The Grim Fight for Language Survival; in DEPTH the Welsh Language Is Alive and Kicking - and Other British Languages Are Bravely Fighting Back Too. Ian Parri Reports

Daily Post (Liverpool, England), March 12, 2003 | Go to article overview

The Grim Fight for Language Survival; in DEPTH the Welsh Language Is Alive and Kicking - and Other British Languages Are Bravely Fighting Back Too. Ian Parri Reports


Byline: Ian Parri

LANGUAGE,especially a minority one, is often as much a matter of identity as one of mere communication.It's a badge which says ``this is who I am''.

Little wonder that it can raise hackles and cause emotional outbursts at times,not often understood by monoglots who speak a major language such as English or Spanish.

Ne tir gan teanga - ``Without a language you have no country'' - was an Irish battle cry first used in the fight for independence nearly 100 years ago, yet it still holds true for many today.

BBC news reader Huw Edwards recently wrote a ``rather blunt'' letter to a viewer he believed was an ``enemy'' of the Welsh language. The viewer was concerned too much money was being spent on a ``dying language'',but Llanelli-born Mr Edwards disagreed.

He describes Welsh as a ``cultural treasure'',and says he is passionate about it ``because it is my first language and it means so much to me''.

The first available statistics from the 2001 Census seemed to suggest that the linguistic tide has finally turned in Wales, with an increase in the number of people claiming to understand Welsh for the first time in a century.

But the situation is not as bright for many of the other minority tongues native to the UK. The number of native languages spoken in the British Isles could be as many as 12,and the main ones - apart from Welsh and English - are Irish,Scottish Gaelic,Manx and Cornish.

In Scotland, the number of people able to speak Gaelic in 2001 was 58,652,down 11pc from the 1991 census figures of 65,980.

However, the reare plenty of initiatives designed to reverse the decline in Scottish Gaelic, which is spoken mainly in the north of the country and in the Western Isles.

At the forefront of this ``Gaelic renaissance'' is Scotland's only Gaelic medium college of further and higher education,Sabhal Mor Ostaig on the Isle of Skye.

Spokeswoman Angela Gillies says she is hopeful about the future of the language despite the results of the census.

``People see the language in Scotland as being in a precarious position,but I think there are definitely more young people speaking Gaelic,'' she says.``That's because the Gaelic medium education is so successful. I feel very positive about the language's future.''

Its future has definitely received a boost from the establishment of Gaelic medium primary schools, the first of which opened in 1999. …

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The Grim Fight for Language Survival; in DEPTH the Welsh Language Is Alive and Kicking - and Other British Languages Are Bravely Fighting Back Too. Ian Parri Reports
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