Annual WMES Report ... urgent action required

I haven't seen it reported anywhere in the media, but thought people might like to know that the second Annual Report on the Welsh-medium Education Strategy was published yesterday. Click the images to read it in either Welsh or English.


The picture is one of progress on most counts, but in some of the most critical areas this will not be enough to meet even the modest targets set out in the original WMES.

For example, the percentage of Key Stage 1 assessments in Welsh to first language standard (Outcome 1) was up only 0.1% to 21.9%, and the percentage of Key Stage 3 assessments in Welsh to first language standard (Outcome 2) was up only 0.3% to 16.3%. At these rates of progress the 2015 targets of 25% and 19% respectively will not be met.

Alarm bells should now be ringing ... and indeed that's exactly what these annual reports are for. We probably do have time to improve things in order to meet the 2015 targets, but will need to take positive action now. I trust that the right questions will be directed at the minister responsible.

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MH said...

My comments (and some very good comments by others) on last year's Annual Report are here.

Ambiorix said...

Speaking of the welsh language has the number of speakers increased?

MH said...

We'll have to wait until next year for the 2011 census results, Ambiorix. But the results from the Annual Population Survey are on StatsWales here.

The two sets of figures are quite different, probably because of the context in which the question is asked. The APS percentages are higher, but on a generally downward trend (you can scroll through the last ten years by clicking the arrows in the year box). The census percentages are lower, but now on an upward trend. Guessing, I'd say that the 2011 headline figure will be about 23% ... but that might have more to do with the way people answer the question than any underlying trend.

The question is subjective, and the percentages will vary to the extent that people who wouldn't class themselves as fluent say either, "I am a Welsh speaker, but don't speak the language very well" or "I don't speak the language very well, therefore I can't really call myself a Welsh speaker."

Anonymous said...

Supporters of the language might as well just give up. It's blatantly obvious that the language is doomed if the influx of English speakers into its heartlands continues. Whatever one's position regarding that influx, anyone who claims the language can survive it is either naive or a complete demagogue.

MH said...

Perhaps you should set up a site called Demagogwatch, Anon.

I believe it is inevitable that the number of Welsh-speaking communities in the heartlands has and will go down, but the language is very far from "doomed" because of it. Of course I support those who are fighting for those communities, but I do not believe it is the only front on which we should fight. It becomes a rearguard action in which we will always be on the back foot, but not because of anything to do with language. Language is merely a casualty of other, mainly economic and employment-based, factors which are just as real in areas which are less Welsh speaking, or aren't even in Wales.

For me, the more effective way to see Welsh flourish is to make it a language for all of Wales. To build on the strength of public opinion which believes the language is something which belongs to everybody in Wales, which everyone in Wales can be proud of and which it is important that children learn to speak. All elected political parties in the Assembly recognize the strength of public opinion on these matters, and this is what underlies the consensus for creating a truly bilingual Wales. WM education is one of the main ways of delivering that policy and, as we can see from the figures, we are going in the right direction. It's only a question of how quickly.

Anonymous said...

The real test will for the Stratergy will be the figures for the next 2 years in particular given the 3 /4 year lag between the launch of the stratergy and figures for yr 7 pupils coming through, although the signs don not look particuarly promising that the targets will be met. It would need quite an upsurge in numbers.

Anonymous said...

If you look at the number of people speaking welsh in terms of actual numbers, it's either rising or static. If you look at it in terms of the proportion of people in Wales, then it's losing ground. This is because 25 per cent of the population of Wales, and rising, is English.
Not saying that's good or bad on all fronts, but it's bound to have an effect on the heartlands when people who don't speak it or want to speak it move in in large numbers.
What I do know for a fact is that the English themselves have a pretty low tolerance for people who move to England and don't learn English.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 17.11 has it about right. Hywel Jones of the WLB had this as his prediction for the future:

"According to these projections, the number of Welsh speakers in Wales in 2011
is almost unchanged since 2001. The percentage who can speak Welsh could
be a little lower than in 2001. This document should have provided sufficient
background for these results to come as no surprise. After 2011, the
projections suggest that the number of speakers could increase more
substantially by 2021. All the same, because of in-migration, they do not show
an increase in the percentage of people who can speak Welsh over the same

Hywel Jones predicts a fall in speakers and percentage in 2011 with a gradual rise in numbers and percentage by 2013. So that's 20.8% in 2001 falling to 20.0% then gradually rising to 20.3% by 2031. The increase in numbers entering Welsh Medium schools in year one isn't the whole story however, the question is how many are still taking Welsh first language at KS4.

MH said...

The Hywel Jones' quote is taken from this document, and is primarily based on assumptions about transmission rates. We'll see if he's right, but I don't think his projections have put enough weight on education as a means of acquiring the language. That's why I think my prediction of 23% will be closer to the mark, and Hywel hints that this might be a factor elsewhere in the document:

"The result of the 2011 Census may possibly be higher than 20.8% as well, but if so this will probably reflect a change of attitude or a change in the discourse, influenced by the effect of teaching Welsh as a second language in schools."

Anonymous said...

MH, I stand by what I said. A language without a heartland is dead. Relying on schools and "promotion" is delusional. Just look how well that worked out for Irish. The Welsh language lives or dies in the heartlands. That's it. Once they go, it's game over.

Most first language English speakers in Wales will never embrace Welsh as their language, except on a symbolic level (many not even that)- again, look at Irish, a language on its last breath.

And nobody should blame them for it. A mother tongue is what you grew up speaking, the language of your thoughts and memories, not some abstract concept related to your nationality. All a minority language has are the people who think and dream in it. It sounds soppy, but it's the simple truth. Without the heartlands, all other language promotion really is only useless and senseless expense.

MH said...

I think your mistake is to think too narrowly in terms of "first language" and "mother tongue", Anon. A bilingual person has both languages at their disposal and can switch seamlessly between them. That is achievable by anyone, especially while of school age, irrespective of whether their home language is English or Welsh.

If those whose home langage is Welsh can and do learn to speak English to the same standard as anyone from England, then those whose home language is English are perfectly capable of doing the same with Welsh.

Anonymous said...

I think that Anon. 19.37 has it right once more. There is no evidence that increasing the ability to speak Welsh has increased the likelyhood of doing so, much less living life through the medium of acquired Welsh.

The reasoning that says Welsh home language children learn fluent English therefore English Home language children can learn fluent Welsh is faulty too. Like it or not in Wales the language of necessity is English and it is necessity which drives in this case. The laguage of ubiquity is also English and a child would have to have a particularly sheltered upbringing to fail to encounter it everyday of their lives.
The reason why Welsh speaking families still raise fluent English speaking kids is that the parents are fluent in English. If you look at the research on familial transmission of Welsh (Hywel Jones refers to it in the document above) you will see the very high correspondence between parents fluent in Welsh and the child acquiring Welsh. The same is true of English.
Welsh speakers have no problem with the concept of "Thinking in Welsh" and therefore wanting the right to live in Welsh. Teaching those people English has not changed that. Why would it be any different for those people who "think in English"?

The Welsh areas are thinning out. Welsh speakers can and do get employment in the South and South East or in England. English speakers can and do move into the coastal areas of the Fro Cymraeg. I see no reason to believe that increasing ability to speak Welsh is anything more than tokenism for the most part...certainly Welsh second Language taught in English medium schools is only a numbers game. It is meaningless in the context of "saving The Language".

Anonymous said...

Of course. But English is the most important language in the world. Welsh is a minority language rapidly losing ground in its already small heartlands. The impetus to learn Welsh fluently just isn't there. And for many of those who are motivated to do so now, that motivation will decrease as Welsh-speaking communities disappear. People can acquire fluency in Sindarin or Klingon too, but, apart from a small percentage of enthusiasts they have no wish to do so.

Also, without Welsh-speaking communities, where would those with fluency in it as a 2nd language actually speak it? Again, Ireland, with their ludicrous idea of a Dublin gaeltacht, is a perfect example. If the only plausible future for Welsh are enthusiasts wearing badges and meeting up in a couple of cafes in Cardiff, then that should be acknowledged, and the hypocrisy of promotion of the language as viable shoud stop (actually doing something to protect its communities would be my preferred course of action, but the status quo is definitely the worst option).

Anonymous said...
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MH said...

I thought about deleting the last three posts because the same person is having a "conversation" in order to agree with himself. But I've decided to let the first two stand, and simply let others know that this is what he's been doing.

However I've deleted his 09:24 comment because, as I've told him many times before, although he's perfectly free to express his opinion, he needs to include links if he wants to quote evidence to support his opinions.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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MH said...

