Wednesday, 15 February 2012

What is fluency

The number of fluent Welsh speakers is falling by around 3,000 people a year, a new report suggests.

The Welsh Language Board (WLB) said deaths and people moving from Wales are having the biggest impact.

The report says that around 6,500 Welsh speakers die annually and 5,200 move away, out-pacing adult learners and children learning or raised in Welsh.

It found the number of people who say they speak Welsh fluently is approximately 300,000.

Clearly these figures are worrying .But it will be interesting when we get the results of the 2011 census, and look at comparison within Wales to see what the major changes are in the last ten years.

Where I suspect we will see a continued decline in those areas we know as Y Fro Cymraeg ,but increase in those areas which have been long Anglicised

But we need much more than the census results. We need a complete and through investigation into the state of Welsh in the whole of Wales and we need to make sure that we look at what we mean by the ability to speak Welsh.

Importantly: We need to ask .What do we need by fluent?

I'm a monoglot English speaker. But no one questions my fluency in English . Though some reading this Blog may question my literacy.

And yet I have met Welsh speakers who deny they are fluent despite speaking it on a regular basis but because they have not gone on to Higher Education believe they somehow  lack fluency and they dont speak "Proper Welsh".

Indeed watching the response to the 5,200 "fluent speakers" who move away it looked to me that they were basing this by mainly counting y those who have achieved an Higher Education and went on to further it . Indeed pursuit of this may be the reason they left.

But the future of the Language does not just lie with those gaining degrees and  working and then returning to Wales . It also lies with the shopkeeper in Ammanford ,the farmer in Tregaron, the factory worker in Blaenau Ffestiniog and the hotel worker in Holyhead.

Unless Welsh continues to be the language of ordinary working  people even if they don't speak it in the fluency of a senior member of the Gorsedd then the language will die

It must dot become or be seen  to be the Language of an Educated elite .where they are measured in their "fluency" though their fluency in English is taken for granted.

And that means the Welsh Government must seek to improve the daily use of the Welsh Language and promote Wales as a Bilingual country. In which fluency in Welsh is counted on the same level as fluency in English and every effort of our Schools are made to improve both.

This does not mean I dismiss the figures or fluency . Indeed if we take the 5,200 figure of fluent speakers leaving Wales to mean the better educated and extrapolate it to include those who are monoglot English speakers it means that something like 26,000 of our most talented people are leaving Wales every year and do not return.

We must seek to retain these no matter what language they speak.

Indeed the challenge for the future of the Welsh Language is the same for the whole of Wales . We need to create work for all and rebuild our communities and create the sort of Wales where the Son of Daughter of the shopkeeper in Ammanford ,the farmer in Tregaron, the factory worker in Blaenau Ffestiniog and the hotel worker in Holyhead can look to the future in their communities even if they temporarily leave  to attend further education,


  1. Sorry, would like to think you're right, but fluency is being able to speak, read and write the language. I'm sure there are thousands who lack self confidence but those are very often the very people who won't then speak Welsh to people for that very reason.

    The importance of the 'fluency' bracket is not to point fingers or for us to get into a 'left' v 'right' battle but because it gives us one good-ish guideline to people who actually use the language and would then feel confident enough to use it in public spaces and use services in the language.

    30 years ago all 'Welsh speakers' were 'Welsh speakers' in the way we understand 'English speakers'. (I'm sure, as Wigley always said, you could add some 50,000 on top of that of people were were quite fluent - lets say the English-speaking husbands to Welsh-speaking wife in a village etc etc).

    This census is seriously bad news. There's been no progress in 10 years. The Welsh establishment in particular - Welsh Language Board, Government, Labour Party, sections of Plaid Cymru etc really have to stop bullshitting us, and get real. This is a wake-up call. If we don't turn the tanker round in the next 10 years then Welsh will go the way of Irish and be a cultural marker and not a living language.

    There's a big onus on Carwyn Jones and Leigthon Andrews - why isn't Vaughan Roderick and Betsan Powys grilling them on this?!

  2. Anonymous 04:02

    But If Wales is to be seen as a bilingual country . Then we must not have a situation where only those who speak, read and write the language are counted.

    The danger of this is that Welsh is seen as the language of an elite or indeed the Crachach.

    I as I tried to argue this means those who like many of their Monoglot English speaking aere not as literate as we would like.