Delvan Willis is a junior in Political Science at the University of Illinois. He is planning on attending law school after graduation and is interested in International Relations, especially in regards to the Middle East. He wrote this piece while enrolled in 418 ‘Language and Minorities in Europe.’
But why? Why was Welsh starting to disappear? Why wasn’t there more being done to prevent this trend from continuing? Most people who care about the legacy of a language and culture would begin to ask these questions, so here some answers to your questions.
The biggest problem for Welsh in the early 20th century was because it had not made the list of Wales’ official languages list fast enough to prevent language shift to English. Welsh was beginning to disappear because more and more people began to saw English as the only important medium of communication. Demographic changes and loss of people due to wars did not help either. Indeed, the time when the Wels language saw the biggest drop in people who could speak it was after WWII.
Already during WWII, English became the uncontested language of communication among the allies and its global reach has only intensified during the 1950s and 1960s.
Under these acts, the Welsh language began to regain its footing. Youths began to have Welsh spoken to them in schools and in many other public institutions. Welsh became “a compulsory subject for all pupils up to the age of 16 in English-medium schools in Wales” and it was taught as a first language in Welsh-medium schools. It was still widely spoken and taught at home in certain areas of Wales, which helped people to become attached to their language again. Musicians, such as Gwyneth Glen, was among those who showed that Welsh language and culture were still alive by recording songs in Welsh. Social clubs for youths encouraged the usage of the language, new technologies became available in Welsh… and just so you know the popular game Minecraft is now available to be played in Welsh!
While all these measures have stopped the bleeding, Welsh language use is still drastically lower than what many want. According to the 2001 census shown in this graph, there has been a substantial increase in the number of children who had learned to speak the language in school. It is now up to them to see to the growth and wealth of Welsh in Wales.