I've already warned you about multiposing, Anon. Thank you for at least providing some links in your 11:18 comment, however they don't make any sense now unless you repost your 09:24 comment ... and of course there are several more links you will need to provide if you want to repeat some of the things you said in it.


Addressing Anon's 07:03 comment, I don't think it's particularly relevant whether people choose to use the Welsh they've acquired or not. The point of learning both languages at school is to give people the choice of whether they want to live their lives through English, Welsh or any mixture of the two.

In reality however, how much they use Welsh in their adult lives will be not just be a matter of personal choice. Firstly it will depend on their standard of Welsh, which is something that needs to be addressed through the education system; but secondly, it will also depend on the availabilty and standard of services in Welsh, which needs to be addressed through the new language standards.

In the next paragraph, all he has shown us is that he hasn't grasped the concept of being bilingual. For him, as I've dealt with him over the years, it has always been a case of either English or Welsh rather than both English and Welsh. He just can't get his head round the idea of people becoming competent in both languages and switching seamlessly between them.

He makes the valid point that English is more prevalent than Welsh, but only half understands the significance of it. Yes, it does mean that it is easier to pick up English than it is to pick up Welsh, and that is the actual reason why Welsh-medium education produces children competent in both languages but English-medium education, in the main, doesn't. His counter-claim that, "The reason why Welsh speaking families still raise fluent English speaking kids is that the parents are fluent in English" is silly. There are many Welsh speaking parents who hardly speak a word of English to their children. The children in those families acquire English outside the home. Similarly there are many parents who don't speak Welsh and therefore never speak a word of Welsh to their children, but those children acquire Welsh outside the home, in the main at school.

As for "Welsh areas thinning out", I agree entirely. The pattern is for areas of Wales which had a high percentage able to speak Welsh seeing a fall in that percentage, and for areas of Wales which had a low percentage able to speak Welsh seeing an increase in that percentage. I expect the continuation of that trend to be reflected in the 2011 census and for some time to come, mainly due to population movement. However I don't see the language as "doomed" because of it.

Being provocative, although I don't want to see any community suffer, this pattern of growth outside the traditional heartlands is a far more important factor in seeing Welsh flourish as a language for the whole of Wales. In my opinion, the very worst course of action would be to concentrate all our efforts on shoring-up Welsh in the heartland areas. Therefore it is no surprise to me that some of the people who advocate it as the solution to "saving the language", such as Professor Christie Davies in this post and now the multiposting Anon in this thread, do it precisely because they want to see it shrink.

Welsh speaking communities are not just those geographical areas where more than 70% can speak Welsh. They exist and can thrive everywhere, largely because the way we interact and communicate today is very different from the way we did it even twenty years ago.

Anonymous said...

It must be said that Anon 07:03 etc is a bit of a hoot. He is probably the most entertaining poster on the Welsh blogosphere. As well as having conversations with himself he enjoys impersonating other bloggers in the name of mischief. He totally bamboozled me last year when he pretended to be a well-known blogger on Clickonwales. Don't be too hard on him, MH, because, even though he has this almost deranged 'thing' about the language and can be very touchy, even abusive, when challenged, he remains a source of great fun and merriment.

Anonymous said...

Well Michael I am not guilty of "multiposing" as you claim. You must be confusing me with some other Anonymous poser. I just love the way you answer someone else's post as if it was mine. I am anon 07.03 but not anon 07.19. I am indeed anon 09.24 but I am not both 11.18 and 11.50 so I imagine that anon 11.50 must be pretty peeved. If you are going to robustly attack the posts that you don't publish how will the vegetables know that you are making up my opinions in order to demolish them?

As Anon. 12.48 says; if left to post in peace I can be loads of fun and since you are inevitably in the God like position of always being right where's the harm?

Anonymous said...

I'm anon 19.37/7.19. I'm not completely following what's been happening with multi-posting in this thread, but I just wanted to make it clear that those are my only posts in this thread, and my posts aren't part of that whole thing, whatever it is (in case anyone's wondering).

Anyway, Welsh-speaking communities can't thrive everywhere. What point is there in expending all this money and time into promoting and teaching a language, if all its speakers are going to be people who already have a common, preferred language. Welsh-medium schools can only support the survival of the language. They can't be its foundation.

Welsh-medium students from English-speaking homes speak to each other in English. Which is completely natural and expected. Once kids who naturally speak Welsh to each other on the playround are a thing of the past...what's the point of it all?

I'd really like to hear your opinion on the Irish situation, MH, since it seems to me like it directly contradicts your argument.

Anonymous said...

Just saw Anon 13.29's post. MH, can't you just look at our IP addresses, and sort out this confusion?

Anon 13:37

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon. 13.37 I thought that I was having a rational and, indeed, enlightening debate with you but MH has decided that we agreed too much and therefore that you were me or I was you and so he launched his multiposing accusations and deleted both of us. A shame really as I thought that I made some good informed points.

Anon. 14.10 said...

I think that the question of exactly what effect Welsh Medium schooling has on pupil's subsequent language preference was dealt with in the BBC programme "The Welsh Knot". The girl from Dyffryn Nantlle, Grug, explained to camera how she thought in Welsh and translated into English. The girl from Bryntawe explained how all her life outside school was in English (she had excellent Welsh by the way). This is the point. Welsh Medium schooling gives an ability but cannot increase Welsh usage in the country as a whole. I tried to also say before I was so rudely deleted that Welsh Medium schools in places like Anglesey were doubly bad in that they infantilised the standard of Welsh in schools and failed to produce fluent speakers amongst children from first language English families.

Anonymous said...

Yep. The programme was a good example. Trying to base the survival of a minority language on minority language-medium education is like trying to treat cancer with Aspirin.

JL(anon 13:37)

Anonymous said...

Of interest (in Welsh):

p.s. I'm none of the above Anons..

Ioan said...

MH said: "I believe it is inevitable that the number of Welsh-speaking communities in the heartlands has and will go down".

I'm not so pessimistic here in the North West. My guess is that the 2011 Census will show a rise in both numbers and percentage in Gwynedd.

MH said...

As I've told you on many occasions before, Anon. You keep lying, we'll keep laughing.

I haven't "robustly attacked" the comments of yours that I've deleted. I've simply ignored them. If you want to make the points again, you can do so without fear of them being deleted provided that you provide links to any evidence you use to support your opinions. If you think your opinion is "informed", please share the sources of your "information" with the rest of us. If you go to the trouble of writing so many lengthy comments, you can surely provide the necessary links for us to see whether you are telling the truth or not. You provided two links in your 11:18 comment, but they covered less than the first paragraph of your 09:24 comment. And even then the second wasn't relevant, for you could much more easily have linked to the actual research document itself ... after all, you put in an FOI request to get it.

Nobody doubts that you can be loads of fun. I invariably enjoy what all the puppets in your sock drawer have to say, and recommend Gogwatch and Glasnost to anyone. So please repost your earlier comments, for I really look forward to continuing the dialogue.


Addressing your 13:37 comment, what is it about the "Irish situation" that you want my opinion on? I think Welsh is far stronger than Irish in some senses, but weaker in others.

Part of the strength of Irish has been that it has been compulsory in education for far longer than in Wales; and as a result of that, a far higher percentage of people say they can speak the language in the census than in Wales. I think censuses in Wales will follow a similar pattern, with more people saying they can speak Welsh simply by virtue of having a GCSE in Welsh. As we can see from the graph in this post, between 2001 and 2011, more than 100,000 more children took a Welsh GCSE than their predecesors did in the decade before. Some will put themselves down as Welsh speakers on the strength of it, and this will be one of the reasons why I'm convinced that the headline census figure for 2011 will be higher than Hywel Jones predicts. That doesn't have any direct bearing on how well they can speak the language, for the census has never asked that question.

Paradoxically, that is also the weakness of the Irish situation. For it proves that learning Irish as a subject in school usually just provides a basic grounding rather than competent Irish speakers. But Ireland has learnt from us (and from Catalunya and Euskadi too) that Irish-medium education will produce students who are competent in both languages. That is why Irish-medium schools are growing in popularity.

So, far from contradicting my argument, the Irish situation illustrates it. Which is why—in case anyone reading this hadn't realized it—you are so anxious to set up sites like Gogwatch, and write so many comments and letters to attack WM education. By protesting about it so much, you are only showing that think it is the key to the growth of Welsh across the whole of Wales.


