Welsh and those not from Wales

As the latest releases of information from the 2011 census for the Welsh language are a little bit difficult to piece together, I've put the information correlating language ability with country of birth and national identity together in a way that I hope makes things a little clearer. I've produced a full spreadsheet which can be downloaded here, and distilled that information into this table:


I don't think any of the information will come as too much of a surprise, but it might be worth making a few comments about it.


The biggest factor affecting the figures is migration. The numbers are huge. 28.1% of the population of Wales aged three years or older was not born in Wales. In Fflint and Powys, Welsh-born people are in a minority; and in Conwy, Ceredigion, Denbighshire and Monmouthshire the percentage of non-Welsh-born people is greater than 40%.

The figures show that people born in Wales are very much more likely to speak Welsh than those not born in Wales. On average the difference is about three to one (23.3% to 8.0%) but in some of the counties with very high levels of immigration, those born in Wales are about five times more likely to be able to speak Welsh (44.5% to 7.9% in Conwy; 74.6% to 15.0% in Ceredigion) than those not born in Wales.

However I want to repeat something I've said before. I don't think that immigration in itself is the problem, it is a symptom of a bigger problem: economic disadvantage. It is lack of economic opportunity that forces an inordinately high number of people to leave their local communities, either to find work or to find somewhere affordable to live. This in turn creates a vacuum which makes it easier for those who don't work or don't need to pay for a home (those who have retired, or those on benefits) to move into those same communities. Any solutions we propose should therefore not be directed at immigration (and certainly not against individual immigrants) but at improving the economic fortunes of the areas concerned, and at providing a more appropriate mix of housing tailored to meet the local needs of those areas.

It's also worth saying that the two main reasons why the 2011 census figures are lower than those for 2001 are the reduction in the number of children, and the migration of young people away from Wales. I've no doubt that the overall number of Welsh speakers went up between 2001 and 2011, but that tens of thousands of young Welsh speakers moved away from Wales and therefore weren't counted. In time many of them will move back; perhaps when they've finished university, perhaps when they've spent a few years seeing the world, perhaps when they decide to settle down and raise a family, perhaps when they retire. And, of course, some won't come back at all. This has been the pattern for several decades now, but the difference is that in the decade before last a far greater percentage of young people learned to speak Welsh at school than ever did before (which accounted for the rise in the 2011 census) and therefore a far greater number of Welsh speakers has now left Wales.

National Identity

It's no surprise that the percentage of people who think of their nationality as Welsh should go hand-in-hand with the fact that they can speak Welsh. But it's interesting to see that there isn't very much difference in the percentages between those who think of their nationality as Welsh only and those who think of their nationality as Welsh and British. However we do need to bear in mind that in numerical terms those who think of their nationality as Welsh only is eight times bigger than those who think of themselves as Welsh and British, and nearly four times bigger than those who think of themselves as British only.

As we know that about 21% of those who live in Wales were born in England, the British only group is likely to include both people who we might consider Welsh (i.e. born and raised in Wales, but thinking of their nationality as British even though they would consider themselves Welsh in a more general sense) and those from other parts of Britain who prefer to think of their nationality as British than English, Scottish or Cornish ... either for the same reason or because they prefer to adopt an identity that doesn't set them apart from their neighbours now that they live in Wales.

Choosing to Learn Welsh

Whether we look at things in terms of country of birth or national identity, one thing that I think is particularly important is that the percentage of non-Welsh/non-Welsh-born people in Wales who can speak Welsh is not zero, or anywhere near zero. It shows us that immigrants can and do learn Welsh.

Sadly the figures don't tell us when those who weren't born in Wales moved to Wales. Those that moved when they were children will have had the same opportunities to learn Welsh through the education system as everyone else in Wales; but fully half of the 66,000 or so who speak Welsh but weren't born in Wales are over 35 years old, so they were in school well before Welsh was a compulsory subject in schools. It is therefore clear that there is some pattern of adult immigrants learning Welsh in order to better integrate into their adopted communities.

The percentages for those born outside Wales but able to speak Welsh are 20.4% in Gwynedd, 17.6% in Ynys Môn, 15.0% in Ceredigion and 13.2% in Sir Gâr. Now of course I'd like these figures to be higher and I certainly wouldn't disagree with Cefin Campbell when he says, in this article, that we need to do more to raise awareness of the language among those who come to live in Wales. However I think these figures are fairly encouraging, especially if we bear in mind that for every person who learns Welsh to the extent that they can say they speak Welsh, there will be many more who are learning or trying to learn but have not yet got far enough to move from thinking of themselves as being a "Welsh learner" to thinking of themselves as being a "Welsh speaker".

