Does the Welsh language cost too much?

One of the primary arguments against the Welsh language is that it costs too much to maintain. At first glance this is a persuasive argument. Why spend millions every year ‘propping up a dead language’?

Here are a few good reasons why it is money well spent.

First off, because there’s a common censensus amongst the people of Wales that it’s worth the money. Politicians are very good barometers of the public mood – if there aren’t any votes in it, they’d throw it under a bus before you can say ‘expenses claim’. Despite this, every single one of the five main political parties in Wales support the growth of the Welsh language.

Even the Conservatives, in their last manifesto, said that they would fight to ensure that Wales became a “truly bilingual nation”, with at least 1.5 million Welsh speakers. The First Minister of Wales, from the Labour Party, has taken the Welsh language under his wing and promised more action to ensure its survival. The language isn’t only an issue for those peksy ‘Welsh Nats’ any more – it’s got cross-party support.

It has cross-party support because it has cross-country support.

A report by Beaufort Research in the summer of 2013 found that 99% of the respondents who didn’t speak much Welsh said that they would like to be able to speak Welsh better than they did, and 92% of them would welcome more opportunities to speak Welsh. They believe that some things in life have value beyond the monetary.

But what about the rest of us, you cry. We don’t speak Welsh, and we don’t want to either. Why should we pay millions out of our taxes to keep the HMS Cymraeg afloat?

Well, let’s note first off that, in the wider picture of government expenditure, spending on the Welsh language is a tiny drop in the ocean that is more than covered by the taxes of Welsh speakers themselves. Some people like to suggest that if the money spent on Welsh was freed up to spend on other things, it would somehow buy Wales a top notch health service, a world-class transportation system, and that we’d shoot up the PISA rankings. I’m afraid the investment in such services is measured in the billions, not millions. The money spent on Welsh, if swallowed by the NHS, would have been spent on consultants’ fees by the end of the day. An eight mile bypass in Newport is costing the Welsh Government £1.2 billion to build.

Let’s take a generous estimate and say that some £150 million is spent solely on Welsh language provision every year (on S4C, the Welsh language commissioner, small grants for print and online Welsh language media, bilingual signs, etc.). That’s some £2 per person for everyone in the UK. But it’s worth remembering that us Welsh speakers pay taxes too, and there are hundreds of thousands of us contributing many thousands to the public purse every year.

S4C, at £75 million a year, represents the bulk of the annual cost of the Welsh language. Given that every Welsh speaker pays £140 every year in the license fee that in itself more than covers the cost of their channel.

Let’s also remember that are plenty of things we all pay for that don’t benefit us in any way. I’m indifferent to the Royal Family, and yet they cost more than the Welsh language every year. I do not smoke and am not obese, yet I pay for the consequences of unhealthy living every month through my taxes. My taxes pay for policing football matches I don’t watch. It pays for Opera I’m never going to enjoy. My taxes went towards bailing out the banks, while bankers continue to pay themselves large bonuses.

Welsh tax payers should also remember that the money for S4C comes centrally from the UK Government, not the Welsh Government. If it wasn’t spent on S4C it would probably be spent outside of Wales – on points for a high speed rail track from London to Birmigham, or new carpets for the BBC’S HQ in Salford, perhaps. The money given to S4C is money that would have been spent elsewhere which, because of the Welsh language, goes into Welsh pockets and is then spent in the Welsh economy.

The other side of the coin

The amount of money that is currently being spent on trying to save the Welsh language pales in comparison with the amount wasted on trying to get rid of it. The English language has been promoted relentlessly in Wales for many centuries, even when people who spoke the language were in a tiny minority in the country.

The Government of England had long considered it essential that the Celtic parts of Britain were assimilated culturally and linguistically. One of the most significant steps in this process was the Act of Union in 1536. The act transplanted the legal system, courts, administration, and local government structure of England to Wales. Welsh speaking areas were also placed on the English side of the border. The act decreed that English would be the official language of Wales and that every single person who worked in an official position in Wales had to speak English. If they didn’t, they lost their jobs. This was a ridiculously wasteful policy when you realise that it pretty much barred anyone in Wales from a decent job in their own country for centuries, and meant that jurors couldn’t understand the cases on which they were supposed to decide the facts.

The act also ensured that English would be the language of Welsh schools, based on the view that the only way for Welsh students to succeed in life was to learn English. (See Victor Edward Durkacz’s book The Decline of the Celtic Languages for an impassive view of this policy). However students left schools without any kind of education at all, because they had no understanding of the language they were being taught in – they had simply been taught to repeat English phrases like parrots. Secular education in Wales didn’t take off until the end of the 19th century, when educators hit upon the astounding idea of educating people in their own language.

This isn’t something confined to the history books. The use of Welsh was widely discouraged until the first half of the 20th century, in the public sector as well as in schools (by means such as the now infamous but seldom used Welsh Not). It is only since the 1950s that attempts to revive the Welsh language have received government backing, and the slow process of undoing centuries of damage has begun in earnest.

So as you see current government efforts to revive the Welsh language follows centuries of effort to eradicate it. Historically, trying to get rid of the language has cost much more than trying to save it. And for that misguided policy we’ve paid a price far beyond a few pennies each every year on a TV channel and some bilingual signs.

Ifan Morgan Jones

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49 thoughts on “Does the Welsh language cost too much?

  1. Great post. Another point is that many of the costs of bilingualism (such as bilingual web-pages or simultaneous translation) could also be seen as spending on the needs of English monoglots! You don’t cover the costs on business – perhaps because there are few requirements on large private companies to make proper provision in Welsh. Worth noting that many countries with successful economies have businesses making use of two or three languages without difficulty. Barclays Bank cash machines in London work in French, German or English. You can buy a train ticket from a First Great Western machine on Paddington Station in six languages (including Polish), though Welsh isn’t one of them (despite the fact that this is the main departure station for inter-city train travel to south Wales).

    • Or course, Efogwr. There are Polish speakers who struggle with English when they first come to the UK or when the come as tourists. The investment in translation helps Polish speakers use the train network, as well as reducing human resources in dealing with confused passengers who have bought the wrong ticket. How many Welsh speakers would be saved from buying the wrong ticket if only the ticket machines included Welsh? It’s one of my issues with proponents of Welsh language provision, that they seem to believe that translation services should be provided for the benefit of the language itself rather than helping people to understand.

      To the extent that there may be travellers in London who find themselves in difficulty buying a ticket for the want of Welsh language, wouldn’t we be doing them a much better service in life experience by helping them improve their English? After all, unlike the Polish new arrivals and tourists, they are surely at a lifetime disadvantage in an English speaking country.

      • However, the language itself *is* worth investment.

        Polish is doing fine in Poland, and so are most other immigrant languages in their native lands. Welsh is native only to this soil, and as such deserves special respect. Once gone, there’s no going back – a form of human life and cultural wealth is forever gone.

        Your argument seems to require either that all countries should translate all signs into all languages for all travellers, or that all languages should be ignored for the benefit of the single majority. That’s not the pragmatic solution you imply, but leads to the slippery slope of insisting that all signs and all communication globally be in Mandarin Chinese or whatever happens to be the most-used language of whatever area you choose (arbitrarily) to work with.

        Misguided.

      • Hi Hanna…

        Perhaps you misunderstand. I was replying to Efrogwr, who said, “You can buy a train ticket from a First Great Western machine on Paddington Station in six languages (including Polish), though Welsh isn’t one of them”.

        Or perhaps we just disagree. I challenge you to find me a single person who has ever embarked on a First Great Western train from Paddington Station, who speaks Welsh but not English.

        You said: “Your argument seems to require either that all countries should translate all signs into all languages for all travellers, or that all languages should be ignored for the benefit of the single majority”

        That’s really not what I said: in fact neither of your summaries represent my view:

        – Translations should be given when they are of cost benefit. Efrogwr raised the issue of a Polish translation (in some consternation, I felt), and I came to its defence. Translations are expensive to make and maintain. (As the architect of multi-lingual web sites, I probably know that more than most.) But there is a cost benefit to having many Polish travellers able to serve themselves, and not needing assistance by FGW when they board the wrong train, or have the wrong ticket, when that can be done at a stroke by investing in a translation. FGW clearly thought it was worth it. But they probably didn’t think it was worth translating into Hebrew (for example), because there are few people who want to use the service and speak Hebrew but not one of the six languages provided. A ticket machine interface isn’t “signage”, and even if it were, I definitely don’t think it should be translated into all languages.

        – In this very discussion, I went on-record as accepting bilingual signage (in Wales!) as one of the few potentially justifiable beneficiaries of public funds. I said that, because I think it would be very inefficient for Welsh language speakers to self-fund road signs.

        You said, “Welsh is native only to this soil”. Actually you’re not right about that either. I know, at least, there are places in the USA and in Argentina where there are native Welsh speakers. In fact I watched a TV documentary about a settlement, a year or so ago. And poignantly, they seemed to be discouraging their younger generation from learning the language, because they felt it would be a hindrance to their future.

        You said that the Welsh language “deserves special respect”. But I would challenge you about that: if you believe this, why don’t you think Welsh speakers and Welsh enthusiasts should fund it?

        You said that losing Welsh would mean “a form of human life and cultural wealth is forever gone”. It seems the skill still remains to understand Aramaic, an oral language spoken in Israel in New Testament times. And, thanks to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, we can still even translate ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. It is apparently very difficult to “lose” a language, while there remains even a shred of cultural value invested in it. But for the majority in the UK (and arguably even in Wales, to judge by the overwhelming majority who do not speak the language), they have no particular cultural value invested in Welsh, so why should they be asked to fund of it on behalf of a small minority who do? Would you be willing to fund my hobbies?