You then make the point (14:21) about WM education giving ability in the language but not increasing its use. I repeat that it's not meant to ... it's only meant to give people the choice of being able to use either. That choice isn't available to people who can only speak English.

But I would very much like to hear what thought processes led you to conclude that Welsh-medium schools in places like Anglesey were doubly bad in that they infantilized the standard of Welsh in schools and failed to produce fluent speakers amongst children from first language English families.

MH said...

Thanks for that link, 15:22. I might join the conversation later. However I would recommend that you (and others) make up a name for themselves.


I would be delighted if you were right, Ioan, but I think the number of +70% communities will go down. However that doesn't necessarily mean that the overall figure for Gwynedd will go down. The picture will be one of spreading things out more evenly, and the more Anglicized areas of Gwynedd could well show enough growth to balance the +70% losses.

Ioan said...

MH not so sure "The picture will be one of spreading things out more evenly, and the more Anglicized areas of Gwynedd could well show enough growth to balance the +70% losses".

If you look at age 25-39 (comparing 2001 to 1991):
Arfon (outside Bangor): 77.6%(+2.4)
Dwyfor : 79.1% (+1.2%)
Meirionydd: 64.8% (+1%)

I do not expect any 70%+ wards in Dwyfor or Arfon to fall below 70% in this census. On the other hand I do not expect to see any wards south of Dolgellau in the +70% bracket.

Anon. 14.10 said...

MH, I know nothing of the Irish situation so I think that you should address your comments to Anon 13.37. The WM education system in Gwynedd is largely successful and so the Welsh speaking population should go up. In Ynys Mon and Ceredigion linguistic progression from Primary to Secondary is poor and I doubt that there will be any increase in Welsh speakers as a result. Hywel Jones looks at linguistic progression in Ynys Mon and Ceredigion in the document that you linked to. I gave you the link to "Linguistic Progression between Key stage2 and Key stage3" so why don't you just post it here instead of deleting it and pretending that I gave you no information.

MH said...

You're squirming, Anon. I didn't say you provided no information, I said you provided one relevant and one irrelevant link in your 11:18 comment ... but that these didn't even cover the claims you made in the first paragraph of what was a lengthy post at 09:42.

The "Linguistic Progression between Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3" was that one relevant link, and you are free to repost it. It isn't my job to you it for you.

But where are all the other links? Isn't it strange that you have so much less to say when put on the spot?


On the subject of progression between KS2 and KS3 assesments in Welsh to first language standard, you could easily add Sir Gâr to the list. Neither Sir Gâr nor Ceredigion has a single WM secondary school. There are bilingual schools of various categories, but even then Sir Gâr only has three Category 2A schools out of thirteen (Y Strade, Bro Myrddyn and Maes yr Yrfa) and Ceredigion two out of seven (Penweddig and Dyffryn Teifi). Natural linguistic progress from WM primaries (and the Welsh stream of dual stream schools) in those counties is being held back because of the lack of provision available. The Fro Gymraeg has a much bigger problem than other parts of Wales in this regard, and the report I linked to in the main article highlights it:

"It will be a particular challenge in the two regional consortia where the current rate is below the national average. These are the two regions including the traditional Welsh-speaking areas – south-west and mid-Wales (Year 9/Year 6 = 79.6%) and North Wales (Year 9/Year 6 = 80.4%).

This isn't a failure of WM education. The failure is the lack of WM education.

Anonymous said...

MH, again, can't you look at our IP addresses? I'm not even writing this from the UK (or living in the UK at the moment), as you will be able to see if you check the IP address. I simply don't get what you're basing your accusations on? You seem terribly paranoid. I would preface that with "no offense", but, then, your accusations are pretty offensive to me.

As for the Irish situation, no wonder you've got this unfounded optimism regarding the future of Welsh. Your problem is that you obviously know nothing about Irish. You really should look into it, as someone who writes about Welsh language policy and Welsh medium education. The fate of Irish, a language that's lost its heartlands, is the best cautionary tale for Welsh language policy, IMO.

To save you from actually researching it, here it is in a nutshell... Irish has no strengths. Census overreporting is not a strength. It's heaving its last breath. It's the language of the last couple of thousand in the disappearing Gaeltachts who actually still prefer it to English (the vast majority don't), and Dublin hobbyists. The most pertinent part: kids who go through Irish-medium education, unless they get jobs as translators or with TG4, don't ever use it again. Most of those people lose their Irish skills in adulthood. They have no motivation or opportunity to speak it, since the language has almost no speakers who don't prefer to use English anymore.

I'm bringing up Ireland (and contributing in this thread) because I would like Welsh NOT to go the way of Irish. I've got nothing to do with Gogwatch, but I don't know what I'm supposed to do to prove that to you, since you seem to refuse my IP address as proof. Anyway, isn't the burden of proof on you, since you're the one who keeps throwing accusations? I'm truly confused by your reactions here.


Anonymous said...

"You then make the point (14:21) about WM education giving ability in the language but not increasing its use. I repeat that it's not meant to ... it's only meant to give people the choice of being able to use either. That choice isn't available to people who can only speak English."

I wasn't the author of the 14:21 post, but I've made the same point about WM education. I just don't understand your logic here, MH. You and I are both in agreement that WM education is not meant to replace English with Welsh as kids' preferred language, but merely to give them the possibility to use it when necessary. So far, so good.

This is certainly useful in 2012. They might have lots of 1st language Welsh speaker friends. Or they might marry one. Or they might simply move to a Welsh-speaking community. All situations which would provide motivation to use Welsh.

But, if there are no more Welsh-speaking communities to produce people who prefer to use Welsh... well, how on earth would these WM-educated kids ever find themselves in a situation where they would want and/or need to speak Welsh?

In short, the usefulness of WM education depends on the existence of Welsh language communities.


Anon 14.10 said...
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Anon. 14.10 said...

This, MH, "it's only meant to give people the choice of being able to use either. That choice isn't available to people who can only speak English."

Is a very wierd viewpoint. In what sense does the total of Welsh speakers increase when people don't use their ability? It's almost as if you are saying that as long as the number of speakers "on paper" goes up then it's OK. Welsh exists when people use it to communicate with one another. It has no existence as "potential".

Anon.14.10 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MH said...

If you take offence at being called a liar, the answer is not to lie, Anon. Anyone can use a web proxy service to make it appear that they are posting from different locations.

As for Irish, it's pretty obvious that you are making the same sort of silly claims about it as you do about Welsh. You want to make out that both are doomed, and tell lies in an attempt to justify that assertion. For example, you claim it is down to its "last couple of thousand" and "disappearing", the truth is rather different. The following quote is from this report:

Of the 1.77 million who indicated they could speak Irish, 77,185 said they speak it daily outside the education system. A further 110,642 said they spoke it weekly, while 613,236 said they spoke it less often. One in four said they never spoke Irish. The numbers speaking Irish on a daily basis outside the education system increased by 5,037 persons since 2006 from 72,148 to 77,185; the numbers speaking weekly showed an increase of 7,781 persons, while those speaking Irish less often showed the largest increase of 27,139.

Wrong on both counts.


As for your 18:08 comment, I didn't say use it when "necessary" I said "choose" to use it. People's motivations for wanting to use Welsh or not are entirely a matter for them.

Nor would I dispute that Welsh needs Welsh language communities. My point is that such communities are not limited to geographical areas in the Bro Gymraeg where more than 70% speak Welsh. Communities are just as much made up by the people we choose to interact with, and mobility and communications enable such communities to exist in a variety of different ways.


I've deleted your 18:16 post because you're playing another one of your favourite tricks, linking to something that says the opposite of what you claimed it says.


I thought about deleting your 18:26 comment too, simply for being stupid. But perhaps it's better to leave it as an example. Who said that the total of Welsh speakers increases when people don't use their ability? Being able to speak Welsh is one thing, choosing (or indeed having the opportunity) to speak Welsh is another thing. But the second is impossible without the first.

Anon. 14.10 said...

Well MH if you delete my posts now for giving a link that in itself disproves my point then what am I to make of that?

"I've deleted your 18:16 post because you're playing another one of your favourite tricks, linking to something that says the opposite of what you claimed it says."

No one will ever know how stupid I am now! Some may suspect that it is you that tells porkies when your back is against the wall.

It seems that I can do no right here. Also I would like to complain about discriminatory deletion. If you delete my posts then the least you can do is delete my alter-ego.

Ambiorix said...

thanks Mh for providing a link on the number of welsh speakers,I'll bookmark it and read the article sometime!
I class myself as being able to speak welsh but not very efficiently!I'm not confidnet yet to have a full converstion in welsh.

