Struggling with Statistics

Whenever I see a statistic quoted—or at least one that appears implausible—my first reaction is to ask where it's from and whether it's being used in the right way. So that's exactly what I did when I saw this claim by S4C's new chairman, Huw Jones, at the start of an article on the IWA website yesterday.

Welsh broadcasters struggle with adverse statistics

S4C is working out its future against a backdrop of Wales suffering a net loss of 3,000 Welsh speakers every year ...

Click on Wales, 5 August 2011

Where does this number come from? A quick Google found this article by Siôn Jobbins, in which he says:

A Welsh Language Board Statistical Trends presentation in 2004 (which is on their website) estimated that among the Welsh-speaking community the number of deaths at 6,500 and out migration to England at 5,200 outran the number of children born to Welsh-speaking homes or raised Welsh-speaking plus immigration of children into Wales (from England mostly) by 3,000. These aren’t precise figures and are maybe skewed towards the more western, Welsh-speaking parts of Wales to the detriment of the east. Having said that, the presentation calculated that the Welsh language community is running at an annual deficit of 3,000 a year.

Daiaspora – Cambria Magazine, September 2007

That presentation was produced by Hywel Jones and can be downloaded from here. This is the relevant diagram from it:

    

The very first thing to note is that the net loss of 3,000 Welsh speakers relates to fluent Welsh speakers only, not the total number of Welsh speakers. Huw Jones is therefore painting a blacker picture of the difficulties facing S4C than is warranted from the source he is quoting. The other statistics he quotes may well be correct, but that one definitely wasn't.

In general terms, this survey shows that 57% of those that speak Welsh (i.e. described themselves that way in the 2001 census) consider themselves fluent. But we can be more precise about the figures for children.

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By a welcome coincidence, the set of statistics which has a direct relevance to how fluent children are in Welsh was highlighted by Tory AM Suzy Davies only this week, although the figures she was quoting were in fact released last year:

     Davies: Pupils’ Welsh fluency levels "unchanged" since 1986

But even though the figures she was quoting are correct, she too was using them wrongly by making a direct comparison between 1986-87 and 2009-10. This is because the assessments of whether a child is able to speak Welsh, and whether they can speak it fluently, were made by teachers prior to 2002-03 but by parents from then on. Suzy Davies' press release didn't mention it at all. Let's be charitable and assume that she wasn't aware of the change and wasn't knowingly trying to mislead anybody. Kudos to Tom Bodden for picking this up in the Daily Post, though without making any comment on how this change was significant.

The percentages were actually going up fairly steadily year by year, but the change in the assessment method produced a sudden reduction in the figures. The figures back as far as 1998-89 are available here and here on the StatsWales site. These are the figures for primary schools:

1986-87 (teacher assessment)

Fluent at home ... 7.2%
Fluent, but not at home ... 5.8%
Total fluent ... 13.0%
Can speak Welsh, but not fluently ... not known
Cannot speak Welsh ... not known

2001-02 (teacher assessment)

Fluent at home ... 6.2%
Fluent, but not at home ... 10.5%
Total fluent ... 16.7%
Can speak Welsh, but not fluently ... 31.2%
Cannot speak Welsh ... 52.0%

2003-04 (parental assessment)

Fluent at home ... 8.4%
Fluent, but not at home ... 4.5%
Total fluent ... 12.9%
Can speak Welsh, but not fluently ... 19.9%
Cannot speak Welsh ... 63.5%

2009-10 (parental assessment)

Fluent at home ... 7.6%
Fluent, but not at home ... 5.4%
Total fluent ... 13.0%
Can speak Welsh, but not fluently ... 24.0%
Cannot speak Welsh ... 62.9%

As I said when I commented on the figures in this post last year, they are not very reliable because parents who speak little or no Welsh are in no real position to assess how well their children can speak it, and it's a subjective judgement which varies according to how much Welsh is spoken in a particular area. Teacher assessment was more objective. But the figures can be used to track relative changes. The trends are that fewer children are growing up in Welsh speaking homes, but that the number of children who are fluent in Welsh as a result of being taught it in school has been going up constantly under both methods of assessment. I won't deny that the increase has been smaller than I'd like, especially in the last six years, but since 1986-87 the overall fluency figure has increased by more than a quarter.