      • Establishment of commuter belt and dormitory zones for the North West of England population in North Wales, the West Cheshire sub regional strategy, The Welsh Spatial plan’s ( and WEFO’s), “Strategic regenertion areas”, as well as the housing associations funding by Welsh Government . These serve “England and Wales” meaning affordable housing in Wales (Welsh speaking areas included) is very often allocated to people from England with no connection to Wales. The list goes on and on in terms of policy that is up front,There is even more unspoken policy too, which simply involves being blind to things and “failing” to respond to known issues which affect not only the use of Welsh but the existence of a distinct Welsh identity in general. A growing number of people are using the terms colonisation and assimilation. Personally I think if you look at the definiton of the words it is difficult not to admit that they’re right.

  2. Not as much as all the translators needed in schools, courts, councils etc,
    and the Welsh were here before all of them

  3. I ve worked for s4c for 25 yrs or more, making drama for what its worth ,I ve won baftas etc . I learnt language, though I am welsh and dedicated myself to the ’cause’, to make good programmes, for people to watch, so that the language grew. then it became cooperate , under huw jones. large companies with wages to pay and not small bands of independents wanting the very best for wales . they got fat on it, as thatcher predicted. they have spent the money, filling their guts . end of . they now see themselves above others . it will die. its their fault , they should have been concentrating on the quality and long term instead of the short. it actually shows they care more about themselves than the language.

    • Hi Tim,
      For whatever reason , I think it’s safe to say that although up to now it has performed poorly.S4C has the potential to be a world leader in many ways . Giving a World window for Welsh life and culture.which can spur many other positve dynamics.Especially as a tool to get the Welsh language thriving .

      By now the Welsh language should be a National project and even an international one. It’s a marketer’s dream! It could provide a national discourse, between all of us in Wales about ourselves as well. The hearts of Wales still cherish Welsh,whether they speak it or not.

      Where are the easy lessons in Welsh? Where are the interesting lessons that can give encouragement to learn or to use their Welsh? Where are the programmes to bridge the Welsh and non Welsh worlds,which can bring more people and power to Welsh?

      I dont know the workings of S4C, but it’s sad if what your’e saying is anywhere near the truth.

  4. I heard the debate on the radio about this (I don’t usually listen to Radio 4) and when they were saying that it’s too expensive to provide everything in two languages in Wales, the answer seemed obvious: they shouldn’t do it. The roadsigns, forms, etc, should be in just one language – Welsh. After all, it’s Wales. I learned the language when I lived there, and I don’t see why English has to be an official language of Wales at all.

    • Would be interesting to see the economic effect if it could be quantified, perhaps North Wales first, then South Wales. Get the tourist data for both and compare “before” and “after” total use of Welsh in road signs. Perhaps it might put of English speaking tourists, or on the flip side, perhaps Americans etc would find it “cute” and come over more! Who knows!

      • Yes I agree north Wales and anything west of Cardiff should be totally welsh language then the remainder we can speak English as it is never used here and a total waste of money,especially for Bleanau Gwent who have to waste money on welsh when it could be used for much more important matters,why not have a vote so the people can decide.Why is it that there doesn’t seem to be anyone working for the Tv channels in Wales from Gwent? Perhaps they should change their names to One of the over the top welsh names sticking Ap in the middle.Sadly we are destined to be the poorest part of the Uk as we waste so much money while be run by buffoons who keep pushing a dead language.

  5. Languages survive and thrive if they help people communicate easily.
    I fear for welsh as technologies are changing the way we communicate and it is becoming increasingly marginalised.
    Use is on the decline even though there is record amounts of public money spent on its promotion.
    Can’t see a long term future for it outside acedemia.

  6. Lot of assumptions here. For example:

    “Given that every Welsh speaker pays £140 every year in the license fee that in itself more than covers the cost of their channel.”

    As a welsh speaker, I do not see S4C as “my channel” and I’m not exactly happy about paying for the dross it puts out.

    • I’m not particularly happy with my license fee being spent on Britain’s Got Talent or Eurovision either!

      Think you’ve missed the point though! The point is that the *only* Welsh language channel’s funding is more than covered by the licence fees of Welsh speakers. That seems quite fair to me. Whether you like the output is another matter all together!

  7. “However students left school without any kind of education at all, because they had no understanding of the language they were being taught in…”

    Why then are non-welsh speaking now parents being encouraged to send their children to welsh medium schools?

    • Hi Fudge. Demand for Welsh-medium education is now outstripping the supply – so it seems that parents want to send their kids to Welsh medium schools, whether they’re encouraged to or not.

    • Welsh-medium schools can’t be sensibly compared to old-fashioned “sink-or-swim” English education that takes no account of whether children know English or not. Even English-medium schools nowadays take into account the home language of children.

  8. Thanks for the considered article… it was an interesting read. But I think you hardly scratch the surface of the cost of the Welsh Language provision.

    1) You say the cost of S4C TV is “more than covered by the license fee of Welsh speakers”. In the first point, I’m not sure that’s true. By my calculations, £75m is 40% of that raised from the total Welsh license fee, assuming all households pay it (100/(1.3m households x £145.50 license fee)/£75m). But according to the 2011 Census only 19% of Welsh people speak Welsh, so by that calculation S4C costs 209% of the Welsh speakers’ license fee contribution. But even then it’s not a fair comparison for two reasons: it assumes everyone who speaks Welsh watches S4C, and that the only benefit derived from the license fee of Welsh speakers is S4C. Could you remind me how many Welsh people do not speak English?

    Let’s also deal with your other points of what you don’t benefit from:
    – Royal Family (statistically a financial asset to UK even judged purely on tourist receipts)
    – Smoking (tobacco taxes fund 8.85% of the NHS (£108.9bn/£12.3bn), and that doesn’t include smokers’ saving to the pension pot in shortened lifespan)
    – Obesity (sure, but you haven’t volunteered any of your own risk factors)
    – Policing football (I don’t think you’re right about that: Football Clubs have to pay for policing of their matches)
    – Bankers (I’m not going to attempt the profit/cost analysis of the financial sector, neither defend them; but it turns out that Welsh speakers do not share a greater burden than the rest of us)

    2) Here’s the really important stuff: I put it to you that the benefit of Welsh language skill to the GDP is approximately zero, and yet its cost in squandered resources must be huge.
    – Cost of teaching Welsh language (the actual cost of teaching; the cost to pupils’ careers and to GDP of teaching Welsh rather than an economically useful language such as French, German, Spanish, Japanese or Chinese)
    – The dead weight to the economy of supporting the Welsh language sector. We can think of it like this: taking your £150m/yr figure: average Welsh full-time pay is £28k (more than double of mine, btw!). So that’s 5,357 who are consuming all manner of public services but whose jobs are not contributing to GDP. That effect continues, because assuming 25% consumption of public services (for example), that’s 1,339 people servicing the original users, 335 people servicing the servicers, etc. (Hey, this dead weight isn’t unique to Welsh language: think of the Personal Injury Claims Industry, for example!)

    I’m just trying to be objective in my observations: I’m not anti-Welsh language at all. I just think that almost all of Welsh language activities should be paid for by the people who consume them:
    – Welsh language should not be taught in state schools
    – S4C should be a commercial channel (subscription, advertising or combination)
    – We certainly shouldn’t be translating websites into Welsh. Heck, many countries have to tough-out much of their internet experience on English-language sites despite not living in an English-speaking country. Why on earth are we paying people to translate websites from a language in which they are already fluent??? How many people did you say speak only Welsh? How many of those people benefit from Welsh language internet services – would I have to take off my socks to count them?

    I’d be interested to hear your rebuttal of my comments.

    • Hi Tsuchan,
      Interesting. Nice to see a bit of maths going on, and the update of football clubs etc (I’ve often wondered about that). Normally I’m a numbers man, but I’m a bit sentimental about Welsh being left to die out. Something about the fact that when a language is gone it is gone forever, like a panda I suppose. As Jamie (above) said, it is easy to be fearful, despite reading the authors other article on the high numbers of Welsh speakers. For the 75 mil, I would like to see it being supported. For the record, I pay UK taxes but live in Germany and my Welsh is pants, so it’s not like I fit into the “Welsh Nat” category at all, just like people happy babbling away in their own language. Was cool to hear Irish in Spiddal (near Galway) too.
      Perhaps I should get back to numbers and lose the sentiment then!
      Thanks,

      • Sentiment is often a good thing – my argument is that it should be funded by enthusiasts rather than by the tax payer, along with other cultural pursuits. I don’t think that’s demeaning to the activity, but it will help to ensure good value from the funds, and that they are funded in proportion to the number and commitment of their supporters. That’s why it’s difficult for me to sympathise with Ifan’s protests: it Welsh is a cultural asset which benefits people like Ifan and his family, why would they be so reluctant to part with a few notes each year from their wallet to pay for it? And for people like yourself who feel inclined towards sentimental support, why not support it like people support saving Polar Bears? It’s nice to know that they will continue to live happily even if we’ll probably never meet one.

        Ifan’s replies suggest that he sees me as some cultural Philistine, but I just think that there’s often a really poor choice of candidates for public spending. Just for example, we rely on charities to fund much of the work of Hospices, essential health and social welfare, air ambulances, etc which I would argue have a supremely powerful argument to be funded by taxation. Why would we give public funding to Welsh language TV, opera, etc and deny it from these? (Ifan’s arguments suggest that funding one should not deny the other… he, at least, doesn’t talk like a ‘numbers man’.) (^_-)

        I don’t think I’m extreme in my point of view – just pragmatic. I think there are Welsh language objectives for which lobbyists could make a good case for receiving public support: bilingual signposts which you mentioned would be one of them, since public funding is the most efficient means of achieving that end.

        But cost to the public purse isn’t my only concern about public support for Welsh language. I also feel that it’s used as an instrument of discrimination, and an inappropriate compulsory subject at a state school. (I’ve said my piece on those topics already.)

