside the British Isles, described the death of the Welsh Language as 'inevitable' and 'natural' because the world was more 'modern' and getting 'better connected.' I've heard other people, often but not always from outside Wales, describe the Language as an outdated mode of communication to be replaced by English just as letters have been replaced by emails.  To some, an Anglicised Wales is inherently more 'modern' and 'progressive' than a Welsh-speaking one.

My response to this? Rubbish.  Absolute Rubbish (although I didn't say it at the time).  Is an Estonian-speaking Estonia less modern than what a Russian-speaking Estonia would be like? No, since Estonia, the country that invented Skype, is much richer and more techno-savy than Russia is now.  Estonia, Slovenia and Iceland, to name three examples of other small countries,  speak their own languages, and yet are, in my opinion, more modern.  Their respective GDP's per Capita are higher, and their Education and Transport systems are in a better state - they are, ironically, to use that lady's phrase, a lot 'better connected' than Wales.

But maybe you think, that because Wales is not an independent country, its language is therefore only a 'local' language, and not a national one, and that therefore, its demise is inevitable.  You may well point to the fact that language minorities within other countries have been assimilated, and therefore claim that in Wales's case, it is inevitable and 'natural'.  Well, it's not.  The Hungarian-speaking areas of Romania and Slovakia, the Catalan-speaking areas of Spain, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland, have not been disappearing in the way that Welsh-speaking areas in Wales have been since the 1960s.  If those minorities don't have to put up with their communities being assimilated, then why should the Welsh?
Finland. 'Middle-shade-Blue' Areas on the Mainland are majority Swedish-speaking, while Cyan areas have significant minorities speaking Swedish.  The dark blue Aland islands are monolingual Swedish-speaking.  These areas are not under threat like Welsh-speaking areas in Wales are.
On the contrary, the destruction of Welsh-speaking areas since the 1960s is something fundamentally old-fashioned and pre-modern.  When you have a situation where the locals are the ones being  assimilated (culturally and linguistically) by the newcomers, and not the other way round, it is not only outrageous, but, dare I say it, colonial. And because it is neo-colonial, it has no place in a democratic and post-imperialist twenty-first century. I say that as an Englishman myself who has lived in Ceredigion.

Therefore, it is the destruction of Welsh-speaking areas, and not the Welsh Language language itself, that is old-fashioned and out of date.  And put it this way, are areas that are still Welsh-speaking like Caernarfon and Llangefni any less 'modern' than anglicised areas like Barmouth and Betws-Y-Coed?


7 comments:

  1. Completely agree with your opinions on the Welsh language (dw i'n dysgu Cymraeg...). Regarding the Swedish language in Finland, though: it is under threat. Like the English speakers who move to Wales, the Finnish speakers are beginning to grumble about "that other, incomprehensible language". That it is a waste to learn it. See this article (in Swedish, of course): http://fof.se/tidning/2009/2/svenskan-tynar-i-finland

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    1. I suppose the fact the Swedes in Finland will also speak Finnish and that those in Sweden also speak English doesn't exactly help.

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  2. ONe problem is that (I've heard, at least) the Welsh tend to switch over to English in public when there's an Anglo within earshot. I say, screw 'em! If the Anglos wanna know what you're saying, let 'em learn the language!

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  3. The fall of the Breton speakers is far worse : we were 1.200.000 using thein those early nineties, just 200.000 now !Thanks to the french centralized government : "One country, one Language"

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  4. The example of Swedish in Finland is about as inappropriate as you could get given that Swedish was the language of occupation for 600 odd years. The question with Welsh is why the collapse has come despite the fact for the last 40 odd tears there has been greater political and financial support available to it than the previous 600 years. It cannot simply be put down to blaming the Anglosphere.

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    1. What would you say is the cause of the destruction of the Fro Gymraeg?

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