Working as a team for Catalonia

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Last weekend Barcelona Football Club asked (and were successful in their request) to have the time of their match moved to a later time in order that their supporters could attend the huge "Som una nació i tenim el dret de decidir" (We are a nation and have the right to decide)" rally which took place on Saturday. The rally was organised in response to the recent animosity within Spain to the Catalonian aspirations for self-government. Considering that the Nou Camp holds 98,000 people, this may well have helped boost the crowds at the demonstration which were estimated at up to 700,000.

Can you imagine something like this happening in Wales? Appropriating the St.Davids flag as your football team's banner is one thing but this is something else altogether!

This is the list of Catalan towns, groups and individuals that supported and went on the march. What is incredible over there is the sheer amount of support coming such a wide variety of civil groups.

Co-operating for a cause. Something we in Wales could and should learn from the Catalan people I think.

[Watch a 3-minute video clip of the demo]


Accidentally Right

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A few days ago someone pointed out this anti-Welsh letter in the Western Mail (scroll halfway down):

Welsh, why bother?
SIR - Wales is already blessed with a worldwide language - English.

Why should Wales waste its minute financial resources on a minor unintelligible dialect?

This waste to the Welsh economy is due to the costs of backing the Welsh language and his political party by Rhodri Morgan.

English is the main language in Wales and completely used in education at all levels in Wales.

Why alter a good system?

English is the ideal language of commercial, technical, medical and artistic usage for most of the inhabitants of our planet.

Why should not Wales follow the rest of the world?

Throughout my lengthy working spells in many countries I have been often required to help inhabitants to improve their knowledge and usage of English.

One such international assignment managed by myself lasted over three years in China. Funded by a World Bank offshoot, it utilised German, Italian, Japanese and American engineers and equipment and was made a great deal easier by trading English lessons with my Chinese colleagues.

So beneficial to the project were these lessons, that my wife and children were allowed to visit China as honoured guests.
Old Pen-y-Garn, Pontypool

The WM seems to print more anti-Welsh letters than is really necessary, but then you can't defeat an argument without it being out in the open. I decided to send in a letter spoofing the above (scroll to bottom):

English is pointless
SIR - I am concerned by the fact that Welsh pupils are having such a pointless and out-of-date language thrust upon them in our schools.

Our school curriculum continues to force the English language upon our children despite clear evidence that Spanish and Mandarin are the languages of the future.

The main reason given for learning English is that it is a worldwide language essential for communicating with our neighbours. By the time these children are in their twenties that will have ceased to be the case.

It is enough work for our children to have to learn a language in addition to Welsh without having to learn yet another within 10 years time.

England should continue to speak English - it is important that they preserve their indigenous culture, as we have over the past few centuries - but let us not miss the boat and continue pointlessly teaching it out of a sense of duty.

Why should Wales waste its minute financial resources on an Anglo-Saxon dialect that will be out of use within the next decade?

Westbourne Avenue, Gateshead

Yes, the two letters were printed a week apart, a bit long for it to be an obvious spoof, and the title WM has put on it spoils the punchline. But it seems I might have been accidentally right after all. This has been widely discussed at work and it is generally felt that we should all learn either Spanish, Mandarin or Arabic if we are to get much further in our journalistic careers. But which?

The point is clear. When we start talking about language in terms of how many people speak it and so on the future isn't promising for Welsh or English. We should preserve languages for their culture and history, not by the number who speak it. English has had it easy for hundreds of years, but will the speakers' attitude to their language and culture change when it comes under threat? Or will they abandon thousands of years of English history?

Needless to say, if English does fall into terminal decline I will be fighting for it's survival with as much vigour as I'm fighting for Welsh.


Gwenno in prison

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BBC: Language protester given custody. 19 year old Cymdeithas yr Iaith member Gwenno Teifi is tonight starting a 5 day prison sentence for her part in the protests against Radio Carmarthenshire. The station has repeatedly refused to reflect and promote the culture of Carmarthenshire, and has a policy of playing only "popular" (i.e. English language) chart music. I am listening to the Human League as I type this, who haven't been in the charts for 20 years, but obviously are more relevant to the good burghers of Carmarthen than anything recorded in the Welsh language in the interim.

I'm listening to their webcast at the moment, just to see if their news bulletin mentions the fact that a teenager has gone to prison trying to change their playlists.

Now playing: Easy Like Sunday Morning.

(Edit.) If you would like to support Cymdeithas' campaign to raise awareness of the Welsh language music scene in Carmarthen - because, let's face it, you wouldn't know any such thing existed from listening to "Radio Sir Gâr" - there's a gig in the Carmarthen Quins Rugby Club on 25 February. Heather Jones, Brigyn, Eusebio. 8pm, £5 on the door.

In the meantime, you can drop Gwenno a message of support:

Gwenno Teifi Ffransis
Young Offenders Wing
HMP Eastwood Park
GL12 8DB

Diolch yn fawr.



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I often like to compare the position of the Welsh Language with minority languages in similar situations on mainland Europe, particularly in Spain. But one thing that uniquely qualifies the Welsh Language is the level of negativity associated with and directed at it. It's normal for Spaniards outside of Catalonia and the Basque Country to make negative remarks about the Basque and Catalan languages, or for immigrants (mostly Spaniards from Andalucia) living in or around Barcelona to do so, but this resentment is far from being as prevalent as that which occurs in Wales. What is more, this negativity is a manifold one: it is not just the negativity of the English, nor that of non-Welsh speakers among the Welsh, but also that of Welsh speakers themselves.

The resentment of English people towards Welsh is at best based on ignorance, and at worst beneath contempt and therefore not fit for intelligent discussion. That of the Cymry di-Gymraeg (Welsh people who can't speak Welsh) is more complex: in the South it is both a resentment fuelled by percieved elitist attitudes among middle class Welsh speakers and one actively encouraged by successive pro-Unionist Labour Party governments both on a local and a national level. In the North it is to a some extent the bitter spawn of English colonisation, but it is also caused by a percieved connection between the local lingo and the dire economic situation prevalent in the area (ie "This place is crap, therefore Wales and the Welsh Language are crap too").
Some of this has seeped into the consciousness of Welsh Speakers themselves, who consequently decide to abandon their language and cut their children off from their linguistic inheritance. Such attitudes are hard to find amongst the Basques. The Basque Country has an almost identical ratio as Wales in terms of who speaks the native tongue and who doesn't. Yet there is little or no negativity felt by monoglot Spanish speakers towards Euskara, and they are quite happy that their children are educated in that language (Then again, the Basques have jobs).
But there is another aspect to the negativity of Welsh speakers towards their own language: for many, it is the language one uses when talking to friends, family, and old acquaintances, but it is not to be used with strangers, even when they're speaking to you in Welsh! This can be both an obstacle and a major pain in the arse to learners!
As i have said, the resentment of the English isn't worth talking about, but the overcoming of negative attitudes amongst the Welsh themselves is of vital importance to the success and survival of the language.


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