An Bhreatain Bheag (Wales)

Welsh, A Foreign Language In Britain

“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”

“Letter In A Foreign Language (Welsh)”

Substitute “Ireland” for “Wales” and “Irish” for “Welsh” and the discrimination revealed below would be pretty much the same. From a report in the Daily Post newspaper:

“After receiving a form in English from National Savings and Investments, 72-year-old Arfon Rhys sent it back and requested either a Welsh or bilingual form.

The letter he then received from NS&I – a state-owned savings bank backed by the Treasury – said: “We have received correspondence from you in your own language. As we do not translate from your language into English, we can’t reply to your letter.

“I enclose your original document so that you can arrange for it to be translated into English and resent to us. We will then be able to deal with your request.”

In a handwritten comment, the reason for returning the letter to Mr Rhys was given as “letter in a foreign language (Welsh)”.

The letter was written on March 12, just days after a landmark ruling that NS&I acted unlawfully by ending Welsh language services.

On March 6, two High Court judges in Cardiff ordered NS&I to restore its customer services in Welsh. They ruled that the agency’s decision last year to scrap its Welsh-language brochures, telephone service, correspondence and website was unlawful.”

[ASF: With thanks to Marconatrix for the link]

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Culture Wars In Ireland And Britain

The coverage of issues relating to Irish-speaking citizens and communities in Ireland by the Anglophone media

The coverage of issues relating to Irish-speaking citizens and communities in Ireland by the Anglophone media

Hot on the heels of my post discussing the urgent need for the reform of public service broadcasting in Ireland comes news of a veritable revolt by journalists within RTÉ’s normally quiescent ranks as reported by the Irish Times:

“Almost 50 staff members in RTÉ have written to Director General, Mr. Noel Curran, to express their concern at the “lack of coverage” of Irish language issues in English-language news and current affairs programmes on RTÉ.

The correspondence specifically mentions the manner in which RTÉ News covered the resignation of Seán Ó Cuirreáin as Language Commissioner last December. Ó Cuirreáin, who announced he was stepping down from his role due to a failure to provide adequate services for Irish language speakers, became the first ombudsman since the foundation of the State to resign in protest against government policy.

On the day of his announcement before an Oireachtas committee, RTÉ’s main news bulletins on television covered the resignation with thirty seconds of pictures, accompanied by a voice over from the newsreader.

A spokesperson for RTÉ said the contents of the letter were still being considered by Mr. Curran but pointed to the Director General’s comments on the recent findings of an RTÉ working group on the Irish language which acknowledged the need to improve RTÉ’s services in Irish and set out several policy recommendations with regard to Irish-language broadcasting.”

Given the opaque internal workings of RTÉ (“the Donnybrook Kremlin”) this very public expression of unhappiness by its journalistic staff is surprising to say the least. So we have a choice before us. Either RTÉ becomes an entirely Irish language public service broadcaster leaving English language broadcasting to the private sector (as I argue here, negating the need for a separate TG4) or its assets and funding is split between it and TG4 into two new broadcasting entities. One operating entirely through the medium of English and one entirely through the medium of Irish (which of course is essentially what we have already). The present half-way house is no longer sustainable or justifiable. A rising population of Irish-speaking citizens have every right to demand the same services from the state as their English-speaker peers.

Or perhaps people here agree with the views expressed by the British tabloid TV presenter Noel Edmonds who recently attacked the BBC for providing programming to Scottish-speaking communities in Scotland and Welsh-speaking communities in Wales? From WalesOnline:

“Veteran broadcaster Noel Edmonds has criticised the BBC for spending too much money on the Welsh language.

In an interview, Edmonds said the BBC was “sleepwalking to destruction”, as he explained his hope to buy the corporation along with a consortium of wealthy investors.

He declined to disclose how the schedules might look if he got his way – but pointed to the sums presently spent on the World Service and Welsh-language programming.

“There are 50,000 people speaking Gaelic. Welsh language has been declining over 10 years and the BBC spends £48m on that.”

Edmonds argued only an injection of outside influence could make the broadcaster “relevant to the internet age” and admitted that he did not presently pay for it via the licence fee.”