It's also worth noting that the figures represent the whole range of primary school years. Obviously children from Welsh-speaking homes will be fluent from the beginning, but it can take a few years for those learning Welsh to become fluent; so an average of 13% will be few points lower in Year 1, and a few points higher in Year 6. This pattern continues into secondary school. If anyone is interested, I've put the information available from StatsWales into a spreadsheet which can be downloaded here. This makes it easier to compare the year on year changes.

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Now the big question is how the StatsWales figures fit alongside the BIYG analysis from 2004. Those figures had shown an "input" of 2,100 children a year fluent at home and 3,000 a year becoming fluent at school: a total of 5,100 a year. The figures for 2009-10 for 11-15 year olds at secondary school are:

Fluent at home ... 15,311 = 3,062 a year
Fluent, but not at home ... 12,059 = 2,412 a year
Total fluent ... 27,370 = 5,474 a year
Can speak Welsh, but not fluently ... 65,099 = 13,020 a year
Cannot speak Welsh ... 81,445 = 16,289 a year

This shows that Hywel Jones' overall "input" figure for children fluent in Welsh was broadly correct, and is a few hundred higher now than it was before. But the StatsWales figures also show that the annual "input" of children who can speak Welsh is very much greater than the figure we get if we only include those who can speak Welsh fluently. I haven't done a calculation on whether the "losses" due to emigration from Wales and death are the same as they were a few years ago (perhaps it's best to wait until the results of the 2011 census are published next year) but if they are broadly the same, it's reasonably clear that the net increase in Welsh speakers will be at least 10,000 each year.

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In summing up, I don't want to detract from Suzy Davies' point that our education system should be doing more than it currently is to ensure that more of our children are able to speak Welsh fluently. Even though the figures are in fact going up, they need to go up faster still.

But I am very disturbed by what Huw Jones has said, because far from there being a net loss of 3,000 Welsh speakers each year, there is in fact a net increase in Welsh speakers of more than three times that amount. Now I wasn't there to hear the whole debate, I just read what was reported on the IWA website and Huw might well have qualified his opening statement. But it strikes me that he has made a rather lame-brained and, to put it bluntly, misleading attempt to make out that S4C is somehow having to battle its way up a demographic hill. S4C's potential audience is in fact growing at a healthy rate year by year, not falling.

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26 comments:

menaiblog said...

Diolch am hwn - a diolch yn arbennig am goledu ystadegau StatsWales. Gwaith gwerthfawr.

Anonymous said...

MH - I'm glad you've taken up this debate. The crux is fluency. I've tried ordering pretty simple things in shops and cafe's 'shw mae, un cappuccino plîs' and being received by blank or hostile looks by young people who you know have been through the local education system.

The stats seem to point to new pupils learning Welsh, but other stats you've posted on this site, point to a plateau of pupils taking Welsh for GSCE. The crux for fluency therefore is how many pupils take their GCSE in Welsh first language and don't. There will always be blurring around the edges, but if pupuls aren't taking their GSCSs in Welsh or are taking GSCE in Welsh as a Second Langauge then they are not fluent. These stats, if I'm correct, and their highlighted in another article by Siôn Jobbins, point to an over all loss.

From S4C's point of view, it would be interesting to see the correlation between the lanaguage of the home and watching the channel. I'd imagine that the decrease in 'traditional' Welsh-speaking homes has a huge impact on their viewing figures and I'm not sure the increase in 'new' Welsh-speakers is strong enough to off-set this. In this respect, Huw Jones is absolutely right to bring up the issue of the 'deficit' of Welsh-speakers.

M.

MH said...

Diolch, Cai.