The willingness appears to be there, so I'd suggest that the problem isn't so much about raising awareness or getting an initial taste of the language, but in the way we go about teaching Welsh to adults who have expressed that willingness to learn. There is a very high drop out rate from adult Welsh courses, as shown in this graph from a paper by Heini Gruffudd and Steve Morris:

     Decrease in the number of learners by age and learning level


And part of the reason for this high drop out rate is that the intensity of the courses is very gentle compared with that in other countries in a similar situation. The pace of learning is so slow that people drop out because they don't feel they're getting anywhere. The most typical model in Wales is about 2 hours of teaching a week; in Euskadi 73% of those learning Euskara study for more than 6 hours a week, and 65% of them for more than 10 hours a week. So we could, and should, be doing much more to improve the way we teach Welsh to adults.


Stepping back and looking at the big picture, I don't think teaching Welsh to adult immigrants is the most important factor in the growth of Welsh. School-age education will always be more important because it's easier to teach puppies new tricks than it is to teach them to old dogs. But the scale of immigration into Wales is so large that we urgently need to put more resources into teaching Welsh to adults as well.

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Double Standards

It has been interesting to see the frenzy of media indignation over Nigel Farage being shouted at, booed, heckled, and eventually escorted away by the police when he visited Edinburgh yesterday.

He was supposedly there to drum up support for a UKIP candidate standing in a by-election. But as that by-election is some 180km away in Aberdeen, it seems rather more likely that he was doing his bit to persuade people to vote No in the independence referendum. Why else would he be talking about the Union Jack being "extinguished from Scotland forever"? There's a good selection of links here, and this is a video of it:


Clearly upset by what they thought of him, Nigel Farage called those who told him to go back home "anti-English", "anti-British" and "fascist scum", and the usual media have picked up on that theme with a vengeance, saying how unacceptable it is for a leader of a popular party in England not to be treated with the respect they think he deserves.


What they have not picked up on is that, on the very same day, a Conservative MP interviewed on ITV Wales' Sharp End told us that if a certain politician dared to come to his part of Wales to present a different view on exactly the same subject of the EU, framed in exactly the same terms of English nationalism, people would also protest. In fact he imagined these protests would be so fierce that the politician concerned would, to quote him exactly, "be lucky if he got out alive".


Let's be charitable and assume that Simon Hart was just trying to "big-up" an imagined strength of feeling, and that Carwyn Jones would not actually be lynched, or even suffer any form of physical injury.

However, if what he said had any meaning, it is clear that he at least expected—and would probably condone—the protesters shouting, booing and heckling him to such an extent that the police might be called in to escort him away.

So why is it unacceptable for people to express their feelings against one politician with whom they disagree, but apparently quite acceptable for people with the opposite opinion (in Simon Hart's imagination, at least) to express similar feelings towards a different politician?


And what's the big deal, anyway? People in Scotland certainly don't have time for politicians like Nigel Farage. People in west Wales might well not have much time for politicians like Carwyn Jones. Leaving unpopular politicians with no illusions about what you think of them is a healthy part of democracy.

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The Pulizleg Prize

This year's Pulizleg Prize for pointless journalism must surely go to Graham Henry of the Western Mail for this article about the latest census figures on Welsh language ability. It carried the sub-headline:

     New figures from the 2011 Census show the number of children speaking
     Welsh is more than twice that of those aged 16-64 and the over 65s

In fact, every single figure quoted in the article was available from previous releases. The thing that was new in yesterday's release was that Welsh language ability was correlated with country of birth and national identity.


Wales Online may have missed the significance of the new data, but at least Newyddion 9 understood what the new figures meant. They correctly reported that:

•  of the 830,000 people in Wales who were not born in Wales, only 66,000 could speak Welsh

•  in Ceredigion, 75% of those born in Wales could speak Welsh, but only 15% of those not born in Wales could

•  in Gwynedd, 89% of those born in Wales could speak Welsh, but only 20% of those not born in Wales could

•  in Sir Gâr, 54% of those born in Wales could speak Welsh, but only 13% of those not born in Wales could

For those who want the full data, the figures for Welsh language ability correlated with country of birth are here, and with national identity are here.