Perhaps Noel Edmonds is unaware that the Scottish- and Welsh-speaking citizens of Britain also pay their taxes and TV licence fee and are therefore entitled to the same publicly-funded services as their English-speaking compatriots? Or perhaps he is simply of the view that the English language and culture is superior to the several others that share the island of Britain and should therefore take precedence over the rest? Unfortunately there are too many on this island nation who share Edmonds’ view in our own perennial “culture war”.

[ASF: With thanks to Sorley Domhnall and several others for the links]

Second-Class Service For Second-Class Citizens

A photo of the bilingual prescription that staff in a Welsh pharmacy refused to accept, clearly showing English and Welsh texts

A photo of the bilingual prescription that staff in a Welsh pharmacy refused to accept, clearly showing English and Welsh texts (Íomhá: MailOnline, Wales News Service)

Given the news yesterday about a group of young people from Ireland being subject to racial abuse by a taxi driver in the city of Glasgow for speaking in their native Irish instead of English here comes another disgraceful story about speakers of an indigenous Celtic tongue being subject to discrimination for not using the English language. A pharmacy in Wales refused to serve medicines to the father of a sick child because he presented a bilingual prescription, one written both in Welsh and English. From the Mail Online:

“A sick baby was rushed to hospital after a supermarket pharmacy refused to hand his medication to his father because part of the prescription had been written in Welsh.

Aled Mann, 34, took the prescription from the family doctors to his local Morrisons pharmacy counter after his one-year-old son Harley developed a chest infection.

But staff at the supermarket in Bangor, north Wales, refused to give him the steroid tablets because they could not read the note as not all of it was in English.

Mr Mann got the medication two hours later after driving back to the GP surgery and waiting for another prescription to be printed in English which he then took back to the pharmacy.

But baby Harley’s condition worsened and he had to be admitted to hospital for treatment the next morning.

Mr Mann and his wife Alys, 33, live in the 2,000-strong seaside village of Felinheli, near Bangor, north Wales.

Their GP Dr Ieuan Parry in the Welsh language stronghold printed the prescription for baby Harley’s steroid tablets in their native language.”

The incident has been condemned by several local politicians and Meri Huws, the Language Commissioner in Wales.

(With thanks to Seanán Ó Coistín, Welsh Not British and others for the heads-up).

Viva La Revolución!

Flag waving, riot police, Irish language

Tá An Réabhlóid Ag Teacht! The Revolution Is Coming!

Rarely have I agreed with an article more than this opinion piece by Tom Law featured on the Sabotage Times examining the cultural subjugation of the Welsh language and the Welsh-speaking citizens and communities of Wales. He articulates for many the frustration and anger of a new, younger generation of activists in the Celtic nations determined to have their voices heard in the face of the passivity and fatalism of too many of those who came before.

“The popular narrative is that it’s just a natural process – a stronger and healthier language replaces an older and weaker one. That the Welsh language is dying of natural causes – like an elderly relative withering away. It’s sad but inevitable. What can you do?

That’s the common explanation – but it’s bollocks.

The Welsh language has declined so rapidly because the English placed a pillow over its face and smothered it. It has taken around 150 years to complete, there have been occasional bouts of kicking and thrashing against, but it’s pretty much job done.

And it was only when the body was limp that England placed some chocolate biscuits on the bedside cabinet – bilingual road signs, a Welsh TV channel. And then started to berate the lifeless patient for its lack of appetite.

England’s policy towards Wales is not the only reason for the decline, but it’s the main one. It’s the consequence of the state treating the Welsh language as a sickness which needed to be cured.

This division of the population by language has been eating away at the country ever since. It has created two versions of Wales, two distinct cultures which view the other as a threat. What one side gains, the other side loses. What’s good for one, is bad for the other.

It has left non-Welsh speakers feeling like outsiders in their own country, forever left out in the cold and staring back in at a history and culture they can’t access; at jobs they’re not qualified to do. For Welsh speakers, they have been battered from all sides, endlessly under attack, having to justify the use of their own language – mostly to fellow Welsh people.

It’s a cultural civil war which has brought out the worst aspects of both sides. A nation which once fought for its rights, which fought against inequality and injustice has been effectively turned in on itself.

If the attack on the Welsh language was done to subdue and weaken the country, to create a servile and utterly compliant people who would accept their British medicine – then it can only be seen as a monumental success.