        Anyway Ben, I certainly don’t suggest you give up sentimentality for numbers. I support plenty of causes close to my heart, with all the time and funds I can afford from a pretty modest budget of each. And on a different subject – if I may voice it as an open wish with a Brit who works in Germany – good luck to both of us in the trials which will face Britain’s EU Membership in the next few years.

  9. Hi Tsuchan, and thanks for the comment, but I’m afraid that I have to disagree.

    Firstly I would argue that your assertion that the benefit of Welsh to GDP is zero doesn’t hold water on its own merits. As mentioned in the article, S4C has become the bedrock of a South Wales-based TV industry which probably wouldn’t exist without the tools and expertise created by the investment in Welsh programming. I would also argue that the language gives speakers a unique perspective and cultural background which is useful to any business. Also, GDP measures the rise or fall in value of goods and services over time. If I produce a Welsh language magazine, and that’s a service people want, and they buy it, that adds to GDP. Good and services that take advantage of the market that exists in Welsh are just as much of a boost to the economy as any other – possibly more, since so much is the product of the creative work of authors and musicians and so creates value from nothing.

    Even when it receives public funding, the language contributes to the economy. For instance, the National Eisteddfod gets £500,000 from the Welsh Government each year, but that leads to a £6 million contribution to the local economy (and more than that for all the business who travel there to sell).

    However I find it rather depressing that when discussing the Welsh language, many non-speakers put their neoliberal hats on and start discussing it in purely in economic terms. Can you put a price tag on a culture? What worth is entertainment? Many of the best things in the world have no economic advantage, while many of the worst (wars, marital brakedown, libel trials) do wonders for GDP.

    If we must justify everything on its ability to boost the economy, we might as well rip up public service broadcasting (BBC, Chanel 4 etc) as well as the NHS, pensions, tax credits… the list goes on. Most state spending is there to make us happy, or at least fairly comfortable in life, rather than boost GDP.

    The fact that you consider smokers a good thing because of their “saving to the pension pot in shortened lifespan” says a lot about your rather topsy-turvy priorities.

    My argument in the above article isn’t that the Welsh language is a way of printing money – but rather that it’s worth the money spent on it. That’s a subjective judgement, but one shared by pretty much all Welsh speakers. You’re welcome to learn Welsh and then decide for yourself.

    To deal with a few of your more specific points –

    Welsh language education doesn’t cost any more than English language education. Children will be fully bilingual by the age of five, and have the same chance to learn a foreign language as children in English-only schools.
    Welsh speakers do not eat the money they are paid. It is then spent in the local economy, or is paid as tax back into the public purse. And, as noted elsewhere on this site, very few people work exclusively through the medium of Welsh – they are providing a bilingual service, and so their jobs would exist anyway.

    Your figures on S4C do not take into account that some 25% of Welsh speakers do not live in Wales, but do live in households that pay the license fee. It also doesn’t take into account that Welsh speakers don’t bunch together in the same house. So while 20% of people in Wales speak Welsh, they live in 1/3 of the households in Wales.
    Yes, not all of them watch S4C. But that’s how public service broadcasting works. I only ever watch BBC News, and listen to Radio 4 and Radio Cymru, but my license fee pays for hundreds of channels and websites in tens of languages around the globe. That’s how PSB works, and I support that.

    S4C already has advertising.

    I don’t see much point arguing about the other factors most people don’t benefit from, because you could list thousands of them. But to deal with just two: It has not been proven that the Royal Family is a significant boost to tourism. Only two of the countries that are in the top 10 world rankings for tourism have a royal family. It has been argued that getting rid of the royal family would actually free up many of the buildings they now occupy so that they could be offered to, and attract, tourists. Police are only paid by football teams to police the grounds, not the wider area before and after football matches where the crowds, drink, and impassioned fans create all kinds of extra problems… etc etc…

    I and many others make use of Welsh language internet sites, and contribute to them. It may come as a surprise, but the fact that you can speak two languages doesn’t always mean that you want to do everything through one of them.

    If we lived in a world where economic benefit was everything, and everyone’s choices were dictated by the majority, we’d live in a very dull and dreary world indeed. And as I spell out in the other articles on this site, Welsh has a number of benefits beyond the economic, that make it worth every penny spent on it.

  10. Hi Ifan, thanks for the reply. I think this is an interesting discussion, and it would certainly be much less interesting if we both shared the same opinion. But I think a number of the points you raise are valid and reasonable.

    About the National Eisteddfod, I’m sure you’re right about that: a proportion of well-placed public spending facilitates the event which I’m sure would otherwise struggle to bring the kind of rewards it does. I don’t know about the optimum level of public investment, but I’m happy to accept that £500k brings money into the local economy from outside, and releases money from within the local economy. Where we differ is that I don’t think the same argument can be made for supporting Welsh language.

    I think we should try to separate the cultural and economic elements of the argument, as you largely did in your initial article. But I’ll respond to both, even though I’m not sure I can persuade you that I’m not a “neo-liberal”. (I’ve never been called one of those before, and I’m not sure what one is, but anyway, let’s see.).

    The difference between the National Eisteddfod funding and Welsh language is that the former seeks to stimulate private commerce (doesn’t it?) whereas I submit the latter is almost pure public expenditure. I concede that you argued a Welsh language magazine adds to GDP, and if it’s bought in addition to another magazine rather than replacing it, that would indeed be a net contribution to GDP. But I struggle to see significant economic wealth being stimulated by public spending on Welsh language, because it’s essentially a provision, not an investment.

    There’s a point to clear up here: I argued that “the benefit of *Welsh language skill* to the GDP is approximately zero”, but your counter argument is something different, that *spending* on Welsh language increases GDP. Your point, in a narrow sense, is definitionally true, that money spent increases GDP. It would also be true of – let’s say – employing people to build a roundabout in the middle of every field. But this is public money, and there’s an opportunity cost from spending it on something which produces no (significant) return, compared with investing (as in the Eisteddfod) in something which produces significant return.

    You argue that if the money wasn’t spent in Wales it would be wasted elsewhere instead (new carpets for BBC, etc). Haha, and people suggest that I’m cynical! (^_^) In this case, we can clearly identify £75m of expenditure on S4C (as you did) and therefore ceasing S4C funding means we can reduce the total budget of the organisation(s)’ spending it by £75m. It could be invested public money, or it could not be taken from the tax payer in the first place, in which case they would have more spending money (admittedly, so long as it was distributed to people who would spend it). “Outside of Wales”, you say… well, in part, probably; but it’s part of my argument that the rest of the UK shouldn’t be asked to pay for the Welsh language spending, so the proportion of that spend that comes from outside Wales potentially returning doesn’t seem unfair to me.

    So about Welsh language TV: my contention is that if there’s a demand for Welsh language TV, there should be a commercial demand. You’ve taught me that S4C already has advertising, but why can’t the remaining money come from subscriptions? If it’s a community and cultural benefit, why can’t the community provide significant amounts of the labour to run it on a voluntary community basis? I see this as a positive concept, because that would considerably widen community skills in the many broadcast-related areas. From subtitles and dubbing tasks to editing, sound-mixing, scripting, camera skills, direction and production, interviewing and hosting… even describing that, I’m almost covetous of the learning and participation opportunities! Wouldn’t this kind of rewarding community involvement actually stimulate more interest and turn the tide of diminishing viewers?

    You said that the South Wales-based TV industry probably wouldn’t exist without the tools and expertise created by the investment in Welsh [language?] programming. I’m in no doubt that the quality of programmes coming from BBC Wales is of absolutely stunning quality: I’m truly in awe of those achievements. But I just can’t see that this wouldn’t exist without Welsh language TV… where’s the evidence for that?

    I want to address your point “very few people work exclusively through the medium of Welsh – they are providing a bilingual service, and so their jobs would exist anyway”. In your original article you said “£150 million is spent solely on Welsh language provision every year” and I owe an apology for misreading that because it’s quite clear. I recalled it wrongly as the cost of Welsh provision, and therefore I did indeed imagine this was the net figure of additional cost. You’re absolutely right that if a bilingual operator takes a call in Welsh there is no net cost, although I can’t quantify how much that reduces your (estimated) £150m figure. It does raise another point though, of jobs for Welsh jobs which are restricted to Welsh-speaking people. If an operator is employed to speak to Welsh-only speaking people, it’s entirely reasonable that they should be required to be bilingual. But is it true, as I suspect, that people who are not bilingual in Welsh and English are effectively barred from a significant number of jobs servicing people who all speak perfectly good English but among whom some do enjoy a good conversation in Welsh. For me, I have to say, that would be very wrong.

    Next thing: the subject I’ll summarise in your own words: “taxes to keep the HMS Cymraeg afloat”. You said in the main article that Welsh speakers pay for the cost of the Welsh language TV provision, and I calculated that even if Welsh speaking households consumed no other BBC services, the £75m cost was 210% of their license fee income. Even if we say the same of 25% of Welsh speakers who do not live in Wales, they still don’t cover fund the Welsh language channel, even discounting all their other BBC consumption. In your reply you say that spending on the Welsh language is more than covered by the taxes of Welsh speakers themselves. Is that figure more reliable? Supposing it is, there’s the same problem that Welsh speakers presumably use as much of all the other public services as the rest of the population, so I don’t think it’s a persuasive argument.

    You said that the license fee pays for websites in tens of languages around the globe. I think you’ll find many people (certainly including myself) are less than comfortable about that. But the story is a little more complex. Until not long ago, the government paid BBC World service to provide foreign language broadcasting. As far as I understand the BBC took over this responsibility as part of cost cutting, austerity, recognition of new media savings, and probably as a punishment for telling the truth about “the dodgy dossier” and not adequately supporting the party in power. I recall that as part of the deal, some previously supported languages were dropped. For the rest, there’s supposed to be some kind of beneficial commercial or political British interest served by the broadcasts. I declare myself to be only partially convinced. There’s also the services of BBC monitoring to translate from other languages into English, which seems a very necessary service. I can’t find a way to apply any of these rationales to the Welsh language on remotely the scale of the provision.

