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Welsh Speaking People Against Language Discrimination

Updated on December 4, 2012

The Welsh language was monoglot until the 16th century, when it rapidly declined in the number of speakers (due to the Act of Union with England in 1536). Revivals followed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Nevertheless, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, speaking Welsh in some of the Welsh schools was prohibited. There was a punishment system called the Welsh Notand any child overheard speaking Welsh was subject to it. The child then had to wear a piece of wood around the neck, inscribed with the letters WN and it could pass the "not" to another child if overheard speaking Welsh. By the end of the day, the child wearing the Welsh Not would be given a lashing (similar fashion beatings were used by American Indian boarding schools in the 1960s and later). The Welsh "not" was used only in a minority of schools, and after the Local Government Act 1888, instruction in Welsh became obligatory in Welsh-speaking areas.

Welsh Language Skills, 2001 Census.
Welsh Language Skills, 2001 Census. | Source

Welsh language belongs to the family of Celtic languages (Brythonic branch) and its history spans over 1400 years. It evolved  from British language spoken by ancient Britons. Estimates say that 611,000 people speak Welsh as native language (in Wales), 150,000 people speak Welsh along the Welsh border in England and 5,000 people speak Welsh in Patagonia (the part belonging to Argentina), in the Welsh immigrant colony in the Chubut Valley.

62% of people living in Wales and speaking Welsh claim to speak the language on a daily basis. According to the Welsh Language Board  reports, Welsh is a growing language within Wales; in 2004, 21.7% of the population of Wales in households or communal establishments were able to speak Welsh, which is a 0.9 percentage point increase when compared with a figure of 20.8%  from the 2001 census. This means there were cca. 35,000 more Welsh speakers than in 2001. This change is probably due to the fact that since 2000, the teaching of Welsh has been compulsory in all schools in Wales up to age 16. Therefore, all children including those of non-Welsh-speaking parents from elsewhere in the UK grow up with Welsh language as well as English language.

‘’We will not tolerate this kind of offensive attutude towards our language anymore...’’

English and Welsh have equal status in Wales. Moreover, in December 2010, the legislation to make Welsh an official language in Wales was unanimously approved by the National Assembly of Welsh and it will come into force in 2011. Therefore, public bodies and certain private companies will provide services in Welsh language. An appointed Welsh Language Tribunal and a language commissioner will enforce the measure and protect the language rights of Welsh speakers. The Welsh Assembly and local council already use Welsh as a quasi-official language. They issue literature and publicity such as letters to parents from schools, library information, and council information in Welsh versions.

The national newspaper The Welshman (Welsh: Y Cymro) ispublished once a week in Welsh; however, there is no daily newspaper in the language. Most road signs and Welsh placenames in Wales are bilingual (in English and in Welsh) although there are cases of references in English only.

The success of Welsh against language discrimination: main points

  • The Welsh language was used at a meeting of the European Union's Council of Minister for the first time in November 2008. The Welsh Heritage Minister addressed the audience in Welsh and his words were translated into all existing official languages in the EU.
  • The Welsh greeting ‘’Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn oesoedd’’ (Eng. "Good health to you now and forever") is included in NASA's Voyager program launched in 1977: Welsh is one of the 55 languages chosen to be representative of Earth by Voyager Golden Records (phonograph records containing sounds and images selected to describe the diversity of life and culture on Earth. They are intended for any extraterrestrial life form or future humans who may find them).
  • In 1980, a hunger strike was announced as a response to the act of government which would not honour the pledge to establish a Welsh language television channel. Eventually, the government yielded and in 1982, a Welsh television channel broadcast S4C (Channel 4 Wales) was launched, aimed specifically at a Welsh-speaking audience and it is the fifth oldest British television channel.
  • The Welsh language is highly present on the internet including language interfaces such as Microsoft Windows XP, Vista, Microsoft Office, Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia, Facebook and others.
  • Samsung (the mobile phone company) in association with the network provider Orange launched the first mobile phone in the Welsh language. The interface and the T9 dictionary on the Samsung S5600 model is available in Welsh language.

How does Welsh sound?

For those who want to learn Welsh language:

If you are interested in learning Welsh, but don't know how to get started... you need Rosetta Stone!

The world's No. 1 language-learning software Rosetta Stone can help you learn Welsh language the way you learned your first language, easily and naturally by connecting words to objects and events around you. Using this software is an incredibly effective way to learn. It's as though you had been forced to forget your native language and dropped into a place where people know how to speak only Welsh.

You’ll soon be able to:

  • understand everyday language
  • pronounce words correctly
  • find the words you need when you need them
  • spell and write accurately
  • learn to communicate
  • retain what you learn

Welsh Level 1 is the beginner’s level. You progress from words and phrases to complete sentences following basic content and structures.

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