Anon.14.10 said...

Here we go then; here's the link to all the estyn reports for Gwynedd.

Show me where estyn thinks that any of the Gwynedd secondary schools are WM rather than bilingual.

I once asked Gwynedd CC why they flitted between WM and bi-lingual. The answer was that the schools entered their code into the PLASC returns but that Gwynedd CC altered them all to WM because they didn't agree with the WAG designations. If you go on school web sites you can usually find them describing themselves by the Bi-lingual designations decided on by the WAG.

MH said...

You can make of it what you like, Anon. I deleted that comment because I'm not prepared let you waste other people's time on wild goose chases. It wasn't because you were being stupid, it was because you were being dishonest.

If you had any intention of showing us that you were being honest, I think you would have reposted the comments I deleted, but this time with links to the evidence you claimed supported your opinions. You haven't. You simply come out with more assertions, again based on evidence you are unwilling or unable to supply.

But if anyone would like a list of schools according to language category, there's one here, as sent to me by StatsWales last July. However I do accept your point about Gwynedd not accurately reporting the language categories of their schools. They put them all down as WM when it is clearly not always the case.

Anonymous said...

But, MH, what is your proof that there is a contributor on this thread using proxies? I just don't get it. Where does this idea come from in the first place? Do you simply always accuse any 2 or more users, who agree about something whilst disagreeing with you, of using proxies? I've never posted on your blog before, but, from what I've seen in this thread, you seem like a conspiracy theorist. Do you not think that there may exist more than one person who thinks the Welsh language is doomed without its heartlands?

As for Irish, there are plans for drastic redrafting of Gaeltacht borders, because Irish has all but disappeared from most of the Gaeltacht territory. 70% of the Gaeltacht population has the ability (ie. has the option) to speak it, yet barely one third actually use that ability habitually. One third, within the tiny territory of the Gaeltacht! The language is so small now, that even people from Irish-speaking families are turning away from it. Here are the numbers:

You claim you support the Welsh language, MH, but if you honestly don't see Irish as a cautionary tale, I can only assume your support is symbolic only. No one who actually wishes the language well, could be so blasé about all this.


JL said...

"Being able to speak Welsh is one thing, choosing (or indeed having the opportunity) to speak Welsh is another thing. But the second is impossible without the first."

MH, you haven't addressed my post (the one at 18:08), which lays out the potential situations in which a WM-educated person might make the choice to use that ability. And also points out why, without the heartlands, such situations would simply never arise.

So, what you have written here makes me wonder yet again...without the heartlands/people raised in the heartlands, what sort of situation could there arise, which would motivate WM-educated English-mother tongue kids to use their ability to speak Welsh?

You keep mentioning WM students have the option to speak it (something nobody here has denied), but, without the heartlands, what kind of situation would motivate them to actually use that option?

Anon.14.10 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon 14:10

As mentioned earlier, your peevishness is wonderfully amusing. This last post is a classic which MH should not delete under any circumstance.

Anonymous said...

Crap! Too late!

MH said...

I've dealt with you for long enough to know your style, Anon, and I'm not prepared to let people make comments under a variety of different identities simply to agree with what they've just said.

Thank you for the link to the thread on My question to you now is that if you knew the numbers from the 2006 census, why did you lie? I provided a link to a document to show that you were lying, so you now hurredly Google the subject to simply quote someone quoting the same results that I linked to. If you're going to make "good informed points", it would be better to get your information first, not afterwards.

And who said I didn't see Irish as a cautionary tale? I think we have lots to learn from the experiences of other countries, and that they have things to learn from us.


I did answer your 18:08 comment in mine of 19:12. Go back and look at it again. You may find it hard to understand why people would still speak Welsh in other parts of Wales irrespective of what happens in the heartlands, but so what? People do, and you just have to accept it.

Doing some quick calculations from table 24 of the 2004-2006 Language Use Surveys, there are many more people in Wales outside the four counties who can speak Welsh than there are inside them: 311,052 as opposed to 231,854. And there are nearly as many outside the four counties who say they are fluent in Welsh than there are inside them: 139,135 as opposed to 177,917. So I think the language would still survive even if the Fro Gymraeg were wiped off the map tomorrow ... though of course that is something I'd not want to see happen.

There simply isn't any justification for people to be fixated only with what happens in the Fro. Of course we should fight to protect the Fro, and I fully support those that do so. My point is that it should not be the only front we fight on.

JL said...

I linked to the thread because the OP of that thread pointed out things, and calculated things in a way that makes it clearer than just looking at reports, which can (on purpose or not) obfuscate the matter somewhat. So, no, it's not the same thing you linked to.

I didn't lie, though I will absolutely admit I inadvertantly expressed myself in an insufficiently clear manner. The "couple of thousand" I had in mind are young people, those who are the future (or lack thereof) of the language. I remembered reading a while ago discussions indicating very few young people fluent in Irish didn't prefer English. Most young people, even in the tiny remaining scraps of fior-Gaeltachts (ie. where a clear majority are fluent in Irish) converse with each other in English. I don't think anyone familiar with the Gaeltachts would deny that. Many of them may be defined as "habitual users" since they use the language with their parents. But they use English with their friends. And we all know that the survival of a language doesn't depend on what language kids use with theri parents, but on what language they use with their peers. The future of Irish is clear to anyone not wearing rose-tinted glasses, and it's a bleak one.

JL said...

Yes, I didn't see your answer to my 18:08 post, must've missed it because of not seeing any mention of my name (JL), just saw yet another angry rant of yours at the Anon whose alter-ego you assume I am, and skimmed over that post.

"People do, and you just have to accept it."

Yes, people do speak Welsh outside of the heartlands. Mostly people who come from the heartlands, or whose parents did. That doesn't last indefinitely though, and after a couple of generations of no heartlands existing, that would for the most part be it. Or do you honestly think those Welsh-speakers outside the heartlands will marry other Welsh-speakers and raise Welsh-speaking children who will again raise Welsh-speaking children etc. etc., sustaining the language generation through generation?

I'd put money on the majority of their grandchildren not speaking the language at all, let alone being fully bilingual from early childhood. Look at any migrants anywhere who move out of their cultural heartlands. Nobody in that situation sustains a language through generations, unless they live in discrete spaces surrounded by members of their cultural group, separate from the majority population (China Towns and the like.)

Anonymous said...

"I didn't lie, though I will absolutely admit I inadvertantly expressed myself in an insufficiently clear manner......."

Game, set and match to MH :)

JL said...

Game, sure. As I've admitted, that definitely should've said "a couple of thousand young people". Set? Nope. Irish is very much dying, whether there are a couple of thousand people who prefer it to English, or a ocuple of thousand young people who prefer it to English plus however many old people. Such is the nature of language preservation...old people basically don't count. Just ask the Bretons.

Match? Even less so. Especially since he still hasn't answered my question - what sort of situation could occur to motivate WM-educated kids to use the option of speaking Welsh, if English is by far the dominant language they all grew up with. Saying "people do speak Welsh outside of the Bro, accept it" is not an answer to that question.

Anon14.10 said...

Sorry I went to bed....had to be up for work and so can't amuse myself chatting with you all today. I see that you have continued to disrespect one of your contributors under the illusion that he is me. Pathetic. Good to see Michael's cheerleader out to play as well.

If I were you Michael I'd seek some medical help for your paranoia.

MH said...

You're squirming, Anon. You lied and, try as you like, you can't hide that behind convoluted words. And if you now claim that you "definitely should've said 'a couple of thousand young people'", then you're still lying, because the calculations in the post you linked to don't say that at all.

It's yet another example of you first refusing to back up your source of information, and eventually providing a link to something that doesn't say what you claim at all.

Then in the end, completely unable to provide links to the "evidence" you used to support your opinions, you resort to abuse. But don't let me stop you.

Anonymous said...

MH - with due respect, I understood Annon 14.01's comments of 'a couple of thousand' as being not very many from a population of around 4 million.

I think there's an element of nit-picking here on your behalf. The general point, which I guess you and Anon would agree on is that the numbers who claim to be able to speak Irish, and those who actually do speak it, are very different. This leads many people in Wales to be afraid and very circumspect of figures being used by the Welsh establishment to 'big up' the Welsh language ... possibly as a way not to avoid making difficult decisions in reaction to a very very difficult situation for the language.

The general point I would make is that firstly I enjoy you posts, but secondly there seems to be an over emphasis on WM education in the East by yourself and others as a sign of vitality in the language. I know this isn't meant as disrespect on you behalf and equally those in the 'Fro' (what's left of it) don't denigrate the growth in WM education.

