The Celtic Nations
The Celtic Nations
The Celtic Nations

A new website to strengthen ties between Gaelic-speaking communities in Ireland and Scotland, as well as encouraging cultural tourism by non-Gaels, has been launched in Inverness. From the Scotsman newspaper:

“TurasG will build on the links between the Scottish Gaidhealtachd and Ireland’s Gaeltacht.

World-renowned singer Julie Fowlis, fresh from the Scottish Music Awards, where she became the first Gaelic artist to be recognised alongside stars such as Annie Lennox, Paulo Nutini and Simple Minds, unveiled the new website at the HighlandLife Archive Centre in Inverness.

TurasG is an initiative of the European Union funded CeangalG project which has been working since last year to enhance business components to the cultural links already in existence between the Gaelic speakers of Scotland and their Irish Gaeilge-speaking counterparts.

The aim of TurasG is to inform the visitor to Scotland’s Gaidhealtachd or Ireland’s Gaeltacht of the opportunities available to explore the unrivalled heritage and culture of their destination.

The site is organised into different themes with features on life by the sea, life on the land, history, religion, the natural world, music and the arts and the visitor will be able to get information, view films, listen to music, poetry and commentary and see photographs of the various landmarks and sites of interest.

Inverness Provost Alex Graham welcomed the opportunity for the city to host the launch of TurasG, saying the website was a fine example of new technology promoting historic cultures.

He added: “Our Gaelic culture is important to us in Inverness and the Highlands, as is tourism which forms one of the biggest parts of our local economy.

“TurasG will bring these together in an effective and practical way, allowing visitors to explore and enjoy the culture of Scotland’s Gàidhealtacdh and Ireland’s Gaeltacht to the increased benefit of both.”

Visit Scotland Islands Manager Alan MacKenzie strongly backed the launch of TurasG.

He said: “I am delighted to support the establishment of this cultural tourism website, which should further enhance the Gaelic links between Scotland and Ireland.”

CeangalG is funded under the EU Interreg IVA programme and operates under the remit of the Special European Programmes Body.

Headed by Scottish Gaelic college, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, it includes as main partners Údarás na Gaeltachta from the Republic of ireland and Belfast based Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich.”

The TurasG website is here, and it expands on the work of the inter-governmental Colm Cille project which promotes links between indigenous speakers in Ireland and Scotland. Meanwhile some welcome news from the third and smallest Gaelic nation, via Isle of Man Today:

“A leading linguist has hailed the ‘heroic’ efforts to save the Manx language and described the Isle of Man as a role model for the preservation of languages across the world.

Visiting the island last week while filming a documentary about the revitalisation of Manx Gaelic, Dr David Harrison heaped praise on the community effort that brought the language back from the verge of extinction.

He told the Examiner: ‘I think the people here know it, but they don’t have the distance to realise just how remarkable it is.

‘They’re very modest about what they’ve accomplished here with the language. But on a global scale it’s astonishing.’

An assistant professor at the elite Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Dr Harrison has spent 20 years studying languages in hundreds of different communities around the globe.

He said: ‘I had no inkling of what to expect from the contemporary Manx community and I’ve been amazed at the dynamism, the passion for the language and how it’s put out through all available channels, including social media.

‘It’s great that the Government, and the whole community here, have been so supportive of the language…’

The Manx language was infamously declared extinct by UNESCO in 2009, a decision that was reversed after protests from the Manx speaking community. Dr Harrison is convinced that the decision was in error.

He said: ‘That was a typical case of where a language is prematurely declared extinct, but what often happens is that other speakers have made themselves invisible because they didn’t want to advertise themselves.

‘In fact several speakers have told me that Manx was their first language growing up, and they didn’t learn English until they were seven or eight years old. That means there are native speakers, even if they didn’t choose to label themselves as such.’

His interviews have also uncovered stories of how the language came close to being lost between generations. He said: ‘Someone told me today that his grandmother was a fluent speaker of Manx but he never knew it because, if she had spoken Manx as a child, the other children would throw stones at her.