Wales has become a husk of a nation. The decline of the language, the stripping away of links to its history and culture, has induced a kind of dementia. It’s a country which no longer remembers who or what it is – so it simply exists. And accepts the guiding hand of its neighbour.

The removal of the Welsh personality has created a void which is being gleefully filled by the English media’s tub thumping brand of Britishness – the royal family, the Armed Forces, Team GB and all that. And there seems little hope of anything changing.

There’s no fight or energy left. No upsurge of anger. No dissent. No political will. No obvious solution. Just a blank stare, a rugby top and a grim Welsh cheeriness; a nihilistic acceptance of fate. While Scotland gains confidence and considers independence, Wales is left retreating into the arms of its abusive partner and going gently into that good night.”

One could just as easily apply some of those criticisms to Ireland, to an island nation where those who speak out for language rights are vilified while those who disdain or oppose such rights are elevated to the highest positions of influence in our society.

Education In Britain – Cultural Conditioning?

The union of Scotland, England, Wales - another historical relic.

The union of Scotland, England, Wales – another historical relic.

In the 2011 census on the island of Britain large numbers of people living in Scotland, Wales and England rejected the nationality of “British”, a majority in all three countries preferring to describe themselves instead as solely Scottish (62.4%), Welsh (57.5%) or English (60.4%). Which makes the BBC News article claim that Britishness is “…an identity quite at home in the 21st Century” more than a little bizarre. Indeed the whole post is rather odd with some amazing fact-spinning not to mention this nugget of suggestive bias:

“In Wales, though, children and young people are less likely to describe themselves as British than their parents – about 16% compared to 18%. One possible explanation for this may be the introduction of compulsory Welsh language teaching in schools.”

Desperate man clutching at straws? The English language is also “compulsory” in schools in Wales and for 90% of the school day. Yet Welsh schools are not turning out legions of flag-waving EDL supporters. And 98% of the Scottish education system is through the medium of English with hardly any input from the Scottish language outside of a few Scottish Gaelic schools (for now). Yet the vast majority of young Scots also reject any sense of being British.

If the argument is that the provision of Welsh language education for Welsh students is decreasing the number of those identifying themselves as “British” in Wales, is that not merely underlining the purpose of English language education in Britain as a force of cultural colonialism?

21st Century British

British: the nationality that never was

British: the nationality that never was (Íomhá: Welsh Not British)

From the website “Welsh Not British” the 2011 census on the island of Britain summed up in one easy graph. Say’s it all really. Some more excellent analysis can be found on Syniadau examining the figures in Wales, Scotland and England.

Struggling With The Language

Ble mae'r Gymraeg? - Where's the Welsh? From Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society

Ble mae’r Gymraeg? – Where’s the Welsh? From Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society

Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the progressive language rights’ organisation in Wales, has proposed a radical shift in the teaching of the language in Welsh schools. From Wales Online:

“A row has blown up over a plan by language activists that would see all pupils in Wales having at least a third of the school curriculum taught in Welsh.

In its submission to a Welsh Government review of second language Welsh education, Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg say: “Depriving anyone of the essential skill of the ability to communicate and discuss their work in Welsh is an educational failure.

“The Government should announce the intention of abolishing ‘second language Welsh’ immediately and ensure instead … an immediate move to a system where every pupil receives a proportion of their education through the medium of Welsh, as well as studying the language as a subject, so they are able to work through the medium of the language.”

Robin Farrar, chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, added: “It’s unfair that only a minority of young people have the opportunity of having Welsh medium education at the moment, depending on parental choice and a postcode lottery.

“We should aim for every pupil to be fluent and able to use the language in day-to-day life, so the term ‘second language’ is no longer appropriate…”

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The review group is considering the curriculum and assessment methods, as well as training for Welsh second language practitioners. The group will report back with recommendations in the autumn.”

A spokeswoman for Welsh Language Commissioner Meri Huws  said: “The Commissioner is pleased that the Welsh Government is looking in detail at how the Welsh language is introduced as a second language in schools. The Commission will respond fully to the Government’s report on its findings when it is published later this year.””

In fact a very similar recommendation was made by an international panel of linguists and education experts to the Irish government, arguing that the effective teaching of Irish in schools must be accompanied by a broader range of subjects taught partially or wholly through the Irish language. That advice was effectively ignored by the Fine Oibre coalition despite the Irish government seeking it in the first place. Instead Fine Gael and Labour have ramped up their discriminatory policies towards Irish-speaking children and communities and treat the indigenous language of the island of Ireland as an inconvenience to the national education system (and the so-called Irish state itself).