However, it can, at time come over as, we can't/won't do anything about the Fro and concentrate our hopes on the East. It's a bit like saying - or, rather, it comes across as saying - 'hey, there's no work in the Rhondda, but look boys, things are looking good in Cardiff - plenty of jobs there'.

Why must we accept (which we basically are) that the language will decrease in the West and that the increase in the East some how compensates for that? As you say, the strength of the language in one part of Wales doesn't necessarily have a baring on another part? It cuts both ways, why would the language strengthen in Cardigan (where it's collapsed) because it's growing in, say, Caerffili?

I'd also say, and this is anecdotal because I don't have the time, nor skill, nor contacts to confirm it, that from my personal experience having being educated at WM education in Cardiff that the people I hear speaking Welsh in Cardiff are a) native Welsh speakers from Cardiff or other parts of Wales b) people who've learnt Welsh as adults.

I see very little evidence of many people from non-Welsh speaking backgrounds who've gone to WM schools who continue to speak Welsh, go to Welsh language events (theatre, gigs etc). That is, the only people I see at WM events in Cardiff from my former school, are those whom I know came from Welsh speaking 2 parent families, and sometime one parent (usually mother) Welsh speaking families.

The conclusion then is that people - despite their wish to be positive - feel, ok, another WM school in the SE. So what? It hasn't changed anything.

I know it's a long process and I know we need to reach a critical mass, but, frankly, many of us don't share your optimism (or, what I presume is your optimisim) for the language. We can't see much evidence on the ground, of people switching language from English to Welsh, and frankly, why would they want to do that?

Mr M.

JL said...

MH, it was an offhand final remark about what Irish has become, not a statistic. I didn't give it that much attention at the time of writing, thinking the "offhand" nature of it obvious, but I realise now I should've been more careful. In a serious discussion, offhand remarks are not a good idea. So, yes, I was definitely wrong to make such a casual remark in this discussion.

But I stand by my clarified point - I personally believe only a couple of thousand young people (pupils and students' age) prefer Irish to English in communication with their peers. I can't give you a source, because I never offered you one, or claim it as a proven fact. It's an OPINION. An opinion based on years of checking up on discussions between supporters of Irish. Yes, supporters, not detractors.

Supporters are the one who despair over the fact that the bulk of Gaeltacht youth prefer English. Supporters are the ones who put their hopes in that youth "maturing" one day and switching to Irish. So yes, it's an opinion, which I'm not demanding anyone to agree with. I'm simply suggesting, go through some of the pertinent threads on,, or (maybe even the best option) -a site consisiting entirely of language supporters). And you just might end up agreeing.

The census can't prove or disprove that opinion, since even the most precise language question in it (which asks whether the person uses Irish habitually outside of school) doesn't tell us whether that "habitual use" is with kids' parents, or with their peers. It is my opinion, by way of language supporters' discussions, that the bulk of young "habitual users" use the language with parents, not peers.

By the way, you still haven't answered my question about using situations that would prompt WM-educated people to use Welsh, once the heartlands are gone. Or the one about migrants sustaining a language as a mother tongue. As for your paranoia, as offensive as it was at first, now it's just crossed into amusing.

JL said...

* sorry, typo in the last paragraph: "about situations", not "about using situations"

MH said...

If it was an "offhand" remark that you didn't expect anyone to take seriously, why didn't you say that before, rather than provide a link to a post on a forum which you claimed showed those numbers to be true, Anon? It would have been much simpler to say that you weren't being serious rather than go to the trouble of providing the link. I can only conclude that it was a deliberate attempt to deceive, and you're only backing down now because it's been exposed.

So what's left is your opinion; which I'm happy for you to express, and happy to dismiss as a load of rubbish because it bears little or no relation to reality in either Ireland or Wales.

You seem hung-up by your inability to understand why someone from an English-speaking family would ever be motivated to use any Welsh that they've learned, but I can't help you understand it. Different people will have different motivations. All I can point to is the fact that there are plenty of people who speak Welsh outside the traditional heartland areas and they'll each have their own reasons for doing so.

MH said...

Turning now to Mr M's points. First, I don't think there is any attempt to "big up" the language (nor do I think that is the case in Ireland either, and I certainly wouldn't regard the Irish census results as "over-reporting"). I believe that most people answer the questions about whether they speak Welsh (or Irish) genuinely, but from their perspective. However those of us who analyse the census results—and those from other surveys—need to be aware that one person's perception of their own or their children's ability in Welsh will often be very different from another's.

The UK census is a blunt instrument. The Irish census is better because it asks more questions, but the UK refused to add any more nuanced questions about Welsh, even the very basic, "How often do you speak Welsh?" However the Language Use Surveys which I linked to in my 23:28 comment help us better understand how people who ticked the Yes boxes use the language. There's nothing to hide, but I and I'm sure many others are constantly amazed by how many public and professional figures who should know better manage to misquote or misinterpret the census figures. One of the most common mistakes is to say that the 20.8% figure for those who can speak Welsh is those who are fluent in Welsh.

To be continued

MH said...


As for my own view of what we can and should do for the language to flourish, I make no bones about thinking that too many in what might broadly be described as the Welsh language movement are failing to see the big picture. I think, and will say it again now, that there is too much concern about holding on to what we have than looking to win back what has been lost.

But I can live with that. I see it as a battle that needs to be fought on several different fronts. Each of us must decide for ourselves which front to concentrate our efforts on, and I fully support the actions of those who think that one front is more important than others, for we will get further if we each fight in the ways that are suited to our abilities and appetites. To use a football analogy, I feel that too many of us want to cram our own penalty box to avoid conceding a goal, and that not enough of us are looking to get upfield to score goals. I see myself as a striker rather than a defender. And if (as might be fair to say) we're at nil-nil with only fifteen minutes to go, I think we would do better to go on the attack rather than grimly defend. I want us to win, not simply hold on. In order to win we must score at the other end of the field, and I don't particularly mind if we concede a goal or two provided we score more goals than we concede.

I would go further and say that if we actually got out of our own penalty area, we would see that there is an open goal at the other end of the pitch. So much so that it will be easy for us to score if more of us push upfield. I'll explain what I mean by that. In my 16:44 comment I said we should,

"build on the strength of public opinion which believes the language is something which belongs to everybody in Wales, which everyone in Wales can be proud of and which it is important that children learn to speak."

That was not an offhand remark. It's something that is demonstrably true. This survey in 2007 found that the following percentages of people agreed with these statements:

Welsh belongs to everybody in Wales ... agree 80% ... disagree 9%
Welsh is something everyone can be proud of ... agree 83% ... disagree 6%
It's important that children learn to speak Welsh ... agree 81% ... disagree 7%

The vast majority of people in Wales are "gagging" for the language to grow and flourish. And, reflecting this strength of public opinion, all political parties think it is important that our children learn to speak the language. The Welsh-medium Education Strategy is (regardless of the flaws we might think it has) a creditable and welcome attempt to make it happen. This post is about how well we are progressing towards the targets it contains. So I have to say that I think it is shameful for you or anyone else to say, "OK, another Welsh-medium school in the south east, so what?"

What defender in a football team turns his back on the celebrations when his own team scores a goal at the other end of the pitch?


To make it clear, I'm not at all happy at the prospect of the language losing ground in its traditional heartlands. But on one measure, that of communities where more than 70% can speak Welsh, I think we will see a fall. However there's nothing you, I or anyone else can do about it now. The census is a snapshot of the way things were in 2011. I'm trying to warn people who support the language about this now so that we won't be mortified when the results come out. But, equally, I'm trying to defuse the inevitable cries of "this shows the language is doomed" that will be all the louder if we regard not conceding a goal as the most important measure of the health of the language.

Anonymous said...

There is a problem with interpreting the widespread support for the Language that is always found in polls on the subject in Wales. The problem is that alongside the wish that Welsh survives is a reluctance to actually learn it or speak it. This is a report on the "Fate of The Language" poll in 2001:

And this is the "Fate of The language" poll this year:

The ambivalence in attitude is clear. With regard to Welsh Language Education a large 72% thought that its availability was important for the Language. Nevertheless only 25% thought that choosing it was important.

Again (and this goes to the heart of the question of whether Welsh will grow across Wales) 54% thought that there should be no compulsion to study Welsh in Schools. 56% of non Welsh speakers thought this.

In Wales there is general goodwill towards Welsh but ultimately no great committment to actually learn the Language or see it taught.