    About websites in Welsh, you say “I and many others make use of Welsh language internet sites, and contribute to them. It may come as a surprise, but the fact that you can speak two languages doesn’t always mean that you want to do everything through one of them.” I thin this is a purely economic question: the investment in translating websites into Welsh is totally disproportionate to necessity or economics. Websites shouldn’t be translated because someone likes doing things in a choice of languages – I can’t begin to justify that waste. I like reading websites in Japanese, French, German and Norwegian, and even having a go at a Chinese on an odd occasion; but I would never dream of asking someone to translate a website for such an indulgence when I can read the text perfectly well in English. If a website happens to be in one of those languages for the benefit of people who don’t speak other languages, I may choose to try it out.

    You make the point again that we don’t choose to consume every service offered to us. A difference here is that non-Welsh speakers (who almost all speak English) have the opportunity to partake of any of these services, whereas there is no opportunity for non-Welsh speakers to partake of Welsh language provisions. And they should be provided in proportion to the use made of them. I know we’ll disagree on this, but I see that as quite different.

    On the issue of education, you’ve argued that it costs no more to teach a child Welsh than English. I’m rather hoping that Welsh is not taught as a substitute to English, but as a substitute to a different European or Asian language. If I’m not right about that, consider me considerably more unsettled than I’ve already claimed. I know for a fact that in at least some areas Welsh language is taught to the exclusion of a European/Asian language, because that’s verifiably the case for my nephew and nieces. And anyway, school time is a zero-sum game: if more time is spent teaching one subject, less time is spent teaching another. So if a student learns English, Welsh and a further language, something must make space for it… not as much English, maths, science or something.

    So to the cultural issues. I think you’re basically right that I don’t see much justification for extensive public funding of the arts, although I’m open to discussion on a case-by-case basis. It comes down to proportionality, and a difference between Public Service Broadcasting (which exists in large part for providing entertainment) compared to general taxation. So in the case of Welsh language, I can see an argument for public funded Welsh road signage, Welsh books in libraries, even public broadcasting in Welsh language cost-commensurate with the number of people who enjoy it. (But for me, that would be very substantially less than £75m.) But yes, I think there has to be a persuasive argument (cultural, educational and/or economic) to defend limited resources given to opera, museums, Welsh language, stone masonry etc. from other calls on the public purse (job creation, infrastructure maintenance, science and education, health, pensions, social provision, etc.). Do you feel we’re a long way apart on that?

    Thanks again for the opportunity of discussion.

    • Hi Tsuchan. I’m sorry it’s taken so long to reply – it’s been a very busy week. I don’t have much time now so this will be a flow of consciousness blog, responding to each point as I see it.

      Again, I think this comes down to the subjective argument that spending on the Welsh language is worthwhile. As I pointed out in the article, it’s clear that the people of Wales, as a public, want this money spent, otherwise politicians would spend it elsewhere. Of course, there are some people who don’t want any money spent on Welsh at all, and there are others who want significantly more spent on it. However, as a ‘public sphere’, the Welsh have decided that spending a few £100m on the Welsh language every year is a good thing. You may compare this to building roundabouts in fields – but the difference is that people want and use this particular roundabout. It’s more like building a bypass past Porthmadog. There may already be a (heavily congested) road through Porthmadog, but because of public demand for a new road (for their own convenience) a new one was built, which is used regularly (unlike a roundabout in the middle of a field, which isn’t used at all, to take that metaphor to its painful conclusion). As with most public spending by the state, the idea is not to boost GDP, but rather to give the public things they want and need. Yes, if you didn’t spend £75m on S4C you’d have £75m to spend on something else. If the BBC didn’t cost £5bn we would have £5bn to spend somewhere else. But because most people consider that £5bn money well spent, we spend it on that.

      That’s the central point, and I think all this talk of GDP is a wild goose chase. But I’ll answer that point anyway. I do think that spending money on the Welsh language is a good investment, because most of the activities that happen in the Welsh language are done voluntarily. Apart from a few high profile examples, most of the people creating Welsh language content aren’t being paid to do it, beyond perhaps a small investment to facilitate or publish the work. They do it because they get pleasure out of doing so. It would be impossible for most of this voluntary work to see the light of day without the tiny amount of investment they get. However, these people’s efforts do add to the economy. Hundreds of gigs have been performed, hundreds of novels and plays written, performances stages, etc, with very little public investment. The Eisteddfod is just the Welsh cultural scene in microcosm.

      I’m afraid that your idea that S4C is run by a few volunteers would be laughed at by anyone involved in the industry. It’s a TV channel, not a YouTube channel. The channel is a yearly £75m investment in the Welsh economy, and has boosted both BBC Wales (which is paid to produce much of its programming, and with which it shares sets in Cardiff Bay) and several local television producers who also produce English language programming. It may cost £75m, but according to a report by Cardiff University, it’s worth £90m to the economy, meaning that, like the Eisteddfod, it’s an investment rather than a money pit, and it pays out.

      I’ve responded to the point on bilingual staff in another post on this website.

      If you were to try and prove that more is spent on a Welsh speaker all in all (beyond just the Welsh language) than they contributed in tax, you would of course have to conclude that that would probably be the case. However, that would also be true of the entirety of the country, considering that the British state is over £1 trillion in debt. We’re all, at the moment, having more spent on us than we pay in taxes. A fairer question should be: do Welsh speakers pay a fair share of their taxes? Yes. Should they, therefore, in a democratic country, be able to expect that a tiny amount of that tax is spent on something they would prioritise? The answer again, is surely, yes.

      Welsh speakers don’t generally care what serves the political interests of the British state. However, the British state is clearly awake to the political will of Welsh speakers, or Thatcher wouldn’t have set up S4C in the first place.

      “I think this is a purely economic question…” – again, no it isn’t. If it were purely an economic question I would still be at work, and not responding to your comments here. Economics are there to make us happy; we’re not here to base our every need around what would be economic.

      There is nothing stopping non-Welsh language speakers from enjoying everything the Welsh language has to offer. It’s just that you don’t want to. I don’t want to watch Opera, but that doesn’t stop it and the venues that host it receiving tens of millions in Welsh government grants. I’m never going to use High Speed Rail 2, or Crossrail. I could use them, but I don’t want or need to. But I’m paying for them all the same, and do so gladly, knowing that they’ll bring benefits to others.

      Welsh is used alongside English in many schools in Wales (mostly in the West of the country but also in many urban areas where there are significant number of Welsh speakers). This doesn’t take any more ‘time’ than in an English school. They don’t ‘teach’ these languages, any more than you were ‘taught’ to speak English at primary school. The pupils and staff converse in them, and they pick them up. I have never spoken a word of English to my children, and they go to a Welsh language school, yet they have learnt English, even though they’ve never received an English lesson. They receive Welsh and English books to read interchangeably. They just hear it all around them. In the same way children from English speaking homes come back able to speak Welsh. This arrangement was the same when I was at school, and it does the children no harm. See the post on ‘Welsh will make my child stupid’ on this website.

      Again, thanks for the message. I don’t see that we’re going to agree on this, however. If you don’t even believe that museums and the arts should receive public funding – yes, I think we are a long way apart! And I think you’re a long way apart from most of the inhabitants of these islands, to be frank.

    • It would seem that your arguments are fundamentally neo-liberal ‘know_the_cost_of_everything_but_the_value_of_nothing’. Just becuase we can speak English, it doesn’t neccesarily follow that we want to – and quite simply why can’t we speak and use our own language in our own country? It is a basic human right, and, as such Welsh speakers have as much right to use their language as do English speakers. To argue otherwise indicates that you would consider Welsh speakers somehow less deserving, less human than English speakers.

      • Susan said: “It would seem that your arguments are fundamentally neo-liberal ‘know_the_cost_of_everything_but_the_value_of_nothing’.”

        and Ivan had previously said: “However I find it rather depressing that when discussing the Welsh language, many non-speakers put their neoliberal hats on and start discussing it in purely in economic terms.”

        So that’s now twice in my life I’ve been called a “neo-liberal”, both times on this page, and – although I’ve asked – I’m still no wiser about what it is. I’d consider it a kindness if someone would tell me, because the evidence seems to be mounting that it’s a buzz-word symbolising all perceived but poorly-rationalised weaknesses of anybody who does not support your locally-popular cause. (Rather like the way in which SNP cousins use the word “Westminster”.)

        There are many who consider their political affiliations as a private matter, and will not even reveal their vote to pollsters outside a polling station; so I think it’s quite a big ask, for someone to be called-upon to label their political views forever in the public domain in this kind of forum. But after consideration, I think it is relevant to our discussion, and I will accede.

        I have no entrenched affiliation to any political party, although my favoured choice in recent elections and for the forthcoming election has been Lib-Dem. So there we go… I would vote for Liberals who have newly been in coalition: does that define me as a “neo-liberal” in your book? I have never voted Conservative because, frankly, I find the social and Little-Britainist views prevailing in their party and policies abhorrent. And yet on the issue of financial competence in general, which I consider very important, I find them much more credible than the Labour party who promise good fiscal stewardship but whose actions in power and in opposition deny it. Labour went into the last election vowing to legislate to half the deficit, since when they have voted against every single cut in a period where the Coalition’s cuts have only just succeeded in meeting the would-be Labour “law” of halving the deficit; so unfortunately I cannot give them my support. UKIP are utterly detestable to me: they are a combination of contradicting and populist “hate” policies, but one major strand of their policy seems to be a predominantly-English equivalent version of Welsh and Scottish nationalism.