Meanwhile in Québec, as reported by CTV News, a small group of anglophone extremists have taken to the streets to protest the Francophone nation’s language equality laws:

“A couple of hundred demonstrators assembled outside of Premier Pauline Marois’ downtown office Sunday afternoon to rally around speakers such as Howard Galganov and former Equality Party leader Keith Henderson.

Galganov, a hardliner activist who led an English-rights movement in Montreal in the 90s before moving to eastern Ontario, was clad in a leather Freedom Riders biker jacket and riled up the crowd with such phrases as “Canada needs Quebec like it needs a hole in the head.”

Galganov, who once fought for Canadian unity, made no apologies for his anti-Quebec comments.

“We’re at that point in our history where Canada would do far better without Quebec and maybe Quebec would be better without Canada,” he said.

Some in the audience said they were uncomfortable with the divisive comments and didn’t agree with the entire contents of the colourful rant.

The language rights rally was hosted by Jimmy Kay, a local salesman who made a documentary called Angryphone.

The rally not only targeted Bill 14, but also other language-related issues that have intensified since the Parti Quebecois came into power.”

Pobl Caerdydd

Didn’t get a chance to post this over the weekend but the best of luck to Pobl Caerdydd, the new multi-media network for Cardiff’s Welsh-speaking population. From Roy Greenslade in the Guardian:

“A new Welsh language service, PoblCaerdydd, is being launched today in Cardiff to serve the city’s estimated 36,000 Welsh speakers.

The digital news and networking service will be introduced at the annual Tafwyl festival. It has been developed by and for the community with support from Cardiff university’s school of journalism.

Anyone who has a story to tell, news to share or an image to display can contribute content to PoblCaerdydd through a new tool developed by the university and its partner, the psychological creative agency Behaviour.”

There is a Facebook and Twitter service too.

Language Wars – Coming To A Sign Near You Soon

Sign of Albain or Scotland

Alba – Albain – Scotland

More new from the Pax Anglia, via the Dunfermline Press:

“… councillor Dave Dempsey is proposing that road signs in Fife be in English-only.

His motion, “Council agrees that there is no need, point or advantage in road signs in Fife being in any other language or languages than English” went before fellow councillors yesterday (Thursday).

It was prompted by press reports last month of a £350,000 plan to promote Gaelic in Perth and Kinross and Councillor Dempsey now hopes to “lay down a policy marker”.

[Dempsey said] “Gaelic was never really spoken in Fife – it’s spoken in other parts of Scotland but not really when you get this far south and east.

“I understand the need to keep the language in existence but language is used to communicate and everybody can speak English.”

Yes, well colonisation does tend to end up with the natives foregoing their own language and adopting that of the overlord – just so they and their children, and their children’s children, can survive to see another day. Not to mention that there is little point in keeping a language in “existence” if no one is allowed to use it – because they are told that they must use English instead as Councillor Dempsey suggests.

Meanwhile some good news from Wales for at least one of the indigenous Celtic languages of the island of Britain. From a report in the Daily Post: 

“WELSH children are twice as likely to speak the language than pensioners or those of working age figures from the 2011 census reveal.

The figures show that across Wales, 37.6% of under 16s are now able to speak Welsh, compared to 15.5% of 16-64s and 16.2% of over 65s.

The discrepancy between different areas of the nation are evident, with 89.1% of Gwynedd children speaking Welsh –  compared with  22.7% in Merthyr Tydfil.

Interestingly, it’s also revealed that women are more likely to speak the language than men.

It’s also proven that national identity plays a large role on one’s ability to speak the language or not.

A quarter of people who identify themselves as Welsh, also classed themselves as Welsh speakers, and two-fifths of those who identify as Welsh and British can speak the language.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of Welsh medium education has seen a huge rise in parts of the South Wales valleys, with children in Blaenau Gwent being 23 times more likely to speak the language than a pensioner in the same area.”

Wales Online has more analysis.