JL said...

MH, I didn't say I wasn't being serious, I said I didn't give the formulation of the sentence much thought at the time of writing. If I were to write that post again, I would make sure to straight away qualify that part as opinion, but well...I can't turn back time, can I? But the remark being made in an offhand way doesn't make the opinion not serious. That opinion is what I seriously believe. You, of course, are more than welcome to dismiss it as a load of rubbish.

As for "attempting to deceive", that's a load of rubbish. I provided the link to, prefaced by the following words:

"70% of the Gaeltacht population has the ability (ie. has the option) to speak it, yet barely one third actually use that ability habitually. One third, within the tiny territory of the Gaeltacht! The language is so small now, that even people from Irish-speaking families are turning away from it. Here are the numbers"

So, I never tried to make anyone believe that there was confirmation for that particular opinion at the link. I stated in very simple terms what data can be found in the linked thread, and, lo and behold, that is exactly the data the linked thread contains. The point was to show how weak Irish is now. My initial opinion, as I said, cannot be either proved or disproved(!) using the data we have. It's just not precise enough to do either.

"You seem hung-up by your inability to understand why someone from an English-speaking family would ever be motivated to use any Welsh that they've learned, but I can't help you understand it."

And here you're just blatantly twisting my words. I myself provided several examples of why a WM-educated English-speaking background person might use Welsh. However, all those situations could not occur without the existence of the heartlands. What I was asking of you, is to say what would prompt such people to speak Welsh in the case of the heartlands disappearing. Key part of that sentence: "in the case of the heartlands disappearing". You still haven't done anything of the kind. You keep talking about the here and now, and refuse to address the future in anything but very vague terms.

Anon 14.10 said...

Then there's other evidence of a lack of Welsh usage outside the Welsh speaking areas:

Anonymous said...

Anon 14.10 said...
Then there's other evidence of a lack of Welsh usage outside the Welsh speaking areas:

29 June 2012 21:21

as Cymry Cymraeg, ask yourself the question, do you press 1 for Welsh? Do you choose the Cymraeg option at the ATM? Do you ask for the mythical Welsh speaker (who is usually on holiday or on lunch) Os na, dan ni gyd yn gwastraffu'n amser! Heb yr ymrwymiad i fynnu'r gwasanaeth does dim pwynt. Gofynnwch y cwestiynnau i chi eich hun!

Anonymous said...

Ultimately Anon. 01.23 you are right. It's not having language ability that counts it's whether the language you have is truly your automatic language. This is the problem that was highlighted in "the Welsh Knot". Even WM schools don't change the language of choice of children from English speaking homes. Amongst fluent Welsh speakers there remains a split between those who have been brought up in Welsh and in a wider Welsh speaking world and those for whom Welsh is just an option to be used or not equally with English. If Welsh is to survive....use it...always.

MH said...

I think you're clutching at straws in 19:04, Anon. Anyone who looks back at what you said in your 21:34 comment can see for themselves that you've edited the paragraph you have now requoted. The sentence you omitted was,

"As for Irish, there are plans for drastic redrafting of Gaeltacht borders, because Irish has all but disappeared from most of the Gaeltacht territory ..."

How could you expect anyone not to link that with your claim that the number was down to "the last couple of thousand" and that you were using the post you linked to justify that claim? But let's now put that matter to rest.

However, quite apart from that, you also misrepresented the trend. Irish is not disappearing in the Gaeltacht, for the numbers of daily Irish speakers (outside the education system) in the Gaeltacht areas increased by 2.9% between 2006 and 2011.


I missed the significance of the "if the heartlands disappear" tag. But if it was meant to be the critical part of the question you were asking, it was not included in your 02:31 comment. I don't see how it makes any difference, and my answer is the same as it was before: people outside the Fro Gymraeg will continue to speak Welsh for the same reasons as they do now. You want to make out that it would be impossible for them to do so. I disagree.

You are either labouring under a misconception or trying to propagate one. In your 00:32 comment you claimed that the people who speak Welsh outside the Fro are "mostly people who come from the heartlands, or whose parents did", and this in turn gives rise to your statement about the unlikeliness of "migrants sustaining a language as a mother tongue". But look again at the numbers I provided in my 23:28 comment. They show how preposterous that idea is.

For countless generations people across, to give one example, south Wales east of the Loughor spoke Welsh. Those numbers may well have declined over the course of the last century, but there are still plenty of families who speak Welsh in south Wales because their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents in those areas did, not because they've recently come from other parts of Wales. On top of that, there are many familes where those who are now grandparents spoke Welsh, but did not pass on the language to their children. It's easy to be critical of that with hindsight, although in most cases I think they honestly believed it was for the best but now regret it. So if you're looking for another motivation, then I know many people whose motivation is to regain a language that was temporarily lost to their families. And if they think of themselves as dogs who are too old to learn new tricks, they will want their puppies to learn the language while they are young enough to do it with hardly any effort.

MH said...

The 18:28 comment is interesting. I don't think there is any conflict between 81% of the population saying it is important that children learn to speak Welsh, but fewer thinking it should be a compulsory subject at school.

Even though it is a compulsory subject at school, it is often taught badly. I've pointed out on several occasions (for example here) that the education establishment in Wales thinks it is perfectly acceptable for teachers who cannot themselves speak Welsh, and certainly cannot teach in Welsh, to teach Welsh as a second language. In rough terms, only half those that the educational establishment considers able to teach Welsh have sufficient command of the language to teach in Welsh. So I'm hardly surprised that some people think such lessons are a waste of time.

You said, "In Wales there is general goodwill towards Welsh but ultimately no great commitment to actually learn the language or see it taught."

The general goodwill of people across Wales is there, but is the lack of commitment from those same people? I think the lack of commitment is largely from the educational estabishment, in some or many of its various facets. Ultimately, national government should set policy, and one of the first changes it should make is to act to ensure that only teachers who can themselves speak Welsh teach it to children.

MH said...

Turning to the 01:23 and 07:48 comments, I would first say that the use of Welsh is a separate matter from people's ability to speak Welsh. The difficulty occurs when the Welsh language service is worse than the English language service, and therefore people who would prefer to use Welsh use English because the Welsh service isn't good enough or takes too much time to access.

It's all very well to encourage people to use an inferior service as a matter of principle, but for most people life is too pressured for them not to take the easier, quicker option. Hopefully the new Language Commissioner will be able to make a difference to those services so that accessing a service in Welsh is as easy as accessing it in English.

But the 07:48 comment shows all the hallmarks of the same inability to understand what it is to be bilingual as was evident earlier in this thread.

Mr Silk said...

Can I make a comment? I respect everyones right to post anonymously because it allows people to speak freely. However people should use pseudonyms so that there is accountability within the debate. What's interesting to me as a non-Welsh speaker right now is I hear more Welsh in Cardiff at pubs, cafes etc than I ever have in my life before. Signage is also better. The gaping void seems to be the private sector though, and the markets win every time don't they?

Anon 14.10 said...

"The difficulty occurs when the Welsh language service is worse than the English language service, and therefore people who would prefer to use Welsh use English because the Welsh service isn't good enough or takes too much time to access."

How many times have I heard this? This claim that more people would use Welsh language services if they were "Better" or more widely available. This theory has driven Welsh Language initiatives and the Welsh speaking Jobs market for decades. Well the hour of reckoning is nigh. How many of the households who took part in the census in Wales in 2011 have filled in the Welsh version? I know how many did this in 2001:

"To meet the commitment to make Welsh language census
forms available, 1,720,000 were printed. Of these some 43,800
forms were returned.",or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&fp=1d633261c2cc3a3f&biw=1024&bih=735

"Census 2001 review and evaluation."

Now much was made of the group of people who boycotted the census over the "Welsh" Tick box affair and, as usual some people said that no Welsh form was available. How many people are we talking about? Anyway. No matter. This time the census was bilingual for everyone and bilingual online. Even people whose Welsh is poor could use the English version for help so we know that there must be more people who will have filled in the Welsh version IF THEY WANTED TO!

MH said...

I'm sure you have no idea how bad the Welsh language service provided by many organizations is, Anon. A few organizations do provide as good a service in Welsh as they do in English, and in those cases we would be able to draw some meaningful conclusions about how great the take up of services in Welsh is.

As it happens, I'm inclined to agree with this part of your comment:

"How many people are we talking about? Anyway. No matter."

Precisely. The provision of an equal quality of service in Welsh and English is a matter of principle. It doesn't depend on the numbers that choose to use the service.

JL said...