But even though Wales Online aren't that good with numbers, they sometimes make up for it with their pictures. This one is brilliant:


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You can speak in Welsh, but only once a year

I haven't seen this story from last night's Newyddion 9 reported anywhere else, so I thought I'd put it up for any who might have missed it:


In essence the report says that the leader of Neath Port Talbot Council has agreed to allow councillors to speak in Welsh once a year, on or around St David's Day.


According to the South Wales Evening Post, the background to this story is that Rebeca Lewis, the Plaid Cymru Councillor for Trebanos, had wanted to speak at council meetings in Welsh. She was at first told by council officers that there was no simultaneous translation service available, even though the council's own Welsh Language Scheme states that:

Meetings of the Council

The Council's Standing Orders require that in all proceedings of the Council, the Welsh language and the English language shall be given the same status and validity, with appropriate advance arrangements being required for simultaneous translation facility requirements.

NPT Welsh Language Scheme, 2007 – Section 3.7.1

Naturally, she then tried to find out how much notice was required, and was eventually told that it needed four weeks' advance notice. However that wasn't of the slightest use because the usual notice period for council meetings is only two weeks. When she told the council officers that this was ridiculous, she was told that a week's notice would "probably" be enough.

To me, that seems fairly reasonable, not least because she had said that she wanted to speak in Welsh at every meeting. So the council officers would be in no doubt about what they were required to do on a regular basis.


But that makes the story as reported by the BBC all the more strange. Why, if council officers had already agreed that simultaneous translation could be provided at every meeting other than those arranged at very short notice, would it be necessary to reach a "compromise" that reduced this to only one token meeting a year?

Even more strange is why the leader of the Plaid Cymru group, Linet Purcell, has agreed to this as a compromise. Or why another Plaid councillor, Del Morgan, was reported as saying this compromise was a step forward.

How on earth can getting something less than the Council's own Welsh Language Scheme requires, and less than the Council's own officers were reported as having agreed they could do only two weeks ago, be considered a step forward? We shouldn't be on our knees begging for and being satisfied with a crust of bread, Del Boi, we should be on our feet firmly insisting on rights that have been established by law.


As the BBC report said, other members of the Plaid group on Neath Port Talbot Council are not at all content with the compromise that the leader of the Plaid group has agreed to, and I don't blame them. I'm quite frankly amazed that anyone in the party would be anything less than disgusted by the spinelessness of the Plaid leadership in Neath Port Talbot for ignoring both principle and good practice, and agreeing to nothing more than a token gesture instead.

To Beca, I would say that you should stand up for your right to speak in Welsh at every meeting you want to. Well done for taking this so far, but please don't give up now. This is too important a matter for such a shameful, shabby compromise.

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But what about Wales, Paul?

I thought this snippet from WalesOnline yesterday was particularly enlightening:

Asked if he believed that Wales would be worse off if the UK voted to withdraw [from the EU], Mr Davies said:

"No, I don’t. I don’t believe that. Quite clearly if you look at the EU, at the moment we have a trade deficit of some 50bn euros, that's not to our advantage. And of course we pay £8-9bn a year into the European Union, and there are arguments against leaving the European Union as well, in its current form."

Wales Online, 14 May 2013

Those who are more financially astute will of course realize that Wales doesn't have a trade deficit of some €50bn, nor do we pay £8-9bn a year into the EU.

So why did Daul Davies answer the question in the way he did? I think he simply had no idea about whether Wales would be better or worse off ... even though he is, believe it or not, meant to be the Shadow Finance Minister in our National Assembly.


In case anybody is in any doubt, the answer is that Wales would be financially worse off outside the EU, as Jill Evans conclusively demonstrated last November in the two documents that can be downloaded from this page.

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I agree with David Davies

It's not often I find myself agreeing with David TC Davies; but I do agree with one thing he said in this diatribe in the House of Commons yesterday:


"But it was the fruitcakes who warned against the euro ten years ago. We were all accused of being fruitcakes then, but the fruitcakes were right. Fruitcake is a cheap and reliable source of energy. I am for the fruitcakes. I am proud to be a fruitcake. Long may fruitcakes continue."

Hansard, 14 May 2013, Column 555

David Davies is definitely cheap.

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One reason for UKIP's decline in Wales

I came across this letter in today's South Wales Evening Post from the one and only Gwilym Levell:

Only UKIP can help us

The solution to the present unconstitutional over-government is not to add more over-government by establishing a separate government of England. It is to get out of the EU and abolish the Welsh Assembly.

Only the policies of UKIP can get us out of the recession.