        In the interests of full disclosure and so that you can be clear in your personal attacks, I will also identify myself as an atheist, which means I take an evidence-based approach to life and do not subscribe to the magical-man-in-the-sky hypothesis which influences much of public policy; and as previously mentioned I’m gay, which may give you a negative impression of me or gay people depending on your outlook.

        So now let’s relate all that closely to the subject in hand. Your claim, Susan, is that I know the cost of everything and the value nothing, which is a phrase also used twice by Ivan in replies on this page. I have addressed the issue in some detail, but you haven’t addressed yourself to my answers. I will try again.

        The treatment of Welsh language as a public spending issue: Our public spending has become so high that even in the boom-years our deficit burgeoned, and then we fell into recession. So that’s something like a person who has lived beyond their means with a nice job who is suddenly made unemployed. It is behaviour which has implications for both responsibility and morality. In the case of the British economy, the debt last year (source: Wikipedia) was £1,510,000,000,000. That’s government debt: it doesn’t touch household debt. At 3% interest that means we’re paying £45 billion per year, just in interest payments. That’s the cost. So what’s the *value* of those interest payments?

        It’s the equivalent of 1½ times the entire public spending on everything in Wales in a year. It’s the value of all the Education, all your NHS, all your police force, fire brigade, ambulances. All the care of your elderly and disabled. All your social welfare All the cost of emptying your rubbish bins and cleaning your streets. Everything. In Wales. For 1½ years. That’s the value of *just the interest* on the public debt the UK is servicing. If that isn’t shocking to you, I am shocked by your lack of shock!

        So now I want you to join me in a thought-experiment. I am going to give you, in a humongous pile of cash, the entire public spending budget of the UK. There’s the “cost”. And now, facing you and winding far beyond the horizon in front of you are queues of people, each queue according to a need. Yes, for our thought experiment, we’re all in many queues, and in each queue we hold a bill for the cost of our service. Behind you are many more queues of people, queuing up to pay their tax, of different types.

        So you start distributing the money. In which queue are you going to start? When you realise that the money isn’t going to stretch around everybody, what are you going to do? Are you going to stop giving out to the people in education, or in wheelchairs, or in hospital beds, or with their wheelie-bins; and say “Hold on, this isn’t fair, I’ll have to give some of the money to these other queues” ?

        Maybe you will say “Hey, the bills you’re all coming to me with are too high!”, so you find ways of getting more efficiency. Re-queue everybody, let’s start again. You do it again, and still there isn’t enough.

        So you turn around to the people behind you and say “Come on guys, you need to pay more!”. There’s a muttering and grumbling, but they hand you more. And yet you find it’s still not enough. And you notice that the more money you take from them, the more are just leaving the queue. Some of them are saying it’s not worth it and taking early retirement, some of them are working less and spending more time with their families or on their hobbies, some of them are going abroad, some of them have actually been put out of work by businesses which have quit these shores. And in spite of occasionally coups like 4G-telephony auctions, rail franchise auctions and windfall taxes, you get to a point where the more you raise tax rates, the less tax you seem to get.

        And so maybe you go to borrowing, because that’s what others in your position have done before. You may have the uneasy feeling that you’re being imprudent to pay today’s bills with tomorrow’s income, that there will be a day of reckoning; but perhaps you’ll see it like a pay-day loan: a necessity to keep the wolf from the door of our cultural heritage: Opera, Welsh language, etc.

        Is that actually how you feel? I’m talking “value” here, in big letters: which do you V-A-L-U-E more, because it’s *your* choices of the balance between one public spending priority and another, between extravagance today and increased debt interest payments tomorrow; the consequences are *your* consequences.

        Ok, your argument to me is that I know the “cost of everything and the price of nothing”, and I say that you’re rolling-out a stock-phrase without consider its meaning, and if anything the truth is the other way around. Now I’ll provide my evidence that view.

        First, I suggest that you’re not even thinking about the meaning of the phrase. It might reasonably be levelled, for example, at a person who rejoices in the low price of milk ignoring the value of the dairy industry which has been brought to its knees as a consequence… with all the knock-on consequences to the value we derive from our countryside and our self-sufficiency in a staple product. But I have not denied the cultural value of the Welsh language: just how it’s funded, how it is used as an instrument of discrimination and prejudice, and the setting in which it is taught.

        In previous posts on this thread, you’ve already seen that I have defended cultural pursuits such as Welsh language and acknowledged their undoubted value. You’ve also seen, and ignored (Susan, I’m addressing myself specifically to you) that the difference in my approach is that I think such things should be funded almost entirely by enthusiasts rather than by the tax payer (and I’ve described reasonable exceptions to that in the thread). I do not deny the value people derive from Welsh language!

        Let me show, since you challenge me quite aggressively on this point, that I live according to the *values* that I commend to you and others. Gay rights issues are very important to me. I believe they are deserving of a little public funding in the sense that I believe tolerance and implications of discrimination are things that should be covered in schools (which it is); that there should be laws on the statue book to protect gay people from religious and bigoted discrimination (which there are). But I don’t think the public should have to fund gay culture. There are some points on which there could be legitimate discussion (cost of policing of a gay pride march, for example) and there are some occasions where limited local funding of an event may have a net public income (a small investment in Manchester’s Pride Festival, for example, may be analogous to public funding of Eisteddfod (discussed in the thread above), eg. it may anchor a very financially lucrative event for Manchester within its precincts.

        But I would make my own contribution to gay rights; so I used my own skills, all my savings and gave two full-time years of my life to set up a non-commercial web service for gay and gay-friendly period. (It’s http://www.Pink-Pound.co.uk if you want the evidence.) I’ve had tens of thousands of “End homophobia” wristbands made and distributed them. And so on. And in case you think that’s just pocket change to me, I’ll tell you frankly: I have an income of around £10k per year and I work pretty long hours for it too. I shop carefully, travel modestly, and live pretty frugally. I look after my friends but in ways which give value. And I am telling you any of this solely to rebut your contention that I know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. I feel justified in my belief that I know much more about value than very many people in this country, including very many people in Wales; but now you know about me, you’re welcome to make your own case in reply if you want to..

        Susan, you said:
        “Yes, there are a number of Welsh people who are denied jobs because they don’t speak Welsh, because speaking Welsh is a requirement of the job – because the job holder will be dealing with people who wish to excercise their right to use Welsh in their dealings with the public sector. Don’t forget, Welsh speakers also pay taxes that are used to fund the public sector, so therefore it follows that Welsh speakers have a right to access services in their own language. There is no discrimination, as anyone can learn Welsh and therefore apply for those jobs, should they so wish to.”

        I think at the core of your argument is this phrase: “people who wish to excercise their right to use Welsh in their dealings with the public sector”. And it is a fallacy. There is no such right. Not at all. I profoundly disagree. Welsh people have the right to deal with the public sector in a language they understand, and the public sector has a duty to provide a service efficiently, which means in the only universal language of the UK – of England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland: English! I say to you that *IF* there were a public service district in Wales where people actually spoke Welsh but *NOT* English, or even where *EVERYBODY DID* speak Welsh, there would be a reasonable argument for insisting on having public servants who speak Welsh or bilingually. But there is no such place. Nobody is being denied a public service through it being delivered in English. And therefore I think it’s utterly reprehensible discrimination to make Welsh speaking a job requirement. Your argument that “anyone can learn Welsh” is completely spurious: firstly they may not be able, secondly they may not be able to afford the time and/or financial investment to be able, thirdly there is no justification they should make themselves do that, fourthly it’s essentially the same as limiting a job to Members of a particular religion and saying “People of [insert religion] have their religion taken fully into account in their dealings with the public sector […] anyone can join [insert religion] and therefore apply for those jobs, should they so [sic] wish to.”

        You also proceed along these lines:
        “I’d like to see a day arrive when it is a requirement of the job, any job, that the postholder be a Welsh speaker […]”

        Well, there we go. A few months ago there was a referendum in Scotland where Scottish people had to decide whether to leave the United Kingdom and go there own way. Like a great many English people, I was much saddened by this, because I had always laboured under the illusion that we were pretty happy members of a single country: the United Kingdom. For me, the concept of a country-within-a-country is a constitutional contradiction or an anachronistic term. The USA is a fusion of different states (once independent, now united into one country), China is a country of difference provinces (once independent, now united into one country). And the United Kingdom I believed to be much the same, in its usual over-complicated and slightly pompous way: Wales, the principality, Scotland and England the once separate nations, now all unified within Great Britain, and – through very murky and un-edifying events in quite recent history – together with Northern Ireland, now one country: the United Kingdom. At first I really wanted us to all get on with being a country together; but as time went on and the rhetoric became increasingly nasty, I started to come to the conclusion, “You know what? Sod-off and become fully, completely independent. Make your gates and place your passport control if that’s what you want to do: It will hurt us both, and time will show who it hurts the most.”

        That would be the similar kind of feeling I start to get when I read the kind of rhetoric in your paragraph. I don’t think it does you any credit at all. But there we are, that’s just me. Don’t forget to tell me what you think a “neo-liberal” is.

  11. Hi Ifan, thanks for the reply. I think you may be right that we won’t end up agreeing, but I still think the discussion is productive. Partly because, at least from my side, you’re helping me understand the arguments on the pro-Welsh spending side; and partly because this is a public forum and readers can read two sides of a debate.

    But I’m not sure your hunch is right about my opinions being “a long way apart from most of the inhabitants of these islands”. About opera, I suspect my views would get quite a lot of support; and at a time of austerity I think people are divided between those who feel challenged to decide where the axe should fall, and those who simply argue against the need for an axe. It’s true to say that I find myself in the former camp. You yourself presented a powerful case for austerity (“over £1 trillion in debt”).

    Anyway, you’ll see that I didn’t say that museums should receive no public money: I said “I think there has to be a persuasive argument (cultural, educational and/or economic)”. In other words, I believe there are organisations that would make a justifiable case, while other organisations would not.