Québec

Québec

Finally from Québec an open letter published today in the English language Montréal Gazette written by the province’s Language Minister Diane de Courcy and the liaison with the Anglophone community Jean-Francois Lisée, both from the ruling PQ party. It deals with the wide range of opinions expressed in recent months around Bill 14 which will expand legislation protecting the rights of the province’s francophone majority and encouraging French language use amongst the English-speaking minority and new immigrant communities. Sensibly the new series of regulations will accommodate the concerns expressed by the anglophone and bilingual communities of some towns and municipalities.

Mixed Results For Plaid Cymru In New Poll

Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru

A new poll of 1007 voters from across Wales by ITV Cymru / YouGov continues to reflect the so-so fortunes of Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Nationalist party. After a decade of mediocre election results, and an unexpectedly dire performance at the 2011 polls under charismatic new leader Leanne Wood, the Welsh Nationalists were seen as being very much on the back-foot, squeezed from Left and Right by the Labour Party and the Conservatives. Though the latest opinion poll (along with some recent local election results) offers some crumbs of comfort the party’s failure to connect with people outside of its core vote continues to hamper growth.

“Senedd Constituency Vote (change from 2011 vote)

Labour 46% (+4%)

Conservative 21% (-4%)

Plaid Cymru 17% (-2%)

Lib Dems 10% (-1%)

UKIP 5% (+5%)

Others 2% (-1%)

Senedd Regional Vote (change from 2011 vote)

Labour 26% (-11%)

Plaid Cymru 26% (+8%)

Conservative 14% (-9%)

UKIP 13% (+8%)

Lib Dems 11% (+3%)

Others 11% (+2%)

British Parliament Vote (change from 2010 vote)

Labour 51% (+15%)

Conservative 22% (-4%)

Plaid Cymru 10% (-1%)

Lib Dem 9% (-11%)

UKIP 7% (+5%)

Others 2% (-2%)”

In some slightly better news, Plaid has seen a surge in party funding. In 2011 it received a frankly paltry £27,067 from public donations. However 2012 saw a 262% jump to £97,917, a far more realistic “income” for a national political party in Wales. In part that may be down to Leanne Wood’s more progressively nationalist (and Left-leaning) leadership which seems to have a greater appeal with already convinced Nationalist voters. Notably the party has seen greater popularity amongst the under-25s in recent polling.

However Plaid Cymru’s inability to make much headway into prising apart the Labour Party’s seemingly iron grip on nearly half the Welsh electorate remains the single biggest stumbling block to future growth. Unless they can emulate the success of the SNP in taking away votes from Labour the party will remain in a position of relative weakness.

Angloban – The Anglophone Fundamentalists Of Britain And Ireland

Heil England - Anglophone Supremacism

Heil England – Anglophone Supremacism

We all know that the internet is the mother of all lies. The world wide web of falsehoods. Which is why I so rarely let anything I read or see on it get to me. However every now and again something comes along to turn even the mildest of us into something resembling a keyboard-chewing Tea Party supporter exposed to an online clip of “Modern Family”. Over the last few weeks we’ve seen something like a concerted effort in the right-wing British press to stir up a renewed atmosphere of hatred towards the Welsh language. Or more accurately towards the speakers of the Welsh language. For though certain Anglophone fundamentalists will claim that they hate the Welsh language without hating Welsh speakers that is like certain Christian fundamentalists saying they hate homosexuality without hating homosexuals.

And who believes that one?

The latest in this series of propagandist pieces comes via the Daily Mail and regular anti-Welsh hack Roger Lewis. Yes, that Roger Lewis, the British writer who last year informed us of his opinion of the indigenous speech of the Welsh people:

“I abhor the appalling and moribund monkey language…”

Oh yes, he really did say that. Understandably the article sparked an outrage in Wales with demands for Lewis to be charged under legislation covering allegations of incitement to hatred. Then to make matters worse the centre-left and London-based Independent newspaper launched a blistering defence of Lewis and his appalling views. Despite the fact that he wrote them in a rival newspaper!

Now he is back again with a lengthy article attacking pretty much everything that is Welsh in Wales, with an ideological claim that is common to Anglophone supremacists everywhere:

“…his was the view of my great-grandparents in Bedwas. ‘English was embraced for reasons of social and economic advancement.’