Could you please explain why you are removing my comments, MH?

MH said...

I've deleted your other comments, Anon, because it's clear to me that you're playing games. It's pointless denying you wrote what anyone can see you wrote, and it's pointless claiming that what you meant was something different from what you wrote.

Anon 14.10 said...

" Precisely. The provision of an equal quality of service in Welsh and English is a matter of principle. It doesn't depend on the numbers that choose to use the service."

That's a real sticking point I think MH. I disagree with that point of view. Providing a service means that we give a certain group of people employment in public services or we give great weight to the value of their Welsh speaking ability when appointing them to a position. The weight we give to that language ability is only justified by utilty, that is to what degree it is necessary. The problem for me is that this division of Welsh society is based on a chimera....a myth of a significant population disadvantaged by a lack of Welsh language service.

In recent years I have always followed up polls of Welsh speakers to see how many actually replied to canvassers in Welsh when they were given the option. There is no point in me sharing the figures with you because you will delete my post to hide them.

MH said...

Providing any service (whether public or private) means that those offering the service need to employ "a certain group of people", Anon. An organization providing plumbing services needs to employ plumbers. An organization providing accountancy services is bound to give great weight to the value of a person's accountancy ability when appointing them to a position.

As for there being a "division" in Welsh society, why is there any greater division between those who can and can't speak Welsh than between those who can and can't drive? They are both skills that can be acquired by almost everybody.

I disagree with your assertion that the principle of providing services in Welsh is based on a significant part of the population being disadvantaged if they weren't provided. The idea of being allowed to use Welsh only if you would be disavantaged by using English is rather outdated. It was the basis of the 1942 Welsh Courts Act, but things have moved on since then.

And finally, I have never had an objection to you sharing any figures with people reading this blog. In fact I would welcome it. You just need to provide evidence to show us that they are genuine rather than invented.

Anonymous said...

"Nobody in that situation sustains a language through generations, unless they live in discrete spaces surrounded by members of their cultural group, separate from the majority population (China Towns and the like.)"

Pontcanna? ;)

Anonymous said...

Blatant Cymraegification! Why don't we still call it by its original Chinatown name, Canton?

Anonymous said...

anon 10,00

Canton? Pontcanna doesn't have an English name, Canton in Welsh is Treganna. Stupid inaccurate pedant troll.

Anonymous said...

Bwyty Tregannaidd? Dyna syniad da. Blasus iawn!

Anonymous said...

The English form of Pontcanna is Cambridge, surely?

Anonymous said...

I think the argument about a language needing heartlands can be linked to the view that a language dies/is on the road to linguistic death when there are no more monolingual speakers left. I certainly would go as far as that (Welsh, Irish and a host of other minority languages would already be dead if this was the case) but I do think it strike true when a language doesn't have any speakere left where it is their first language.
Before I go on I should explain what I mean by "first language". Despite there being many bi-lingual (or even multi-lingual) speakers of languages where the speakers are fluent in both the languages they speak, it is very rare that they are as comfortable and as fluent to exactly the same degree in both e.g. put under pressure in a life or death scenario they would choose to converse in one language over the other (to take an extreme example).
The trouble when a minority language becomes the "2nd" language of all its speakers is that the "1st" language influences a penetrates into the 2nd language more and more over time e.g. changing sentance structure, vocabluary etc. in other words the 2nd lang deteriates under the influence of the 1st. All living languages change over time however there is a difference between a slow gradual and healthy change which reflects the changes in society over time and a fairly sudden change disproportionatly influenced by anpther more dominant language.

The idea therefore that a language needs its heartlands allows that language to be the dominant language which can act as a barrier for it from being overly influenced by the more dominant language outside of its heartlands.

Re. some of the points more specifically about WM education in the east. The real test in my view of whether it will be a success is how many of those from English speaking families will go through the Wm schooling and go on to raise their children through the medium of Welsh? That to me is the key, the most natural and successful way to pass on a language is through the family, in my opinion WM schools (apart from obviously providing an eduacation to our young people) are a means to an end re. Welsh language aquisition - that end being, creating enough confident and competent speakers to then go on to pass the language on in the home. WM education would still be there to back this aquisition up but its role as the primary method of Welsh lang aquisition outside Y Fro would diminish. Whether or not we can make this happen remains to be seen, but this also relies on a lot of other factors than just how many WM Schools we have.


MH said...

I'd quite agree with you that Welsh needs people whose first language (as you've defined it) is Welsh, DaiTwp. I certainly wouldn't want to see Welsh become everyone's second language. Perhaps part of the confusion in earlier exchanges was the idea that such first language speakers only existed in the "heartlands".

The aim of Iaith Pawb was to create a truly bilingual Wales in which people can choose to live their lives through the medium of either or both Welsh or English. Some people will want to do that entirely in Welsh, others entirely in English ... but there will be many who prefer to do it in a mix of both. I think doing things in a mix of both is a good thing, so it doesn't particularly ring any alarm bells for me if people who speak Welsh sometimes choose to do things in English ... and the same thing will be true the other way round, too. I would go further and say that for a person to be truly bilingual, they need to use both of their languages regularly, and that doing everything in Welsh or everything in English is not a good idea. But each individual should be able to choose for themselves how much, when and where to use either language, not be forced to use English (the reverse is never true) simply because the service available in Welsh is second-rate or non-existent.

Another example of the same thing is what languages students take their GCSEs in. One of the indicators (Outcome 3) in the WMES is those entered for Welsh-medium GCSEs. As framed, the targets are reasonable (2 and 5 additional qualifications besides Welsh FL) but I'd be a little wary of the wisdom of aiming to take all GCSEs in Welsh. I think it would be quite healthy to take some in English. However I would be very concerned if anyone dictated which subjects should be done in Welsh and which in English, and particularly with the idea (which used to be more prevalent than it is now, thankfully) that maths and science subjects were better taught in English rather than Welsh. The point of a WM education is to produce children who are competent in both Welsh and English, so a mixture of GCSEs in both languages is no bad thing. Quite the contrary, it would be a sign of the success of WM education.

And I agree that we should be aiming for people who have acquired Welsh though WM education rather than parental transmission to in turn pass on the language to their children directly rather than rely on WM education to do it for them. There might be some evidence that this is happening. In the video on the official opening of Ysgol Bro Teyrnon in Newport, here, Dwynwen Barklam said it was a surprise that many of the parents of children in the school had themselves been through WM education. That might well mean that they had raised their children in Welsh or bilingually; though it might just as easily mean that they hadn't (maybe because of lack of confidence, maybe because only one parent spoke Welsh) and were relying on the school to do what they couldn't.

Anon 14.10 said...

As it happens I was at school last night at the annual parent/teacher evening. Since my daughter has gone through WM schooling and lived in a very Welsh area all her life she is of course studying Welsh first language. I put it to the teacher that her overall vocabulary was very limited and that she had trouble with grammar and language structure. I asked her what level she could be expected to score in GCSE. The teacher replied that she was probably able to get a "C" in Welsh first language but that next year they would review her progress and consider entering her for Welsh second language where we could confidently expect her to get an A or A*.
This is a lifetime of WM education we are talking about here. What we are also seeing is how pursuit of grades by the school influences Welsh Language GCSE entries.
I have tried to say just how poorly WM schools actually teach Welsh WITHIN THE FRO. It is my firm belief that neither English L1 nor Welsh L1 pupils benefit from the present arrangement and that all children, within the Fro, would benefit from segregation into schools where Welsh L1 children really were from Welsh speaking families. This doesn't mean that English L1 kids wouldn't go to WM schools but it would mean that language acquisition for those pupils would be more rational and better delivered. True Welsh L1 pupils would be introduced to a higher standard of vocabulary and grammar than is at present the case. I despair at the rapid drop into "Wenglish" that is looked on as acceptable hereabouts. Much of the contempt that is shown to the Welsh Language is a result of the failure of schools to teach a high standard of Welsh to any child.

Anon.14.10 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MH said...

Leaving to one side the element of fantasy accompanying the various personas of your many different identities, Anon, it is worth addressing your point in general terms.

A child who might struggle to get a Welsh First Language grade C would easily get the top grade by switching to do a Welsh Second Language GCSE. I wouldn't blame any individual child who did that, especially because getting, say, five A*-C grades at GCSE is often a requirement for moving on to the next stage of education or getting a particular job.

But as a measure of Welsh language ability, getting a WFL GCSE grade C (or even taking a WFL GCSE at all) is a very much higher achievement than getting a A* in WSL.

