Future of the Language Lies with Those Still to Be Won over; Our Culture and Communities Are Nourished by the Energy of Incomers Who Embrace Both

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), August 5, 2002 | Go to article overview

Future of the Language Lies with Those Still to Be Won over; Our Culture and Communities Are Nourished by the Energy of Incomers Who Embrace Both


Byline: ELUNED MORGAN

LAST week the National Assembly published its policy document on the future of the Welsh language. It is thankfully a sensible document which has followed a delicate path recognising the need to build consensus.

This is not easy in a country where some councils have to cater for the needs of 74pc Welsh speakers, while others in some of our poorer areas with 6pc Welsh speakers understandably resent the prioritisation of a language budget over other pressing needs. But this week in the National Eisteddfod in St David's there will be renewed attempts by some language groups to polarise the debate, and to jeopardise the sensible line that has hitherto been taken.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith has already threatened to give the chair of the Welsh Language Board a hard time and Cymuned will be using the event to promote its strong antiinmigration stance into Welsh-speaking areas.

They will undoubtedly be given a totally disproportionate amount of coverage to the number of paid-up supporters in their ranks, partly as a result of the media saturation of the event and the ``silly season''of August. What these organisations have failed torecognise is that it is in-migration that is often responsible for re-energising the communities in which we live. These are the people who start up local businesses which employ local Welsh people and allow them to continue living in their communities.

St David's itself is an astounding example of the truth of this assertion. My family can trace its ancestry back four centuries in the area, and there has been a dramatic transformation of life, the most emphatic shift occurring in the past 60 years.

When my mother moved from the tiny city in the 1960s she left a vibrant community immersed in the Welsh language, the chapels and the churches were full on a Sunday, and the social life of the community was almost entirely conducted through the medium of Welsh.

She, like thousands of others, left the town for a variety of reasons. She was simply participating in a trend that has continued over two centuries all over Western Europe of mass population movements from the countryside to the city. Sadly there has been an inevitable decline in the Welsh language in the area as a result.

There is no point in extremist Welsh groups attempting to hold back the tide of history.

Jobs in rural heartlands would undoubtedly help in keeping some young people at home, and in this sense Welsh language communities would do well to follow the pattern set by English incomers who have the confidence to set up businesses. But many more will leave in any case, drawn to the bright lights of the city. There is of course the related issue of affordability of local housing that does need to be addressed.

Today there is a very different feel to St David's. It still has a unique spiritual warmth, but also an incredibly buzzing cultural life. It has a wealth of talented artists and a thriving surfing and outdoor pursuits circuit that lends it a thrilling dynamism. …

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Future of the Language Lies with Those Still to Be Won over; Our Culture and Communities Are Nourished by the Energy of Incomers Who Embrace Both
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