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Monday, October 08, 2012

Guardian columnists and the Welsh language

I have often been critical of Guardian journalists for seeking to impose a sterotypical view of Wales from their cosy desks in London, without having any real knowledge or understanding of the country. Well I have had my attention drawn to yet another example through Twitter.

Writing on Thursday, columnist Simon Jenkins discusses with apparent authority, the decline of English dialects and the position of minority languages. However, the sweeping generalisations he deploys casts doubt on the depth of his understanding:

Welsh has a vitality of its own, largely thanks to being suppressed for centuries by the English. Now "official", it risks falling into the Catalonian trap of identifying political autonomy with a linguistic steamroller. This drives natives who do not speak the language to seek jobs elsewhere, and deters incoming talent. In a land where every worker speaks English, reserving jobs to Welsh speakers alone must soon fall foul of human rights law. It is certainly starving Welsh schools and hospitals of qualified staff, as similar exclusivity is doing in Barcelona. The last official languages forced on the British by a ruling elite were Norman French and Latin. It was fatal to both.

I am not aware of any front line jobs that require Welsh as a prerequiste and as a consequence cannot be filled. Nor am I aware that Welsh is a factor in any shortage of qualified staff in the NHS or education other than in the Welsh medium sector where clearly an ability to teach through the medium of Welsh is a given. Perhaps Mr. Jenkins can give some examples. Better still, maybe he should come to Wales and see for himself.

Perpetuating this myth from the comfort of a London-based desk is not helpful and it is not clever.
Well said Peter! Having scanned my local paper's job page and at of all the jobs advertised I only found two adverts stating that Welsh was essential for the role - a part-time job with the Urdd, and a classroom assistant at a primary school. So much malicious myths about, its good to see an AM debunk them.
I am sorry to say, but you are incorrect in stating that there are no Welsh only jobs.
The jobs market is littered with the requirement, in education, Media and Local Government, to name but a few sectors.
I suggest that you look closer at the jobs market to see for yourself.
And yes, it is true, non Welsh speakers do go elsewhere for employment, not only because of the language, and the bilingual law, but because of lack of opportunities available.
Wales has a problem, and this is only the tip of the ice berg.
No that is not the case. There is often a 'Welsh desirable' provision but that is not a requirement and in my experience it does not stop non-Welsh speakers being appointed.
Sorry peter, but what about Schools?
Take the Welsh secondary Welsh schools, one in Swansea, Ysgol Gymraeg Bryntawe. All the teaching staff and the Management team, including the Headmaster have to be Welsh speaking. Someone who is a non Welsh speaker would not be able to apply.
What about the media? BBC Radio Cymru and S4C, I don't think that a non Welsh speaker would be Welcomed.
Rasist maybe, but Welsh is a requirement for the above.
I refer you to the above passage in my blog post:

"Nor am I aware that Welsh is a factor in any shortage of qualified staff in the NHS or education other than in the Welsh medium sector where clearly an ability to teach through the medium of Welsh is a given."

Actually not all jobs in S4C require the ability to speak Welsh but again that would be an exception because it is a Welsh language medium.

I dispute your claim about the BBC. Prove it. The point is that Jenkins is wrong. Outside of the Welsh medium sector the ability to speak Welsh is not a requirement in front line jobs in schools and the NHS.
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