Gwilym Levell
Whittington Street, Tonna

I think it's fair to say that a large percentage of UKIP's support in Wales comes from people who think the same way. With all the other parties in Wales now firmly committed to further devolution to Wales, UKIP was the only hope they had of reversing it.

There's only one problem ... or, to be more precise, two. UKIP no longer wants to abolish the Welsh Assembly, and it does want to establish an English Parliament with a separate English Government.

UKIP now supports devolution

The big thing to come out of UKIP's conference in Eastbourne this weekend for me was the release of a policy paper entitled "A Union for the Future".


The policy paper, written by Paul Nuttall MEP, is a complete rewrite of UKIP's badly written, unworkable devolution policy which basically involved abolishing the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales (but not NI) and replacing them with Grand Committees of British MPs.

This new policy paper has no such retrograde suggestions in it. The current British House of Commons would be replaced with an English Parliament with English MPs, an English Executive and an English First Minister.

Bloggers4UKIP, 12 September 2011

So those in Wales who supported UKIP at the last election because they they wanted to see devolution either reversed or halted no longer have that reason to vote for them; and this explains why UKIP's support is falling in Wales, even though it is rising in England.

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Ynys Môn

Congratulations to the Plaid Cymru candidates in Ynys Môn for a dramatic increase in seats and 34.3% of the equalized vote.

With twelve of the thirty seats we were the big winners, and it should be possible for us to lead the new council with support from only three or four other councillors; perhaps the three from Labour, or perhaps some of the independents instead.


And even though the anglocentric media are headlining UKIP's success in England, it is nice to point out that Nigel Farage is completely wrong when he says that his party are getting "over 25% of the vote everywhere we stand". They only got 7.8% of the equalized vote in Ynys Môn ... although that is rather better than both the Tories (6.6%) and the LibDems (5.2%) managed.

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Some sort of Gold Standard? Far from it!

I had to read Rhodri Talfan Davies' speech at the Celtic Media Festival last week several times to try and figure out what he had to say about Radio Cymru, and in the end have had to conclude that he wasn't saying much at all.

But one thing he said strikes me as being at the root of the problem. He said that:

"Welsh language broadcasting is sometimes seen as some sort of gold standard in minority language broadcasting".

Welsh-language broadcasting most definitely isn't any sort of gold standard. If we are looking for a standard to measure ourselves against, then I would suggest that the model of radio broadcasting in Euskadi is very much more appropriate than the model in Wales.

The language situation in Euskadi is very similar to that in Wales. Both countries are about the same size and have about the same proportion of people able to speak Welsh or Euskara. But in terms of radio broadcasting, Wales has only one national radio station broadcasting in Welsh, while Euskadi has three which broadcast in Euskara.


Euskadi Irratia is the original station, which used to carry all content, and now carries talk, news and general broadcasting. But two separate music stations have been added over the years, Gaztea in 1990 and EITB Musika in 2001.

To me it seems self-evident that Radio Cymru's biggest problem is that it cannot possibly cater for all Welsh-speaking audiences at the same time, and therefore I see Rhodri Talfan Davies' launch of a "nationwide conversation" about what it should broadcast as depressingly predicable and rather misdirected. Whatever might be gained in terms of new listeners by including new content will be lost in terms of alienating existing listeners. The emphasis must be on expanding Welsh-language provision rather than re-arranging deckchairs on a boat that cannot stay afloat in its current form.


The question is whether the BBC is the best organization to deliver it. Spain, like the UK, has a state broadcasting organization called RTVE. Like the BBC, it is good at broadcasting a variety of content across the state but isn't good at regional variations. There was some regional radio provision in the form of RNE Ràdio 4. But because of poor ratings the network was shut down in 1991, and it only now exists in Catalunya where it struggles on with an audience of about 8,500.

The model that has proved far more successful is for broadcasting in the nations and regions to be the responsibility of the governments of the autonomous communities rather than of the central state broadcaster. In Catalunya the public broadcasting corporation is CCMA, in Galicia it is CRTVG, in Andalucía it is RTVA, and in Euskadi it is EITB. Once again, the Basque model might be the best one for Wales to learn from, for as well as radio stations broadcasting in Euskara it also has radio stations which broadcast in Castilian.

A centrally-funded organization is bound to think of itself primarily as a centralized provider, but there is a fundamental conflict of interest if it tries to be both a centralized provider and a vehicle for regional variations at the same time. Spain doesn't have that conflict of interest, the UK does.

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