‘In those circumstances you can imagine that her decision to abandon Manx was not a free choice, and it deprived her of part of her identity, her history and her connection to the place she belonged.

…Language revitalisation has become a global movement now. A lot of communities have decided that they’re not going to be coerced or shamed into discarding their heritage’.”

60 comments on “The Gaelic Union

  1. Language promotion and tourism… they go hand in hand 😀

  2. Críostóir Ó Faoláin

    Have to say the layout of the Turas G website is very odd, for ‘The Republic of Ireland’ seven countys are listed, only one of which has a Gaeltacht, every Gaeltacht in Ireland except Donegall is excluded for some reason. You would have to wonder why?

    • ar an sliabh

      I’m guessing that since the site is new, it will take a while until all the details are sorted out. Julie is a great person and a fantastic musician, I am a big fan. Trying to learn their ‘dialect.’

    • And of course the site itself is in English only.

  3. john cronin

    “In fact several speakers have told me that Manx was their first language growing up, and they didn’t learn English until they were seven or eight years old. That means there are native speakers, even if they didn’t choose to label themselves as such.’

    ‘Someone told me today that his grandmother was a fluent speaker of Manx but he never knew it because, if she had spoken Manx as a child, the other children would throw stones at her.

    All of this sounds very unlikely to me. Mopery, as Liam Kennedy described it.

    • You must remember that there are social and political pressures involved. Given the widespread belief that languages can’t be ‘revived’ once they’re ‘dead’, people naturally try to gloss over any break in natural intergenerational transmission. So any vague accounts of semi-speakers, (i.e. people who couldn’t put a new sentence together but who maybe could recite a proverb or prayer or count to ten parrot-fashion, and usually in increasingly garbled form) long after the last fluent speakers have passed away, tend to be leaped upon as evidence that, “honest, guv, the language never really died out!” The reason being that even ‘expert linguists’ have been known to state that languages can’t be restored, or when they are, even if they pass from being ‘taught languages’ to being learned naturally in the home by kids, said experts will declare that this is no longer the real language. I.e. that you can’t claim to be a ‘native speaker’ unless you can show an unbroken chain of ‘natural’ transmission. This of course is not exactly encouraging to revivalists.

      In the case of Manx, transmission seems to have broken down during the late C19th with the remaining speakers all well into old age when Dev sent the Irish recording team to the IoM in the 1920’s. The one exception was Ned Maddrell (1877-1974) who’d been raised by an elderly relative, but he was already middle-aged even then. AFAIK there were no fluent children for perhaps almost a century. However these myths arise to counteract the nay-sayers and ‘experts’ who will mock any attempt at language revival.

      It’s been suggested that the Manx revival only took off once the last of the Cringe Generation, those ashamed of their heritage, had passed away. An interesting thought! Nevertheless they really do seem to be doing especially well, much better than the Cornish, I have to say. The fact that the IoM is a fairly small compact place seems to have worked to their advantage, since speakers can more easily congregate and form a community. Aghterbee, ta mee credjal dy row cooishyn goll dy mie lhieu.

      It’s also interesting how the linguistic establishment has done a complete about-turn from mocking language revivalists, or at least claiming their efforts were futile, to heaping praise on them.

      • One of the problems with those revival attempts is that it’s impossible for revivalists to drop and forget the English language.

        One can afford to have poor or non-existent Russian skills in Latvia, because knowledge of English more than makes up for it.

        That’s how we can legitimately say to our former oppressors: “I don’t speak Russian – please speak Latvian (or English)”.
        By using English we both are in a neutral territory and the Russian speaker can’t impose his language upon me.

        You can’t do that in Ireland, IoM, Wales, Scotland or any other country where English is dominating.

        What are you going to say? “I don’t speak English, please speak Manx (or Spanish?)”?
        People will think that you’re nuts.