    So about the argument for Welsh language spending, in fact I came across your article while thinking to myself that such regional priorities are a good reason for having regional assemblies. But your article and our discussion is rather changing my mind. For one reason, it’s become clear to me that a substantial part of the cost of supporting the Welsh language comes directly from the UK tax payer as a whole. And for another, if it turns out there is an deficit in the Welsh economy caused by investing in teaching Welsh at the expense of other subjects, the UK as a whole pays for that. So I suggest we all justified in taking a view in that discussion.

    I looked at GVA statistics for regions of the UK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Countries_of_the_United_Kingdom_by_GVA_per_capita
    In those statistics, Wales is right at the bottom of the league table of GVA per capita. I’m not remotely going to argue that the reasons for this are anything other than complex; or that Welsh language is a primary reason for it. I don’t believe that at all. But given these statistics what’s the argument against targeting discretionary public spending with a close focus on improving the Welsh economy and transferring other spending into the private arena?

    You make what would be a persuasive argument that Welsh does not take any teaching time. But I’m going to both question and challenge that. My question is what about the children in your area who do not speak Welsh? Do they just go to different schools or attend different classes? Or do they have to learn it? It would certainly not be a ‘free lunch’ if they had to learn it as a foreign language. My first challenge is that when I was at school I had English lessons, where I was taught English grammar. The government believes that English and Maths are the most fundamental skills at which every child should be proficient. But I take the implication from what you say that pupils at your children’s school do not learn English, neither do they learn Welsh: these are innate skills. I’m trying to think of arguments on your side, so I’m guessing your reasoning would be that learning to read in Welsh improves their English reading, writing in English improves their Welsh writing skills. I can see only that it might have a contributory benefit (if I practice football it may be beneficial to my rugby skill; but surely not as beneficial as practicing rugby). The other challenge is that aside from your children’s school, my nephew and nieces had to study Welsh language, as a foreign language, in their school. So as a matter of simple fact, pupils in Wales are being taught Welsh at the expense of other subjects.

    What I really haven’t understood from your replies is why spending on Welsh language must be *public* spending rather than *private* spending. The only argument I’ve heard for that is a purely negative one: money is spent on such-and-such which I don’t use so it should be spent on Welsh? You keep bringing-up investment in rail and other projects, but this is a discussion about the justification of Welsh. Let each project justify itself. But in terms of a comparison, the justification is that CSR2 and Crossrail are ultimately wealth creators. If that’s true, they will benefit those who do not use the service by increasing wealth allowing lower taxes and more money to spend on (for example) Welsh language or increased spending on Public services. I know the merit of this investment is contested, but that really is a different discussion. I can only say that today (1st Oct 2014) happens to be the 50th anniversary of the first shinkansen “bullet” train journey in Japan, and it is widely accepted as a matter of history that the shinkansen brought great economic benefits to Japan.

    You argued that spending on Welsh language programming delivered a 20% net benefit to the local economy. But it seems to me like this: if I give Fred £75, Fred is £75 richer and I am £75 poorer. With my £75, Fred works for some hours writing a newspaper article which he sells for £15. Fred has now received £90 but he’s only got £15 worth of time to write his next article. So you see he’s actually turned my £75 into £15 benefit making a net £60 loss. It’s not like selling the article for £90 to cover costs and add a £15 profit. As for the benefits to BBC Wales, I understand the benefit of sharing sets… it seems a modest benefit – are there others?

    You argued that “as a ‘public sphere’, the Welsh have decided that spending a few £100m on the Welsh language every year is a good thing”. I understand the point you’re making, but I’m not sure about the extent to which it’s true. For one thing, I suggest people have different motivations for supporting Welsh language spending: for some it a heritage motivation, and perhaps for others Welsh language is justifiable – by itself – as a symbol of nationalistic separatism. In addition, it’s a general observation of politics that the strongest voices tend to be from a minority with very passionately held beliefs about a topic, and they tend to have a crusader’s zeal in rallying support. Meanwhile there is a far less vocal dissenting view (dissenters can rarely stir themselves to campaign passionately against the a view which they are simply clear they do not hold); and frequently a majority who have no strong view.

    I have a feeling it’s much like that for Welsh language: it may be an election issue for a pro-Welsh-language minority and they will strongly lobby their case. For others it will not be a deciding issue either way. That’s my reasoned hunch. But if you’re right, and there is this ‘public sphere’ in favour of public spending on Welsh language, why is the number of Welsh speakers actually falling in spite of the success of the lobbyists in gaining funding and having it taught in schools? Why are the viewer numbers of S4C falling? How do these statistics fit with your narrative?

    As for Margaret Thatcher, I think you might even agree with me that some populist policy in Wales was a relatively small expedience in consideration of the extent of unpopularity another of her policies in Wales courted.

    • Hi Tsuchan. Sorry it’s taken me so long to reply – it’s been a very busy month.

      I don’t think we’ll end up agreeing, because it’s clear that to you art and culture are issues that need to ‘pull their weight’ financially. Like the Llanelli Conservative Assembly Member candidate who humorously said that ‘the Welsh language wouldn’t survive as a businesses’, this is a case of knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing. A language and the culture that is entwined within it cannot be given a monetary value. This is true of most things in life, in fact – those things that we feel compelled to buy are in fact a very small part of what makes this world an enjoyable place to live.

      In the case of spending on the Welsh language, I argue that the benefits of this spending far outweigh the costs (even in monetary value, as the two main expenses – S4C and the Eisteddfod – actually make money for the Welsh economy). The rest is mere small change down the back of George Osborne’s sofa, which is even dwarfed by the kind of money that could disappear in an accounting error at a large company (*coughtescocough*), or what is spent by the BBC on failed IT projects.

      I’ll deal with the relevant points one by one:

      “So about the argument for Welsh language spending, in fact I came across your article while thinking to myself that such regional priorities are a good reason for having regional assemblies. But your article and our discussion is rather changing my mind. For one reason, it’s become clear to me that a substantial part of the cost of supporting the Welsh language comes directly from the UK tax payer as a whole.”

      All money spent by the ‘regional’ assemblies comes from the ‘UK tax payer as a whole’. That’s because all tax spent in those ‘regions’ is paid straight into the UK Treasury. Until tax is devolved, that’s not going to change. However, the fact that the tax of the people of Wales goes out of the country before being fed back in doesn’t change the fact that they should have a say in how that tax money is then spent.

      As someone who has an academic interest in the history of these islands, I would argue that the fact that Wales does not pay as large amount of tax as it should into the Treasury is because UK Governmental policy is mostly geared towards developing the economy of the South East of England. These economic levers aren’t a devolved matter, and the Welsh government has not yet gained the powers to borrow and spend on the kind of large infrastructure projects that Wales badly needs in order to make it a desirable place for businesses to set up shop. In the ‘global race’, Wales hasn’t even been offered a pair of shoes. I would in fact argue that Wales has been largely neglected, economically, since the Norman invasion back in the 13th century – the industrial boom in the 19th century being the only exception. So one could easily argue that while Wales does not pay its ‘fair share’ of tax, is has not received a ‘fair share’ of investment either.

      “And for another, if it turns out there is an deficit in the Welsh economy caused by investing in teaching Welsh at the expense of other subjects, the UK as a whole pays for that.”

      It’s a bad time to bring this up, as a new study published today actually shows that children in Welsh language schools do better than those in English language schools. And, as I said earlier (and if you have proof to the contrary, I’d like to see it) there is no suggestion that teaching through the medium of Welsh costs any more than teaching in English.

      To answer your other point, there are Welsh as well as English schools in all areas in Wales. There seems to me to be no reason to suggest that the Welsh language is therefore a drain on the system. Parents (both Welsh and English speaking) who desire that their children receive an education in the Welsh language will send them to a Welsh speaking school, and vice versa. They are ultimately best placed to decide what is good for their own children.

      “The other challenge is that aside from your children’s school, my nephew and nieces had to study Welsh language, as a foreign language, in their school. So as a matter of simple fact, pupils in Wales are being taught Welsh at the expense of other subjects.”

      This is an issue that, as I’ve already pointed out, I’ve dealt with on another topic – ‘Welsh is forced down our throats’. Feel free to contribute to the discussion there, if you must! The compulsory nature of GCSE Welsh doesn’t stop any child from choosing any other subject, and it’s one of a myriad of other compulsory subjects in Wales, including Religious Education (!).

      “What I really haven’t understood from your replies is why spending on Welsh language must be *public* spending rather than *private* spending.”

      Private money is spent on the Welsh language. I spend a great deal on Welsh language books, DVDs, music, theatre, etc. every year. This private spending is facilitated by a very small amount of public expenditure – just like HS2 or Crossrail. Yes, the boost to the economy will be less, but the expense is in the tens of billions less as well.

      “You argued that spending on Welsh language programming delivered a 20% net benefit to the local economy…”

      Read the paper from Cardiff University. They know their economics better than I do.

      “…why is the number of Welsh speakers actually falling in spite of the success of the lobbyists in gaining funding and having it taught in schools? Why are the viewer numbers of S4C falling? How do these statistics fit with your narrative?”

      Because the current period (a few decades in length) of very small public expenditure on the Welsh language follows in the wake of 900 years of unmitigated persecution. The number of Welsh speakers declined from some 100% of the population to nearer 20% before the government deigned to stop killing it off and began to respond to the desire from the people of Wales to save it.