As I've said before, M, I don't find fluency a very helpful word. It's always going to be subjective. I prefer to use the word competence. What you've described is the reaction of someone who doesn't speak Welsh (or it might be that they didn't want to). And that is still about half of children in Wales, even though they'll all have been taught Welsh.

I wouldn't knock those who can speak Welsh competently, even though not "fluently". The basic standard should be what's enough to hold down a non-specialist job that requires Welsh. The parallel I would use is an Indian call centre. Very few of the people that deal with enquiries in English could be described as fluent in English, but their English is generally good enough. Similarly, lots of people in the UK do jobs that require English, even though they could never be described as fluent in English. They do just fine. So we shouldn't set a more exclusive standard for Welsh.

As for GCSEs, there was a slight fall in WFL a year before last, but the numbers were up again last year. There is an upward trend, but it's slow. This year's results will be out in a fortnight.

But as for S4C, it is true that more older than younger people watch, and that older people tend to be more fluent. If Huw Jones had said that there was a net decline in fluent Welsh speakers, he would have been right, though the figure would now be more like 2,500 than 3,000. But the increase in new Welsh speakers is strong enough not just to offset this but to completely reverse it. That's what Huw got wrong. The challenge for S4C is to make the sort of programmes that would appeal to this group.

Anonymous said...

Nice to see links into statswales. There are problems with both ways of counting numbers of pupils who are "Fluent". You prefer to trust the teachers but one aspect of the question is difficult for teachers to decide; Does the child speak Welsh fluently at home? The teacher cannot know this. When I filled in the questionnaire for my children it actually asked "Is the language of the home (first language) Welsh, English, other (please specify)". As for fluency outside the home; there the teacher is best placed in all respects to judge. There was no question on our form which asked about Welsh language capability. It would be interesting to know whether there is a standardised way of collecting this information across Wales...perhaps you have some insight MH?

Anonymous said...

MH:

Any debate about fluency is difficult, I can think of my own family who are obviously first language Welsh speakers and can sound quite rusty in English but would maybe not consider themselves 'fluent'!

Likewise, 'The parallel I would use is an Indian call centre. Very few of the people that deal with enquiries in English could be described as fluent in Englishm ...' I would say these people are fluent.

THE GCSE results you refere to - are those for first language of Welsh a second language?

I don't think Huw Jones was 'wrong'. The challenges which S4C faces is unique (with the exception of BBC Alba) for all UK-based channels. It's important that politicians take this in to consideration when debating viewing figures etc.

As you youself are unsure to call the 'new Welsh speakers' fluent then you are in fact reiterating what Huw Jones is saying. If we can't call these 'new' speakers fluent (as we can for the older generation) then Huw is right.

M.

Anonymous said...

The debate about the potential audience for S4c has to be about more than Welsh language ability. I think that there was a survey done for S4c by Beaufort Research some years ago (2004?) which looked at how Welsh speakers consumed the media product. Even fluent Welsh speakers favoured English medium media output.

Its a matter of quality, and ubiquity as much as anything else.

MH said...

I'm not sure that "prefer" is the right word, Anon 16:02, but am saying that teacher assessment is more objective. On the other hand, the positive thing about parental assessment is that it matches the way that the census data is collected, allowing a better like-for-like-comparison. However teachers do make the key stage assessments ... so they are having some input, but not to this particular set of numbers. I don't know if the way of collecting the information is standardized, but I would guess that it is. Perhaps others can say what was in the form they filled in and what local authority it was for.

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M, by saying that you think the typical Indian call centre employee is fluent in English, you are highlighting just how subjective a term fluency is. But I think we'd agree that their English is good enough to get them a job where speaking that language is required, and I think we should use the same yardstick for Welsh too rather than use the word fluent.

I used WFL as an abbreviation for Welsh First Language. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

I don't understand your last paragraph at all. Huw Jones made the general claim that the number of Welsh speakers was falling. It isn't. It's rising by more than 10,000 a year.