  4. Indeed, language and tourism do go hand in hand. If and when I’m able to visit Ireland, Scotland, Wales, et al., I’m going to actively seek out places that speak Gaelic languages because I know that those will be areas with different cultures than that of, say, London or Edinburgh, and much lesser known than the latter.

    • I wonder how this would go down? They’re not animals in a zoo after all, just people trying to get on with their lives. You’ll probably find that they’ll completely ignore you unless you can show that you’re a blood relative to someone in their community. They’d be very unlikely to speak to you in Gàidhlig, or even speak it within your hearing, unless you’re already fully fluent (and/or a relative). This is because several generations had it drummed into them that this was ignorant and rude behaviour. Maybe times are changing, but expect mixed and possibly confused attitudes.

      • My only goal is to go to places where Gaelic is still spoken, so I listen firsthand. I don’t intend to go up to folks and ask them to “Say something in Gaelic to me.”

        I figure any place where people are speaking something besides English on at least a semi-regular basis is going to be different and potentially interesting.

        • So you intend to what? Sidle up to people and listen in to their private conversations? It can happen, especially if they’re not aware of your presence. Since you’re not a part of their community and they probably take the language for granted, why should they feel any obligation to share it with you? This is a major problem, since as language use shrinks, the language becomes less and less public property and more of a private thing. Of course you might find some kind of heritage centre where people are paid to ingratiate themselves to rich? foreigners. Which is probably not entirely a bad thing, but then teaching the language starts to become a bit of a racket, a self-sustaining industry. Y’know, you can get a grant, to learn to teach the language to people who can expect to be employed to teach the language … Again, probably necessary given the situation. But all the same proprietary schemes like Ulpan and the rest smell of pyramid selling to me.

        • Do you speak any Celtic languages yourself?

          If not – then what are you going to do there?

          • No. I also don’t speak Gullah, but I’ve travelled to the South Carolina coast to see the Gullah culture. It’s different than the culture I was reared in so it interests me. Why is this a difficult concept to understand?

  5. While recognising that English is probably the most important language in the world to be able to speak, it will be the most serious neglect if we lose our own Celtic languages. If lost they will never be regained and our grandchildren will have
    lost their heritage forever and ever

    • ar an sliabh

      It’ll be (Mandarin) Chinese soon enough, so go gaelic. Might as well keep what’s close, close.

      • The Chinese need foreign languages far more than foreigners need Chinese.
        The number of native speakers doesn’t matter because it’s nearly useless outside of China.
        Why should I learn it? – to go and work at a Foxconn sweatshop for 200$/month and obey the communist party?

        The same can be said about Hindi, Portuguese, Russian or Arabic.

        • ar an sliabh

          The Chinese are most of the world’s population and the largest industrial power. The others are not.

          • Yeah, but that population is not widespread and relatively few people outside of China speak Mandarin.
            I don’t see a reason why we – Europeans would want to adopt Chinese as our lingua franca.
            It’s not Indo-European and uses a completely bizarre writing system.
            Also their culture is relatively unknown around here.

            • ar an sliabh

              That is my point. Exactly. Just because a language is spoken by most people and is part of a dominant trade empire’s culture, even if that empire is the foremost power in the world, doesn’t mean you have to adopt its language. So there is nothing wrong with not adopting English, and opting for other languages as one’s heart desires, even if they are not your native tongue. English isn’t your native tongue (not mine either). I am sure you didn’t speak it perfectly either the first go around, you had to learn it. Probably not too many folks annoyed by your attempts at “broken” English at first. It really is a matter of pure preference. Yours is English, mine is not. That’s all there’s to it.

              • So there is nothing wrong with not adopting English, and opting for other languages as one’s heart desires, even if they are not your native tongue
                Theoretically there’s nothing wrong with being an Irish monoglot – your options in life would be severely limited – that’s all.

                But if you want to achieve something more than to be a poor and uneducated menial worker – learning English is highly recommended.