      Despite the support for the Welsh language amongst the people of Wales, it remains the fact that the Welsh language has been the victim of a propaganda campaign portraying it as a dead, barbaric language that will make its speakers stupid, for hundreds of years. Welsh speakers were first banned from setting foot in towns, then banned from taking up posts unless they spoke English instead. They were banned from speaking Welsh at schools. Even after these laws were scrapped, and the state has given up (at least publicly) its persecution of all things Welsh language, the propaganda campaign against the language continues unabated in the press right up to the present day. As a result of this, Welsh speakers are now a minority in Wales. The surprise, in fact, is that it hasn’t died out altogether – many languages that have come under such heavy bombardment have given up the ghost after far less of a pounding. And as any socio-linguist will tell you, when a language reaches minority status, it’s very difficult for it to claw itself back from that position. What is needed is a tiny amount of public expenditure in order to facilitate it’s re-growth, and also a chance to respond to the almost daily besmirchment of the language in the media (an opportunity that the internet, thankfully, provides – hence this website!).

      Your arguments here is like asking, ‘if the white rhino is worth saving, why aren’t there more of them? If the species wants to live so badly, why does it continue to die off in such an unreasonable manner?’. You should direct this question at those who have been shooting the rhinos, not at the white rhinos themselves.

  12. Great comments by gohebydd. Myself, I am super confident that the resilient and wonderful Welsh language will thrive through the next century. There is no reason why it cannot. I am sure that the decline of western industrial society will ensure its survival in fact. As for its value,what price could you put on a culture that has given me my life, my wife, my children , my job, my art, my friends, my leisure time, my passion, my twitter account, my poetry, my history and my sense of my place in a cruel heartless capitalist society. Diolch i’r Gymraeg. I thank all gods for the Welsh language. If everyone spoke it,knew of its treasure, the world would be a much, much better place. Fact.

  13. This is a reply to tsucahan’s comments:

    It seems to me that you- like other non Welsh speakers- are threatened by the positives of being bilingual to an individual, and consequently turn to the negatives of the Welsh language on the broader economic and political spectrum that influences society as a whole. If you look at the impact of the Welsh language being taught in schools on the pupils you will see it’s obvious positives- for instance; when interviewed for universities, or a job I could convey how understanding I am towards minority cultures, or general social outsider, such as the LGBT community, mentally ill ect, by explaining how I’ve over come the prejudice shown to me being a minority language speaker. I may have never been bullied or directly been discriminated as an individual, but I live a way of life (through Welsh) that many people hate or the media love to ostracise. I beisicaly come from a minority, so I understand others from a minority. This is something that businesses as services look forin people, indefinitely, therfore increasing my chances of getting accepted. Why would you want only Welsh speakers from Welsh backgrounds benefiting from this? Wouldn’t you want all pupils to have such a positive? Therefore shouldn’t every pupil be taught Welsh??

    This is just one specific positive, out of many. The general point I’m making is that it’s more than just a language- it’s a way of life, a way of thinking, it’s thousands of years of history, it’s a different, unique culture, it’s different skills. All these things are a positive to an individual trying to reach somewhere in the corporal world we live in.

    Wouldn’t you want your drama-aspiring child to have the chance to perform, repeatedly on a stage in front of thousands of people? That chance is only given because of the Welsh language and it’s culture.

    The positives for an individual goes on and on.

    • Hmm, I’m struggling to agree with you on any of the points you made above. The positives of being bilingual per se are not in question (at least not by me… I have studied four modern languages other than my mother tongue, lived and worked for 5 years in Brussels and 12 years in Japan; and I believe it’s one of the greatest opportunities a child can have to be raised in a bilingual environment). Even to be brought-up bilingual English/Welsh, I should say, is an advantage over being brought-up in a monolingual environment. All that notwithstanding, I really don’t recognise any of the benefits in the context of the discussion and the sense it which you frame them.

      There is no requirement whatsoever for a child to be taught in school, in the minority language s/he speaks at home. For example, a child raised in the UK with Chinese parents or one British/one Chinese parent will speak Chinese at school; or in the reverse example will speak Chinese at school if raised in China. Bilingualism carries exactly no requirement to school the child in the minority language. If schooling in that language is deemed necessary for the child it can be an extra-curricular activity. In my mind, it should be.

      I can’t relate a genuine benefit that can be claimed by your example university or job candidate, of being able to relate to other minorities. First of all, one is in a majority or minority only in relation to the communities with which one is engaged. A person brought-up speaking Welsh in a Welsh village where pretty nearly everyone spoke Welsh would not even be in a minority. I understand about minorities: I grew up being fat, gay and wearing glasses. I was beaten-up, chased, mocked and threatened so much as a child that I didn’t leave secondary school until two hours after classes finished in the hope of getting home safely. I’m happy for you that you have never been bullied. But to borrow a Dumbledore phrase from Harry Potter, “Really, Hagrid, if you are holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time.”

      [Pause for re-analysis — am I being too hasty?]

      The complaint you voice sounds very comparable to the experience of people of a fervent religious belief (or equally impassioned with none); or people with an strong political affiliation. We don’t have to think too hard to see many of them hated and ostracised by the media. Or we could talk about people who smoke, people who are overweight, people who are unemployed, people for whom a particular fashion or style is part of their identity. Or hey, we could talk about tax officials, traffic wardens, teachers and doctors (yep, they definitely see themselves as victimised and misunderstood by the media), … bankers! (Hi Ifan!) In life, I feel that many of us are unpopular for one reason or another. I don’t sense you have it too badly as a Welsh speaker by the media, and I don’t have any perception that Welsh speakers are hated. Yes, there are challenges to public funding of Welsh, but that’s democracy, isn’t it? I’m challenging you now – in the media, if you will – but I certainly don’t hate or seek to ostracise you. \(^_^)/

      So you go on to say, “The general point I’m making is that it’s more than just a language- it’s a way of life, a way of thinking, it’s thousands of years of history, it’s a different, unique culture, it’s different skills. All these things are a positive to an individual trying to reach somewhere in the corporal [sic.] world we live in.”

      Fine – all these things are fine… but why does it have to be publicly funded, and why do people like my nephew and nieces have to study it against their will when they’d rather study something which will be of far more use in the corporate (and indeed corporeal) world we live in? There are not a few people in Wales who are denied access to jobs because they do not speak Welsh. These are Welsh people who have lived in Wales all their lives, and their jobs involve them speaking exclusively with people who also speak perfectly good English. I believe that is real discrimination.

      So in summary, I agree that being bilingual is valuable (although being bilingual in a language which is spoken by people who don’t speak your other language seems much more valuable). But the other things you mention don’t seem to me to be merits accruing to Welsh speakers because of their bilingual abilities or experiences.

      • You just don’t seem to get it, do you? Yes, there are a number of Welsh people who are denied jobs because they don’t speak Welsh, because speaking Welsh is a requirement of the job – because the job holder will be dealing with people who wish to excercise their right to use Welsh in their dealings with the public sector. Don’t forget, Welsh speakers also pay taxes that are used to fund the public sector, so therefore it follows that Welsh speakers have a right to access services in their own language. There is no discrimination, as anyone can learn Welsh and therefore apply for those jobs, should they so wish to. I speak perfectly good English, in fact it’s my first language, but I demand all services from the public sector in Welsh.

        If anything, the legislation covering the Welsh language in Wales does not go far enough, and I am of the belief that all services should be bilingual in all of Wales, and that there is a strong case for discouraging visible use of English in areas where a majority speak Welsh, As far as the public sector is concerned, I’d like to see a day arrive when it is a requirement of the job, any job, that the postholder be a Welsh speaker, or where a skill shortage requires the appointment of a non-Welsh speaker, that a requirement to learn Welsh to an agreed standard within a time frame be a condition of employment. I’d also like to see that the language of internal administration is Welsh rather than English. This would have to be planned, and implemented over a period of say, a generation. Your arguments are actually tantamount to denying the full humanity of Welsh speakers.

  14. tsuchan your Chinese argument is totally ridiculous and now leaves me believing if you can put forward such a spurious argument the rest of your comments must be equally worthless. A WELSH CHILD IN A WELSH SCHOOL BEING TAUGHT THROUGH THEIR OWN WELSH LANGUAGE cannot in any way, shape or form be compared to the child of a Chinese immigrant being taught Chinese in any British school, Welsh, Scottish, English or Irish. We as British people do not have Chinese as a native tongue. The Welsh language and culture is our birthright..

    I do not speak Welsh, I am familiar with the language and I have tried to learn it but it was ‘removed’ from my family by the English. However my children are all first language Welsh and English. My children speak Welsh thanks to the provision of Welsh medium mother and toddler groups, a Welsh medium primary school and a bilingual secondary school and I did this, because I am old enough lol, before the Welsh Assembly existed. I also live in a very Anglicised, close to the English border garrison town so not a particularly Welsh area. I hope now that my children will pass this on to my grandchildren and if it came to it I would be happy for all Welsh Schools to be Welsh medium only.

    • We were discussing whether it is necessary or desirable for children to be taught their lessons in the second native language at school or even taught the second native language at school in order to be bilingual. In that context, I can’t imagine why my example of Chinese is anything but pertinent. They are bilingual and they don’t learn Chinese at school. End of illustration.

      But if you like we can take a completely different type of example. People in the German speaking part of Switzerland speak Swiss German at home. It’s officially called a dialect, but it would be fair to call it a different language. It’s more different, I should say, than Norwegian and Danish. (I speak Norwegian and German, and as a result can have some kind of conversation in Danish, but I couldn’t have a conversation in Swiss German in spite of spending some months there.) Swiss German native speakers are taught in High German at school. They are bilingual, speaking Swiss German in their family and community while being schooled in High German. That’s a much more complicated example, but hopefully it deals with your point about Welsh being your treasured cultural language (even though you don’t speak it, which I confess is a very difficult concept for me to grasp).

      I don’t actually think the main point you’re making is anything to do with bilingualism… I think it’s to do with being historically sore at “the English” for not giving you an opportunity to learn at school a language which was not spoken in your home.

      I would say learning Welsh for you would be pedagogically like learning French for me. I still don’t see a reasonable argument against Welsh language teaching being a privately funded extra-curricular our family taught activity.