But if anyone tries to make out that only fluent Welsh speakers "count" (which you appear to be doing) I think they're not only missing the point, but sending out a very negative message to those who don't yet consider themselves fluent. Namely that unless you can speak Welsh as well as we can, don't bother. That attitude needs to be stamped out.

MH said...

I've deleted your reply for now, Anon 17:58. You're quoting a number of statements from sources but without backing them up with links. You said you would make another post later. So please remake any points you are able to back up when you do.

MH said...

Same with 18:07. If you want to quote numbers, you must back them up with links.

Anonymous said...

Well help me out here MH....which numbers do you want a link to? Although I think that most come from your information already provided.

MH said...

Anybody is free to make a comment, Anon. But if people want to use other sources to back up what they're saying, they need to provide a link to it.

Anonymous said...

I'll try again; the finding by the Welsh Language board that adults who reported on the fluency in Welsh of their children actually OVERSTATED that level of fluency is on page 66 of the WLB "Welsh Language Use Survey 2004-2006" which YOU provide the link to above at "this survey". My point was that you don't have evidence to suggest that parents UNDERSTATE the level of Welsh speaking in their children. The evidence is the opposite.

Anonymous said...

I also quoted (from memory) a beaufort research paper for S4c which suggested that even fluent Welsh speakers mainly consumed media output through the medium of English;
"The quantitative survey shows that usage of Welsh Language media sources
and attendance at Welsh Language arts and cultural events by Welsh
speakers across all levels of fluency is nearly always lower than is the case
with the English Language equivalents."

The name of the paper is "living lives through the medium of Welsh..." and was published in 2006 from a study in 2005. It is in pdf but you can find it here;

http://www.google.co.uk/#hl=en&sugexp=emsp&xhr=t&q=Beaufort+research+for+s4c&cp=25&pf=p&sclient=psy&source=hp&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=Beaufort+research+for+s4c&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=19c9b1f611b2c64b&biw=1024&bih=715

Anonymous said...

I also think that I touched on definitions of fluency and how they relate to total numbers of Welsh speakers and I mentioned that there was an ONS paper on this. That is here;

http://www.statistics.gov.uk/downloads/theme_compendia/fow/WelshLanguage.pdf

Anonymous said...

I also mentioned that I had a dialogue with the census office of the ONS about the likelyhood that the 2011 census would again overstate the numbers of Welsh speakers and they replied that they knew that this was the case but that the WAG wanted the census to be evaluated in the same way as 2001 for consistency. You have refused to put that reply on your blog.

Glyndo said...

As has already been said, "fluency" is subjective. This applies to teachers and parents. Therefore we are in the realms of how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. If the language has a place it will find it, if it doesn't then it won't. S4C is an experiment maybe it's doomed, maybe it isn't.

Anonymous said...

MH -

"But if anyone tries to make out that only fluent Welsh speakers "count" (which you appear to be doing) I think they're not only missing the point, but sending out a very negative message to those who don't yet consider themselves fluent. Namely that unless you can speak Welsh as well as we can, don't bother. That attitude needs to be stamped out."


I have no wish to denigrate people's ability nor support for the Welsh langauge. I'm trying to make the point that Huw Jones believes (quoting WLB stats) that the number of Welsh speakers is falling whilst you, quoting another set of stats say it's increasing.

However, we're also debating that fluency in a language. The point I'm trying to make, and I'm not sure that your stats prove the number of speakers increasing is this.

Yes, 'first langauge speakers' are decreasing - Huw Jones's point and a very important one for a medium which relies of language ability, and maybe just as importance, language context and 'community' - home/work/peer language.

Yes, the number of 'new' Welsh speakers is increasing - your point.

However this is my point. Fluency is a difficult concept. So I'll take a fairly wide definition. In my view, an Indian call-centre operator is fluent in English. I think the language aquisition they have is easily good enough to conduct business or every day life (and probably in terms of reading and writing is higher than many native English speakers). My point is this - I think their English ability is higher then anyone with a GSCE in Welsh as a Second language and possibly many pupils who've been to Welsh Medium Education.

