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The Welsh Language As I See It

Postiwyd gan MarshMallo o Caerdydd - Cyhoeddwyd ar 01/07/2014 am 11:49
2 sylwadau » - Tagiwyd fel Diwylliant, Addysg, Pobl, Materion Cyfoes

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Yn Gymraeg // Welsh version

Written by you

I’m sorry I haven’t written anything for a while. I’ve been struggling not only to think of material but to remember to think of material. I’m back now, and I’ve gathered my thoughts on something extremely important to my life right now.

Let me start this off by saying that I love Welsh. I really, truly do love to hear the language spoken and used in an informal, natural way. One of the reasons why I’ve come to appreciate this is because this is a luxury for me. Spoken Welsh, or “iaith lafar”, is something that I haven’t really been able to get a hold of easily. You see, my formal Welsh looks quite good when written down. Of course, I may miss a mutation here, use a ‘u’ instead of an ‘i’ there, or even misuse a verb; but as a whole, I am very happy with my standard of written Welsh as it is today.

My spoken Welsh, on the other hand, is another story. Informal language tends to be easier than written language, because it comes naturally. That’s the key, isn’t it? If it isn’t natural, it isn’t very good. That’s my main problem with how I speak Welsh. The responsibility could be placed on anyone, including my school or my parents, but it’s pretty clear to me that the fault lies with me and my peers.

The truth is, it is rare to walk down a corridor in Glantaf and hear a group of friends speaking Welsh of their own accord. They’ll happily chat in English until a teacher walks by. That’s the code, you see. You can tell when the topic needs to quickly change to perhaps something less private when you hear someone suddenly reply in Welsh rather than English. Sure enough, a teacher walks by, maybe smiles, or says “well done” for speaking Welsh, and then he or she is gone. Then the English starts again.

English is the language of the home, Welsh is the language of school. That’s the way it is. My friends and I have almost put a barrier between our true selves and our “professional” selves by assigning a language to each. To make matters worse, the “professional” language, Welsh, is almost completely neglected until the next Welsh lesson. Even then, when the teacher isn’t listening, whispers are exchanged in English. If a teacher hears English – and they will, at least once a day, in fact – they will remind you of the language of the school and that students should be trying their best to improve their Welsh by speaking it at any opportunity.

That’s the thing, though. I never get an opportunity. We’ll have an oral assessment about the importance of Welsh medium schools and how the language needs to survive, and then we’ll revert back to English once the classroom door has shut behind us. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve tried time and time again to convince my friends that speaking Welsh informally is a good thing that needs to be done and will – believe it or not – get easier with time, but I never get a positive response. Whenever I go out with one of my closest friends, we’ll spend the day speaking Welsh, and it’ll be great, if you excuse the um’s and ahh’s that escape our lips at least three times per sentence.

The way to improve this lack of respect for the language is not, however, banning English in Welsh medium schools. Children will be children and they will disobey in the mildest form possible by speaking a “forbidden language” within the primary school walls. Then, by the time they reach high school, all is forgotten about how fun it is to rebel by breaking the primary rule of Welsh schools, but English has become so natural to them, it doesn’t matter. Banning English, while not quite like a “Welsh Not” punishment, is still not a good or efficient way to encourage children to speak Welsh. It backfires.

What I’m hoping this article will do, if anything, is to convince anyone who’s reading that languages and heritage are unbelievably important, and although neglecting them for what’s around you is so easy, it’s also dangerous. Losing your background or a skill as valuable as a language is one of the biggest regrets a person can have later in life, in my opinion. There are people out there who will completely ignore the Welsh language (even in the Eisteddfod, the Welshiest place on Earth, I still had to remind everyone that we were “cynrychioli’r ysgol” – representing the school – and that, especially there, Welsh needs to be respected and used). Don’t be one of these people. I beg of you, please keep the Welsh language alive.

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2 CommentsPostiwch sylw

Tom (Sub-Editor)

Tom (Sub-Editor)

Rhoddwyd sylw 22 mis yn ôl - 27th June 2014 - 17:17pm

Hi MarshMallo! Your writing is very good - far above your age :) If you're stuck for ideas to write on in future, then check or ask our Sprout Editorial Group Facebook group (anyone can join). If you also have ideas on which others might want to write, please put them on there!



Rhoddwyd sylw 22 mis yn ôl - 2nd July 2014 - 16:22pm

Ah MarshMallo! I'm glad you're back. Your writing has been missed. I agree with you completely. It's such a shame that in social groups such as yours, a rich and vibrant language is tarnished and used as something secondary.

The key problem, in my opinion, is the complete arrogance of the British curriculum (and indeed the British culture) in assuming that English will be enough. It's really not. We're so blind to the existence of other cultures, that "English is all we need" becomes adopted as a mindset that restricts the capacity to learn new languages.

“You live a new life for every new language you speak. If you know only one language, you live only once.”

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