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Monday, October 17, 2005

Speaking different languages

It is actually rather sad that things have got to this stage. The Western Mail this morning reports that Culture Minister, Alun Pugh, is due to speak at the inaugural meeting of a new Welsh Language Forum in Y Ganolfan Arts Centre, Porthmadog on Thursday evening. Two hours have been set aside to hear the public's views about the development of the language.

The Forum is considered by Mr. Pugh to be a "listening shop", which could facilitate a new dialogue between politicians and the public. But the development of future policy will remain the responsibility of the Assembly Government. So far so good. It is just a shame that this 'forum' is subject to the usual caveats from a New Labour Minister - he has to remain in control. He has said that he will almost certainly walk out of the first meeting if protesters cause disruption

Whether this proves to be a genuine listening exercise or a cosmetic front has yet to be seen. Certainly, its success or otherwise depends on all sides of the issue behaving responsibly and with mutual respect for each other. That is why I agree with the Labour Government spokesperson that Cymdeithas have a right to protest, but it's a question of how far the protest goes. "They can have their say and then shut up and let others make a contribution." However, to go into a meeting threatening to walk out if things do not go according to plan is no way to establish trust. It is almost as if the Minister is inviting failure from the start.

I sincerely hope that this meeting works out. Both Cwmdeithas yr Iaith and the Welsh Assembly Government have built barriers to a constructive dialogue with their actions over the last few months. This is an opportunity to break down those barriers and to talk openly to each other about their wishes and their plans for the Welsh Language. The important thing is that both sides need to be prepared to listen, they have to accept that their opponents hold passionate convictions and that occasionally things might get a bit rowdy and they need to make allowances for that. We will see if that proves at all possible on Thursday.
Cymuned members will be present at the meeting (as at every public meeting in Gwynedd), and will once again be making relevant, practical suggestions.

I wonder if Alun Pugh has got hold of Joshua Fishman's 'Reversing Language Shift' yet - it's the key research work in the field, and I've offered to buy him a copy if necessary...;-)
When are the Cymdeithas fanatics going to recognise that you cannot legislate to make people speak a language but have to persuade and encourage them to do so?

My Welsh is schoolboy level (like the vast majority of the population). I don't resent the language, but i certainly do resent the "you can't be Welsh unless you speak the language", attitude which is displayed by members of Cymdeithas.

The plain fact is that English is the main language in Wales (inevitably as it is the primary global language). While Welsh culture is worth preserving it is crazy to pretend that all walks of life must be totally bilingual - that is just a recipe for making translators rich while the rest of us sink into the third world as the costs to business of investing in Wales become prohibitive!

Levels of Welsh speaking are no longer declining but have more or less evened out. The survival of the language now surely demands winning the economic growth required to ensure our young people no longer have to get out if they want to get on, not placing more & more enterprises under the same costly regime as the public sector.

Perhaps Peter can tell us what is the total cost to us taxpayers of public sector compliance with the existing Welsh Language Act?

Around one fifth of our population speak Welsh, while nearly a third of our children are growing up in poverty! It is a perverse & disgraceful situation where the political agenda is being diverted to the special interests of farmers & language nutcases while the needs of our deprived children (most of them monoglot English) are swept under the carpet!

To summarise, I don't see that there is a debate worth having with Cymdeithas et al. If they want to turn Cymru into Cuba then there is a political party (Plaid Cymru) which shares their narrow & bigoted perspective, otherwise they should grow up and mainstream politicians should not encourage their fantasies.
We did think about turning Cymru into Cuba but although the weather would be nicer most of the time the hurricanes put us off......am not a member of cymuned but I understand they support developing the economy of wales so that fewer children live in poverty....its a tragedy that there are people who still think there is a conflict between developing the welsh language and reducing poverty...(mainly but not exclusively on the monoglot side of the argument)in fact the two things are linked together as all the cymuned members I know would agree....I predict that there will be more and more attempts by the ever more desperate welsh labour party to provoke confrontations with the language campaigners in the hope they can frighten as many monoglots as possible into voting Labour...
true if i was told as a campaigner that the MP would walk off as soon as i opened my mouth it would be great just yell "Bora Da" and get the headline minister flees welsh language protest great publicity.

however the point that cymru mark made is very significant is this just another front that labour are opening up on plaid cymru? they've attacked them they've tried to ignore them and portray the conservatives as the main opposition. are they now trying to link, even if its only in our mind, plaid cymru to nationalist extreemism and there imafraid the answer is probably yes.

if they can make this subconscious link then they are half way there to discrediting them as a serious party. and this must not be allowed to happen.
"you can't be Welsh unless you speak the language", attitude which is displayed by members of Cymdeithas.

I'm a member of Cymdeithas, and that's certainly not my view, or that of any other members as far as I can know. If it was, I wouldn't want to associate myself with it.

Alun Pugh goes on about wanting to "make Wales bilingual". I'm not even sure what that means. As you say Welsh spin (you sound like typical Labour spin), you can't force people to speak Welsh and that's not what Cymdeithas are suggesting. What they/we want is a situaton where Welsh speakers can use Welsh so that they aren't FORCED to use English.

How this is achieved may cost money, there's no denying that, but I think that many practical measures are overlooked which would cost nothing, i.e. in organisations (and businesses) that have Welsh speaking staff, making them available front of house. If a business recieves a grant from central or local government for renovating it's property, then it's not unreasonable to ask them to put up their signage in both languages.
My basic point (which I should have stuck to) is that I simply can't concieve how a new Welsh Language Act which extended similar provisions to the private sector as apply in the public could possibly make Wales a more attractive place to invest and create jobs and prosperity for our people. The only question is how significant a deterrent it will create?

Also I (& Peter) was referring to Cymdeithas rather than Cymuned. Although there is probably a good bit of membership crossover Cymuned are less of a single issue group. I still have liberal problems with Cymuned's desire to restrict individuals rights to sell their houses and I have other issues too since I don't think many of their ideas are well thought through.

The most serious shortages of affordable housing for local people exist in Cardiff - I blame all these incomers from Gwynedd coming down here to take jobs with the BBC & WAG !!!
Welsh spin is spinning of course.

The reason for a new Welsh Language act is to ensure basic rights for Welsh speakers to be able to use their own Language in their own country. I have had a Welsh standing order form returned to me with "Forms in foreign languages cannot be accepted" written across it.

What whould WELSH SPIN say if a WelshLanguage organisation refused English Corespondence because it is "Foreign"?
Run to a friendly AM to slap it on the front page of Daily Post?????


However WS has a point about CYI tactics. - the eisteddfod protest against Rhodri Morgan was entirely justified.
But after the cameras had their pictures and the interviews were done, it would have made far more sense to let Rhodri walk around the Maes in peace to be subjected to quiet persuasion and real discourse on the issues as he visited various stands.
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