The difficulty for us supporters of Welsh is this. If we over estimate the ability of people to speak Welsh then we're in danger of coming to the reals of the Irish speaking Census figuers. Irish census say that there are somewhere around a million Irish speakers. Any one with a basic knowlegde of Ireland knows that this means very nothing. I would prefere to call a spade a spade and say the number of Welsh speakers is 500,000 rather than pretend we have 700,000. Or, and maybe this is where we can agree - that there are, lets say 500,000 who can hold a Indian Call Centre Operator level of Welsh and then say, 200,000 who have a rusty or rudimentary knowledge (a tourists's grasp of French maybe?) knwolegde of the languagae, which, with some work and dedication could quite easily reach fluency.

I think we need to be honest.

M.

MH said...

Thank you, Anon. With regard to under or over-estimation, as anyone who reads past p66 to p67 of the report will see, there is evidence that the person responsible for completing a survey will under-estimate the ability of others in the household.

"There was evidence in the 1992 Welsh Social Survey that more respondents were unaware that other members of the household could speak Welsh, than there were of respondents stating that other members could speak Welsh when, in fact, they could not. Therefore, if those who could not speak Welsh in the opinion of the household respondent had been questioned individually, it is possible that the first estimate would have increased rather than fallen."

So you are telling a barefaced lie. There is evidence to show that it works both ways.

But the point is irrelevant, anyway. As I said, it's a not very reliable measure, but in so far as the figures are obtained on the same basis (as they have been since the switch) it is enough to be able to track trends.

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You later mention a conversation with the ONS, in which you claim the Census would "again overstate" the numbers of Welsh speakers. But the evidence you've pointed to shows that there is no evidence that any over-estimation was not balanced, or more than balanced, by under-estimation. So the premise on which your question was based is wrong.

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Thanks for the link to the Living Lives through the Medium of Welsh report. Is it meant to be relevant to the numbers of people who speak Welsh? And again, what point are you making about the ONS paper?

MH said...

I appreciate the need for honesty, M. Reading what you've said, I don't think we disagree about much.

If the point Huw Jones intended to make was that the number of fluent Welsh speakers is falling, I would not have taken issue with it. The evidence from the Language Use Survey that both I and Anon referred to (on p9) is that more older Welsh speakers identify themselves as fluent than younger ones.

3-15 ... 47%
16-29 ... 59%
30-44 ... 58%
45-64 ... 63%
65+ ... 71%

For S4C, because older people tend to watch more TV than younger people, this is a real concern. Their traditional main audience is falling. I don't want to underestimate the importance of that, but do want to point out that a new potential audience with a younger age profile is emerging. So the equation is that more Welsh speakers are being "produced", but they tend to be less fluent and are of an age at which fewer watch TV. However, if the numbers keep going up at the rate the figures I've referred to suggest, the younger age profile will become more important because of the sheer numbers of younger Welsh speakers compared with older ones.

So I think S4C, who have already made huge strides forward with Cyw and Stwnsh for children and teenagers, will now need to turn their attention to "young adult" programming, perhaps along the lines of E4 and BBC3. Now to someone like me, in my 50s, this is not an easy thing. I could play the cynical old git and say that popular programming is not the same as quality programming, and that for me the two tend to be mutually exclusive. But that is the dilemma that all broadcasters face. What redeems the situation is time-shifting and multi-platform. If the programme that is currently being broadcast isn't to my liking, it doesn't matter, providing that I've either recorded something I do want to watch or that it's available on line.

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Turning to the bigger picture, I agree that we don't want to over-estimate or under-estimate either the number of Welsh speakers or their ability. Nor do we want the education system to just produce people with a basic knowledge and little else. The census is far too crude a tool, and it's a shame that a question on how often people spoke Welsh was not added, as BYIG and others wanted. But I daresay that there will be the equivalent of the Language Use Study this time round which will attempt to give a fuller picture than the census data alone will provide.