This is what those teachers in  Ceredigion – and those who support them – can’t accept: what my friend at Oxford called ‘the evident cultural superiority of English’…”

Sigh. Why is it that there are so many English-speakers who believe that their language and their culture is inherently superior to the indigenous languages and cultures of the island of Britain, be it Welsh, Scottish or Cornish? And why are there so many English-speaking Irish people who believe the same?

What is it that turns some English-speakers in Britain or Ireland into unashamed hate-mongers? Despisers of other peoples’, other communities’, languages and cultures? Deniers of others peoples’ identities? People they share the same nations with.

Why the need to twist language and views to promote something that is little different from racism? Something, in fact, that is simply racism.

And why is it that in modern 21st century Ireland to identify with the indigenous language and culture of this island-nation is to render oneself a second class citizen with second class rights?

Ireland, Wales, Scotland and Cornwall. Different nations – but the same discrimination.

Language Wars In Wales

Here we go again. The obsessive Anglophone supremacism of the right-wing news media in Britain is becoming something of a running joke here on An Sionnach Fionn. We’ve had conveniently anonymous internet claims of English-speaking children being “discriminated” against in Welsh-speaking schools (not once but twice), mysterious anti-Welsh websites that have managed to find the ear of right-wing British journalists but are strangely deaf to anyone else, and now an English-speaking Santa Claus being pressured into resigning from his job because he was unable to speak to the children he was meeting – that is Welsh-speaking children in a Welsh-speaking region of Wales.

According to claims made in the Daily Mail:

“With his authentic bushy beard and red suit, Richard Burnell appeared the obvious choice to inhabit the Christmas grotto at his local museum.

But that wasn’t enough for parents on the Isle of Anglesey.

Because when they learned that Father Christmas could not speak Welsh they mounted a revolt to oust him.

Yesterday the 72-year-old retired housing officer admitted he had stepped aside after complaints that he wouldn’t be able to listen to children’s wish lists in their native tongue.

Mr Burnell, who belongs to an American organisation called the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas, was due to don his red suit for the opening of the Christmas grotto at Oriel Ynys Mon, the island’s history and culture museum, in Langefni, on December 9.

But when parents realised he wasn’t bilingual they lodged complaints with the local council.

‘I think it is a disgrace that you have an English-only Father Christmas coming to Oriel Ynys Mon,’ one mother said.

‘It’s going to cost £6 a child to meet him, so I’d expect they could find one who can speak Welsh.

‘I have young children who are still not that confident when speaking English, I think it is a shame they won’t be able to chat to Father Christmas in their own language.’”

Indeed.

Would you hire a man to portray the figure of Santa Claus who could only speak Welsh for children who could only speak English in an English-speaking region of England? Of course not. So why on earth would it be justifiable the other way around?

Anglophone Propaganda And The British Press

Defnyddiwch eich Cymraeg - Use your Welsh!

Defnyddiwch eich Cymraeg – Use your Welsh!

Well that didn’t take long. Barely a week has passed since the right-wing British news media carried a series of anonymous and unverifiable claims about a Welsh-medium school in Wales acting in a discriminatory manner towards English-speaking pupils when we now have yet another fantastical allegation of “anti-English bias” in the Welsh education system. Is there an anglophone black propaganda unit turning this nonsense out on a regular basis?

According to claims made in the conservative Express newspaper:

“A HEAD teacher was accused of “living in the Dark Ages” yesterday after warning that children caught speaking English in his Welsh school faced expulsion.

The punishment is part of a system to “monitor, congratulate and discipline pupils in their use of Welsh”, claims Huw Foster Evans.

He has told parents of any youngster who continues to speak in English to a member of staff after receiving two warnings that they will be “invited to the school to discuss their child’s future”.

If pupils speak English in class they will lose their free time while if they are caught doing so in corridors or the playground they will be reprimanded.

The controversial rules have been spelled out in a letter to parents of all 800 pupils at Ysgol Morgan Llwyd ­secondary school in Wrexham, North Wales.”

What the journalist fails to make clear is that the increasingly popular Ysgol Morgan Llwyd is the one and only secondary school in the local area that teaches all classes through the Welsh language. It is attended by children whose indigenous language is Welsh or children whose first language is English but whose parents wish them to become fluent in Welsh. Furthermore, the article also fails to point out that there are several English-medium schools available in the locality that teach pupils entirely through the English language.