People need to bear in mind that a GCSE in WFL is the equivalent of a GCSE in English (which is always taught and examined to first language standards in the UK). So it is not intended as a measure of whether or how fluently a student can speak Welsh, any more than a GCSE in English is intended as a measure of whether or how fluently a student can speak English.

We know (from the JCQ figures) that only 61.3% of students got a grade C or above in English last summer, but it would be silly to say that 38.7% of students in Wales couldn't speak English or couldn't spaek it fluently.


As for how well WM schools teach Welsh within the Fro Gymraeg, I would agree that it can sometimes be patchy, especially in small traditionally Welsh speaking schools. But no matter how firmly you might believe something, it doesn't make what you say in your second paragraph true. Certainly the results for Gwynedd, as shown here (p8) show that children achieve good and roughly equal standards in both English and Welsh to first language standard by the end of KS2 (though English achievement is marginally better than Welsh, which shows that a child's proficiency in English is not adversely affected by being taught predominantly in Welsh). So your idea that children from different linguistic backgrounds are disadvantaged by being taught together doesn't stand up to scrutiny.


I deleted your second comment because you didn't provide a link to the evidence you claimed to be quoting.

Anon 14.10 said...

My contention that pupils in WM schools do not learn English to the same standard as pupils in comparable (benchmarked by Free school Meal entitlement) EM schools is well known to you. It does stand up to scrutiny and is at this time being "scrutinised" by Estyn. I was quite sure that I did in fact provide a link to the "Living in Wales survey 2008" which showed that people in the 16-29 year age group, those just out of schools where they have been taught Welsh for all of their school lives, do not speak Welsh for preference.

"Language of last conversation of people able to speak Welsh". Chart 1.7 page seven.

MH said...

Many of your contentions are known to me, Anon. But although you claim the evidence to back them up is there, you are hardly ever able to provide it; and on the rare occasions when you do provide links, the documents often say the exact opposite of what you claim.

But thanks for this link ... which again doesn't show what you claim it does. The language of someone's last conversation isn't direct evidence of which language people speak out of preference, because it also depends on the circumstances of the conversation. For example, someone might well have preferred to speak to the man at the petrol station or supermarket in Welsh, but if he couldn't speak Welsh that conversation would have had to be in English.

Anonymous said...

You are such a hoot MH:

"For example, someone might well have preferred to speak to the man at the petrol station or supermarket in Welsh, but if he couldn't speak Welsh that conversation would have had to be in English."

The young 16-29 year olds are going to the same supermarket and petrol stations as the people in the other age groups. The other age groups find more Welsh speakers to speak to there (including each other of course)according to your strange theory. 70 year olds can find some one Welsh speaking more than half the time since a snap shot of last conversations is always much the same on any day of the Week. You are desperate to avoid the obvious conclusion...young people just finishing a period of their lives when they received Welsh lessons just don't CHOOSE to speak Welsh.

MH said...

What I said is true for all ages, Anon. It's impossible for you to draw any meaningful conclusion about language preference from these figures. Language choice is a factor, but can only come into play in situations where choice can be exercised.

What I said before isn't much different from this (on p15) in the Language Use Surveys I linked to above:

The answers will reflect the potential to speak Welsh in whatever network the respondent last found themselves, as well as the choice of language, if there was a potential to speak Welsh.

Aled said...

MH, I've just been bored to tears trawling through your troll friend's rantings, just on the off chance that I'd catch a glimmer of reason in there. Alas, not.

Ta waeth, I remain convinced that the reason we risk losing the day with keeping Welsh as a viable language of choice across the country is this: Welsh Second Language is useless.

I trained as a teacher of English in the South African system. There, every learner must study at least 2 national languages to Matric (school leaving at 18 years old): the first to Home Language standard (i.e. mother tongue), the second to at least First Additional Language standard, although the learner may choose a second Home Language if they prefer. There is a also a Second Additional Language standard (Third Language or Foreign Language) which is taught as an option to cover other national languages or European languages.

First Additional Language is taught and examined at a level which is sufficiently high for that language to be the child's medium of instruction. Now, this means that a child leaving school at 18 will be functionally bilingual in either English or Afrikaans (medium of instruction) AND one other national language (usually one of the Nguni or Sotho languages).

Compare this to Wales! Only one language is compulsary to Home Language standard throughout the country: English. Welsh, of course is taught at this level in Category 1 and Category 2A schools to all children, but in Category 2B, 2C and 3 schools a majority of children get Second Language Welsh which in many areas produces linguistic outcomes which are to all intents and purposes useless.

So, why doesn't the Welsh Government grab the proverbial bull by the horns and make Welsh a compulsory subject to an equivalent of the South African First Additional Language level across the whole of Wales?

That would produce a far better percentage in future censuses!

MH said...

I'm inclined to agree with a lot of what you say, Aled. However, rather than differentiate between "first additional language" and "home language", I think the simpler solution is to eventually do away with the whole idea of Welsh taught, assessed and examined to second language standards, and make what is currently called "Welsh first language" the only standard of instruction, assessment and examination. Welsh would then be in no different a situation from English, which is invariably taught, assessed and examined to first language standards.

The main problem with this is logistics. We simply don't have the resources to do it right now ... but we can work towards it.

Although it's an easy target to knock the way Welsh as a second language is currently taught, I don't think we should forget that things are improving. One measure of this is that Welsh wasn't taught to any standard in some parts of Wales until relatively recently. At least it is taught to all children now, which is progress. Another mark of progress is that more Year 11 children are getting a qualification in Welsh than ever before. We may dismiss the Welsh Second Language Short Course GCSE as not much of a qualification, and it isn't ... but again, it's progress.

There are plans for reorganizing the Welsh second language course and qualification. And while I don't object to that, I think it's a bit like rearranging the deckchairs rather than getting to grips with the problem. For me, the fundamental problem is to ensure that all teachers who teach Welsh in schools can themselves speak Welsh. At present, about half of those considered able to teach Welsh as a second language can't actually speak it, as I noted in my 30 June 13:02 comment.

In my opinion this is the one big thing that we have to change. But we're not doing it. Even now the figures for newly qualified teachers registered in Wales are:

Able to speak Welsh ... 31.8%
Able to speak Welsh well enough to teach in Welsh ... 25.1%
Able to teach Welsh as a second language ... 58.3%

Table 2.8 - GTCW Annual Statistics, March 2012

As a matter of simple professionalism, we need to ban any teacher who can't speak Welsh from teaching Welsh.

Aled said...

Thank you, MH. You rightly go further than my suggestion, then, by proposing that there be only one desired outcome throughout the country: functional fluency in both Welsh and English.

Going back to my South African experience, though. In order to gain my PGCE I had to demonstrate that I was able to teach through the medium of both South African languages of instruction, viz. Afrikaans and English.

What is to stop us from requiring ALL teachers who qualify with Qualified Teacher Status in Wales to show that they (at least at Key Stage 1 and 2 level) can effectively teach in Welsh as well as English? Shouldn't this be a desired outcome of Welsh as a core subject in the National Curriculum?

MH said...

That's what I would like to see too, Aled. At present, you can't train to be a primary school teacher unless you have an A*-C GCSE in English, maths and a science. As the general rule is for primary teachers to teach all National Curriculum subjects to their class, the obvious thing would be for all primary school teachers to need an A*-C GCSE in Welsh first language as well. If they don't have it, then they would need to take an equivalent as part of their teacher training course. I think this should apply to all those we train as primary school teachers in Wales from now on.

The question is what we do with all the current primary school teachers who can't speak Welsh. The only answer I can see is some degree of specialization. We do this with the Athrawon Bro services operated by many LEAs, who provide peripatetic Welsh teaching for those schools where no one is considered able to teach Welsh. But I think we need to move to the point where every primary school has at least one member of teaching staff who can teach Welsh properly, and that they should do this for all the classes in the school. There seems to be a tendency developing to have specialist literacy and numeracy teachers in primary schools, and doing it for Welsh would fit in with that.

But the bottom line is that for as long as we think the ideal model is for one primary school teacher to be responsible for teaching all subjects to one class of children, then all primary school teachers will need to be able to speak that minimum standard of Welsh. So we need to encourage existing primary school teachers to improve their Welsh skills, allowing them a number of years to either get up to WFL GCSE standard or find work elsewhere. All teachers need to undertake ongoing professional development during their careers, and this would simply be a part of it. I don't see it as a big deal.

Things are completely different for secondary school teachers because the normal pattern is for them to teach only their specialist subjects. Therefore many of them will not need to speak Welsh at all.

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