We need to make progress on all fronts. We want more children taking WFL GCSEs, as that is the "gold standard" of ability in Welsh. But we also need to make sure that those who are being taught Welsh to second language standard do in fact become Welsh speakers rather than just go through the motions and come out unable to say more than a sentence or two in Welsh. And we need adult provision to be available so that people can shift up later when they want to or when their work demands it. I think that this is all a Rumsfeldian "known known", and there are certainly enough plans in place for it to happen. But I don't think government in Wales has really appreciated just how big a shift is needed.

If I were able to implement just one change, it would be that all those who train to be teachers at primary school level in Wales should be able to teach in Welsh and English. In just the same way as we once made teaching a graduate-only profession for new entrants, and more recently did the same with nursing, we should do this to ensure that teaching becomes a fully bilingual profession.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for the link to the Living Lives through the Medium of Welsh report. Is it meant to be relevant to the numbers of people who speak Welsh? And again, what point are you making about the ONS paper?"

Well MH if you had not refused to publish all my posts then the information would be in context wouldn't it? instead you chose to throw your toys out of the pram because I put forward another viewpoint rather than the sycophantic homage that you prefer.

As for me telling a "bare faced lie" it was in fact YOU that suggested in this sentence; "As I said when I commented on the figures in this post last year, they are not very reliable because parents who speak little or no Welsh are in no real position to assess how well their children can speak it," that there was an underestimate of Welsh Language ability. You preferred teacher assessment as more objective. This is not the first time that you and I have discussed it and so it is disingenuous of you to pretend that you weren't really pointing to an underestimate.

My first post (Which you removed) was a balanced view based on what the WLB found through it's quality assurance exercise and its own assessment. The ONS was invited to do the identical follow up quality assessment on the 2011 figures....that is to return to a sample of households which gave proxy answers and verify those answers by questioning children. The ONS merely said that they were aware of the shortcomings of the census in this respect as shown by previous validation exercises but would not adjust their figures.

The living through Welsh survey, which I quoted, was relevant to the thrust of your piece; How many viewers can S4C expect in the future? I made the point that it was not JUST the growth of Welsh speakers that was important but whether those Welsh speakers chose to use Welsh as the medium through which they accessed media product.... the theme of the Beaufort/S4C research.

Now perhaps you would reinstate my posts so that there can be a civilised discussion instead of you stamping your foot like a petulant child.

Anonymous said...

MH:

"
If the point Huw Jones intended to make was that the number of fluent Welsh speakers is falling, I would not have taken issue with it. The evidence from the Language Use Survey that both I and Anon referred to (on p9) is that more older Welsh speakers identify themselves as fluent than younger ones."

... yes, I think we're quite close on this. 'Fluency' is the big thing here and it is especially important especially as so many non-Welsh speakers, MPs in Wales and outside Wales, maybe don't appreciate the nuances and complexes of speakers of a minoritised language. That's why I think Huw Jones was right to point out the issue and why fluency is more useful than ability. For speakers of English, or rather monolingual speakers, the issue of fluency doesn't really arrise unless they're thinking of speaking a foreign language.

The result of colonial British rule has been to make Welsh a foreign language in its own country. One manifestation of this is the issue of fluency in Welsh (like that of other languages like Breton, Basque etc.) isn't as straight forward as many people Huw Jones is trying to address would believe or undertand.

Their understanding would be the more simple - 'I speak Welsh' (the native speaker scenario). In this context then the number of Welsh-speakers is going down. Policy makers need to understand this, or, at least be aware of the complexity of such a simple question as 'Do you speak Welsh?'

M.

MH said...

You need to remember that this isn't a personal conversation, Anon. Nobody else will have read what you said in the deleted comments, so you will need to repeat it for their benefit.

I didn't "suggest" there was an "understatement of Welsh language ability" at all. Anyone who reads the earlier post I linked to will see that I said the opposite was almost certain to be true in places like Monmouthshire. But whether the over-estimation is or is not balanced by the under-estimation is irrelevant in terms of tracking the trends from year to year in the schools figures I linked to, or from decade to decade in the census.