As the school principal Foster Evans makes clear:

““We enjoy the strong support of the vast majority of pupils and carers who share with us a positive focus on the learning, achievement and personal development of pupils through the medium of Welsh.

Fluency in Welsh is an absolute requirement to enable our students to attain their full potential.

The only way to develop increasing fluency in any language is to speak it as regularly as possible.”

So, another invented or exaggerated non-story about alleged bias against English-speaking schoolchildren in Wales. The real story in fact is that such patently false claims are being made and that they are being given such prominence in the British anglophone nationalist press. As I said before, the culture war in Wales is heating up.

The Mystery Of The BiLingo Website

A follow-up on my post yesterday about BiLingo, a website in Wales behind a series of claims alleging that Anglophone children in the majority Welsh-speaking region of Ceredigion were being victimised in local schools. I expressed my scepticism about the allegations, as did many who contributed comments of their own, and concern over the anonymous nature of the website and the person or persons operating it. I also queried who it was exactly that the journalists who reported the story in the right-wing British newspapers were talking to.

However the plot thickens as the BBC comes up with some very interesting news of its own on BiLingo which has now:

“…removed the accusations.

Ceredigion council said they had not received any evidence to suggest any basis for the allegations.

A spokesman said the authority was happy to discuss any parents’ concerns describing schools in the area as “friendly and inclusive”.

The website listed a number of reports where it alleged children had been admonished for speaking English in class and in the yard.

It also claimed that some schools used a traffic light system which could lead to punishment for speaking English.

The BBC has been in email contact with the person or people behind the website but has been unable to establish who they are or how many are involved, and whether the claims are based on first hand experiences or second hand reports.”

Or ideologically-motivated misinformation as part of a wider anti-Welsh campaign?

More on this later.

The Culture War In Wales Hots Up

Welsh Not – Anti-Welsh Racism In Britain

The nationalistic press in Britain is currently lathering itself up into paroxysms of anglophone outrage over alleged “discrimination” against English-speaking children attending schools in Wales. According to several right wing newspapers pupils attending classes in the majority Welsh-speaking region of Ceredigion – a “Welsh-speaking stronghold” in the militarised language of the Daily Mail - have been instructed to speak solely in the Welsh language by their teachers. Or at least this is the accusation made on a rather mysterious website claimed to have been set up by concerned local parents. Parents who remain entirely anonymous despite the fact that they have been briefing a number of journalists about their concerns.

According to the BiLingo website the evidence for discrimination includes:

  • Reports of children being admonished for speaking English in the classroom.
  • Reports of children being admonished for speaking English socially in the playground in their break time.
  • The use of such devices as ‘traffic light’ systems in some schools, where pupils ‘caught’ speaking English face punishment.
  • The refusal or reluctance of some schools to provide contact to parents in English.
  • The advice from some teachers that parents stop reading to their children in English at home because it ‘hinders’ their Welsh reading.
  • Reports of young children being too scared to speak English to their parents and family at home for fear of punishment.

So far no one has seen any of these “reports” which seem to be little more than anonymous, unsourced, online hearsay. The Daily Telegraph claims that the Children’s Commissioner for Wales has been contacted in an email by the parental group and he will look into the stories of supposed abuse. But so far no one has presented any actual facts to back up the claims.

Of course this is not the first time that Ceredigion has been in the news recently. Back in April I reported on a campaign by anglophone business people in the area which threatened jobs and the local economy over the use of the Welsh language in preference to the English one by the region’s predominately Welsh-speaking population. Again this centred on the education system and demands by English-speakers that indigenous Welsh-speaking pupils be taught entirely through the medium of English.

With the Welsh-speaking citizens of Wales increasingly on a level footing with their English-speaking peers is it any surprise that this sort of “culture war” is taking place in the country? For centuries speakers of the Welsh language were discriminated against as the norm in Britain, both legally and socially. Anti-Welsh racism remains virulent in British society, especially in the media, and any opportunity to engage in it is eagerly seized upon. No matter how dubious the circumstances.

When inequality is threatened by equality there is always a reaction. And when those who formerly exercised unchallenged power now find themselves without it – well, just look to the reaction of those who greeted with dismay the re-election of a black man to the White House.

UPDATE 16/11/12: More on the mysterious BiLingo website.