      • It’s true that I wrote my last reply from my mobile phone a couple of days ago, after I’d gone to bed when I read Christine’s submission. I know there are one or two words which were scrambled by text prediction which I didn’t spot before posting. But unless I’m going completely doolally, I distinctly remember writing another couple of reasoned paragraphs which don’t appear in the published article I’ve just now been sent an e-mail notification about from WordPress. There’s no explanation of their omission… I don’t suppose they were clipped by my mobile phone I posted the submission..?

      • Hi Tsuchan. I just press ‘approve’ when I see there’s a new comment waiting, after checking that the comment isn’t spam. None of the comments are edited by myself, so it must be a problem with the technology I’m afraid. Or you are going doolally! :p

        PS I’ve just changed the settings to ‘approve anyone who has had a previously approved comment’ as having to moderate them is just slowing the discussion down.

      • Fair enough… Thanks for clearing that up Ifan. Like you say then, technology or doolally – most likely the second one. (^_-)

      • Welsh language education is publicly funded because many non-Welsh speaking parents demand Welsh medium education for their children. The situation in the capital is such that Welsh medium schools are oversubscribed, and in one disgusting episode a local politician went as far as opposing the building of a new, and bigger Welsh medium school to replace the already hugely oversubscribed Welsh medium school based purely on the argument that an English medium school would have to close due to falling rolls – indicating that the only reason the English medium school was viable was because children effectively denied a Welsh medium education had to attend an English medium school, as that was the only alternative in the catchment area.

  15. im from a small town in north west wales and Welsh is widely spoken! I can go for months not speaking a single word of English! We (Welsh) have fought for the survival of our language and I thinn its highly important to promote the language! We got whipped and put in jsil for using our beautiful language and when people say theres no point in the language it really angers me! I did not start to learn English until I was 7 and was not confident at all in speaking the language until I went to University! I love being able to speak Welsh and am so proud of my Welsh heritage! One thing I do not do is watch many Welsh programmes which I need to start doing!! If in the future I move away from Wales (very unlikely) I will raise my children with Welsh as their furst language! I think English is very important as it is widely spoken all over thr workd but we need to make sn effort with every language! If you go on holiday yo places like Spain or Greece people will make the effort to learn key words and use them! When it comes to Welsh hardly anyone makes the effort and assumes you speak English! Where I am from, some people do not speak English. This is mainly the elderly and small children (before the age of 7). So to assume that everyone speaks and understands English is just ignorant! We have the same rights as anyone else for our language and to be able to use it anywhere we want at any time! People need to realise that it is a first language to many and it is used in everyday life!!

  16. As someone of Welsh descent who only came back to live in Wales 10 years ago, perhaps I could put my point of view, as someone with no axe to grind? When we lived in rural Oxfordshire, our local GP practice was state-of-the-art; because I am on regular medication, I was called for a full check-up every 6 months and the practice offered minor surgery and many other services. The reception area was open-plan, clean and pleasant and I could ring for an appointment with my own dedicated doctor. What a shock we got when we first went to register at our GP practice here! The waiting-room and system is still like something out of the ‘fifties, with benches around the walls, a walled-off receptionist and I never see the same doctor twice-running. And I only get a health check once a year – and often I have to remind them.

    My granddaughter has been brought up here and is taught in Welsh, despite the fact that only 5% of the children at her school are Welsh-speaking. She was held back a year in reception, because she wasn’t yet fluent in Welsh (like many others). So, that was a year’s education wasted. Then, when at the age of 6, the school had made no effort to teach her to read in any language, my daughter decided to teach her to read at home (in English). Her teachers discouraged this, and said it would just confuse her, but my daughter persisted; and when my granddaughter eventually started to learn to read in Welsh at school, her teachers noted that, because of her grounding of phonics, she learned to read in Welsh far more quickly than the rest. The result is that, at 11, she has a reading age of 15 in English, and is 3rd from top of her class in Welsh. We all think that, if my daughter had not made the effort to teach her to read in English at home, my granddaughter would be struggling with her English and Welsh reading now, as many of her peers are doing.

    Since the Welsh economy is mainly rural, our children will probably have to go outside Wales to University and to find jobs, unless they are simply willing to drive a tractor or work in a shop. We are not equipping them for this by simply ignoring the fact that English is the international language of commerce and science – and that it is therefore important that they have all the skills they need in this language.

    According to the 2011 census, only 19% of Welsh people speak Welsh. Even fewer can read and write it. Both Ireland and Scotland have their own (Gaelic) languages, with similar numbers, but have mainly taught in English for decades, for the simple reason that they realised that not speaking, reading and writing English fluently disadvantaged their children.

    I receive many official letters which are duplicated because of the requirement that everything has to be in Welsh and English – how much does this cost? Only millions. It costs far more for our kids to be held back in their education because they are taught in Welsh. What a benefit it could prove, if we accepted that the Welsh language, like Gaelic, is a beautiful and historic language which is fine to keep alive at home or in the community, but not a language to be used for education if we wish our children to go out and compete in today’s world.

    And, before anyone shouts at me about the Welsh language being historically suppressed – yes, I know all about that, and of course I find it abhorrent. But most Welsh people in the last 2 centuries insisted their children learned English because they knew it was their best chance of getting a job outside Wales. And to be honest, that still holds true today.

  17. The amount of money spent on “keeping the language alive” is nothing compared to the amount being spent destroying the fabric of the language,which is the Welsh speaking communities. Also the pressure put on Welsh by Government policy and peoples attitudes means that it is constantly under pressure which is artificial. Welsh would not require the amounts of money if it were not for these things. I must say though that the money spent is not , in my experience well spent or good value for money! I know that recently the Welsh Labour gvt gave £300,000 to Cambria college in Wrecsam to promote a Welsh centre in Wrecsam ( There are around 25000 welsh speakers in Wrecsam county). However the very successful and celebrated Saith Seren Welsh centre was barred from applying. The Cambria college centre is not open to the public and their plans seem completely non productive.
    I always think that for the Welsh language to be safe and sustainable or even to thrive requires a change in attitude and Government policy more than money.

    • I want to understand what you mean by Government policy putting the Welsh language under an artificial pressure, but you haven’t given any examples. The only example you gave was on a different matter of poor investment.

  18. Hi Gohebydd, would you mind if I blogged about this post on one of my own pages? It’s a different platform, I’d love to hear your thoughts with respect to te reo Māori in New Zealand!

  19. If an English man, Scotsman or Northern Eire Unionist supposedly colonized themselves in Wales. Then surely when a Welsh person moves to live in England or any of the other home nations of the UK, then they should be classed as colonists too?
    This is a warped way of thinking. Which good old Plaid , would not of promoted. Colonists bring investment, employment, and help the dire housing market in North Wales. Are not “colonists,’ but fellow UK citizens.
    I’m Welsh born and bred too. Look at the farce with Glynllifion. Employment is more important than a name at times. Now the potential major hospitality investor has been scared off by bigotry.
    As Gwyn Thomas stated: “…..the English-speaking world is central to the future happiness of mankind….”
    At the moment it’s jobs for the boyos and girlos.

  20. Time passes, things move on. I’ve just been reading through this debate and was struck by the (usual) fair play and good nature shown, and how detailed it had become. I learnt a great deal, thank you all.

    Since it seems full disclosure is the name of the game, I’m writing this in sunny Surrey, from my mock-Tudor detached home. I suppose it’s the stockbroker belt, although I haven’t seen one of those for a while. Anyway, it’s a long way from Wales – in all senses of the word.

    I can understand why the Welsh feel the way they do about their language, but I’m not certain that the true visceral nature of the issue can be put in words. When there is talk of percentages of this, percentages of that, well, surely that’s not the point? Some have argued that money can’t buy/replace what they feel is their birthright, their very cultural identity. Yet it must be the case that money matters – it always does. There isn’t an infinite quantity of it, so a bit spent in one place means a little cut elsewhere. (I must say the very least convincing argument here is that the cost of it all is “Only two quid per head”. Heavens above!)

    Surely there’s a problem when figures are hurled around anyway. We have little way of knowing how many people, and to what degree, speak Welsh. We are asking them, and they may not give an accurate answer. This isn’t because they are telling untruths, it’s far more complex. For instance, we used to ask people how much exercise they did by anonymous survey – only 60% of what they should , it turned out. When the technology arrived to monitor them, it turned out to be ten times less – 6%..

    There is a strange paradox that those who have a smattering of the language wish they had more – virtually all of them. . If we wish for or desire something – say an iPhone – we normally get it. Since the path to better Welsh is pretty obvious, I’m wondering why aren’t many taking it? I don’t know – maybe they wish more for other things? Again, I dunno, but I do know if I was Welsh I’d want to keep the language as strongly supported as possible – but not by me. I’d feel comfortable that it was in safe hands with the X% of the population who live by it, day in, day out. The X% I ‘m talking about are the truly fluent speakers, who use it and little English. It’s interesting that the largest proportion of people thinking Welsh is an unneeded, anachronistic and purposeless language are those with the most knowledge.

    I must be honest. I thought this was an April Fool’s joke:

    “It is imperative that swimming lessons and similar activities are available in Welsh – not only so that the language can thrive outside the classroom, but also to respect children’s rights, regardless their background, to learn and enjoy in the language of their country,” she said

    I cannot believe the Welsh language regulations. They are extraordinary. The way the apply to the health service, for instance, or In business meetings. I would have thought it insane to insist on a Welsh speaking swimming instructor, or nurse. I notice the tribunal body has been running for two years already – nice work if you can get it at 600.00 quid a day.

    Whoever was the Eistein, the driving force, behind this? Apart from anything else, the system is .. well, it’s very English. And if it achieves anything other than misery and inconvenience, I’ll eat my shorts.

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