MH said...

I wouldn't disagree with too much of your last post, M. But I'm not quite comfortable with your last paragraph.

It's the "native speaker scenario" that concerns me. That might seem obvious from one perspective, but these "native" speakers also speak English perfectly well, and so I wouldn't want to draw an artificial line between them and someone whose home language might have been English but who now speaks Welsh perfectly well. Being bilingual is about being competent in both languages. Even though what constitutes fluency is a matter of subjective judgement, there are many who have learned Welsh who are every bit as fluent as "native" speakers. So please don't try and draw those sorts of lines.

And also, to split a few hairs, the number of fluent Welsh speakers is not going down. One of the factors in the equation is that young fluent Welsh speakers (alongside many of their peers, it must be said) are leaving Wales when they become adults, usually for work reasons. Hywel Jones put this figure at 5,200 a year. So the overall number of fluent Welsh speakers is not going down, but the number of fluent Welsh speakers in Wales is. In that respect it's a shame that the question about Welsh was omitted from the English version of the census.

As it happens, S4C has a large number of viewers who live in England. 149,000 to be precise. So even a net loss of fluent Welsh speakers from Wales should not have that much of an effect on S4C's viewing figures. Ex-pats might well rely on S4C as one way to keep them in touch with home. Gorau Gwyliwr, Gwyliwr oddi Cartref?

Cneifiwr said...

The starting point for this discussion was a fairly narrow one about statistics, but at its root, the question is about what sort of S4C we want and how the channel should adapt.

Earlier this year, I went to one of the Cymdeithas yr Iaith sessions on the threat to the channel. Inevitably the debate turned on the channel itself, with some speakers dismissing the channel's content as rubbish, boring, etc.

So let's look at the channel in a wider perspective.

1. S4C has to squeeze into one channel content which would be spread across at least half a dozen English channels - sport, music, low-brow, high-brow, current affairs, documentaries, cookery, gardening, etc. etc.
2. Apart from the threat to the language from English, questions of fluency, etc., the channel also has to try to appeal across the dialect divide. For many people in the south, listening to the likes of Tudur Owen is a real effort. A pity, but true.
3. Compared with TV channels in other small European nations (Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Austria, etc.), S4C is to put it mildly way, way better.

All in all, S4C does what it says on the can and does it very well (I don't work for them, by the way).

How do we make it appeal to the 15-25 audience?
Many English channels are asking the same question. If my own teenage/20-something children are anything to go by, I would say don't even try. They don't watch that much telly in any language, preferring an American film, a bucket of popcorn and booze. If the telly is on, it's usually some sort of US celebrity/catwalk/makeover bilge for the females, and sport for the males. S4C can do some sport, but Hollywood celebrity brain-dead blancmange is, thank God, beyond even Huw Jones.

Perhaps we should just rally round what we've got, stop throwing brickbats at it and wait for the kids to grow up. Which they will.

Anonymous said...

MH:

That's why I tend to put " " around 'native speakers' as well as other 'categories'.

Welsh-speakers outside Wales .... hmm, their kids don't tend to speak Welsh and so are very unlikely to watch S4C, unlike Welsh-speakers in Wales. No I don't have evidence to support this.

M.

DaiTwp said...

At risk of muddying the waters further re. fluency, I think the problem whenever we discuss this important aspect is that to all intents and purposes ALL Welsh speakers above the age of 6 are bi-lingual.
Thus, when discussing ability/fluency in Welsh what often gets confused into the discussion is what is the persons "First Language"? i.e. which is their strongest (Not mother) language of the two?
Unfortunately there are much fewer speakers left who genuinely would say that their Welsh is stronger than their English (accepting that some speakers are more comfortable with one or other language in differing social situations)and those that are tend to be older (and from certain parts of y Fro), even if the number of "fluent" speakers is much higher.

DaiTwp

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