                The history of the British empire does not matter – what matters is the content that’s available in English and the people who speak it.

                If you don’t want to access all that – then fine.
                If I had to choose which language to keep – Latvian or English – I’d choose English in a heartbeat.

              • ar an sliabh

                Nobody said that the preferred use of one language excludes the use of another, should it be practical. No need to be so black and white. Sure, the English speaking empires of Britain and the U.S. have held the rest of the world under their yoke for some time, making their language a far spread means of international communication, but their reign is over now. That of the British has been over since ca. 1947, that of the United States ended between 2000 and 2001. It is mere matter of time.

            • Jānis, just out of interest would you regard the Greek and Cyrillic scripts as “bizarre”?

  6. john cronin

    I have only visited the Isle of Man once. Everyone in Douglas seemed to have a Scouse accent. The Liverpool Echo was on sale at the local newsagent. A lot of Scousers moved there cos, well, they pay you the same dole money there as they do in Liverpool.

    I drove out into the countryside and met an elderly bar owner who spoke with an accent so strange I would not be able to place it: one of the old stock Manxmen: I mentioned to this chap about the the Liverpool people who seemed to dominate in town: “Not that I’ve got anything against Scousers” I added politically correctly.

    “I bloody do” he replied.

    • Which is probably why interest has grown in the language. It’s a way for native and ‘come over’ alike to affirm a Manx identity. After all what’s the first thing you do when you move to an new country and wish to fit in — you learn the local language 😉

      • john cronin

        The Scousers didn’t seem to. The late Sir Anthony Quayle’s career does not seem to have been hindered by anti-Manx prejudice. Apparently he’s related to ex U.S. vice pres Dan Quayle.

  7. ar an sliabh

    Ar mhiste leat cúpla focal Gaeilge a mhúineadh dom… will work in most places. It will make for a good laugh and show that you’re seriously not just there as a tourist.

    • I suppose extracting money from strangers is a good old Gaelic tradition … but it begs the question of whether the show put on for them bears any relation to reality, but then we’ve never been too keen on reality when there’s a good tale to be told instead … I think it’s called “forging a culture”, you’ve got to love the ambiguity there …

      • ar an sliabh

        I love the way you think. It causes much thought and introspective.

        • ar an sliabh

          …and go to any tourist trap in Europe or any place in the world, they all have a good old tradition of taking money from strangers. You English pay a fortune to a royal family to keep that business going, for example. They’re sure not good for anything else.

      • Northsider

        And of course the manic Anglophiles who dominate modern Irish culture – the Harris clan, Myers, Gay Byrne, Brendan O’Connor, Dudley Edwards, and so on, have never been known to forge anything. If anyone prefers romantic myths to harsh reality, it’s these folks, e.g., their absurd sentimental drivel about the “Great War”.

      • isn’t all commerce extracting money from strangers, regardless of the language use to do it.

        • Well, big chains certainly. Local businesses (if there still are any) where the money circulates within a more or less defined community, no. Tourists are just at the extreme end of the continuum I suppose. They do to some extent counteract the effect of big population/business centres, which gradually and continually suck wealth from outlying areas (and now the effect is global), but tourism creates such a distorted local economy that it’s probably not the best way of doing this. Cultural tourism is still tourism, although maybe with a better class of tourists, but a Heritage Centre is still a theme park.

  8. ar an sliabh

    ..and you won’t have to listen in to a private communication…

  9. Northsider

    People often discuss the growing dominance of the English language as if it’s some kind of spontaneous phenomenon – a romantic Anglophile myth if ever there was one. The drive towards an Anglophone world didn’t just happen – it is in many ways another expression of English expansionist cultural nationalism. For example, the huge Corte Ingles (the clue is in the name) retail chain in Spain has a policy of only playing English language pop music in its stores. Many European radio stations follow a similar policy. Parents in Andalucía have complained about their children being taught subjects poorly through English in schools there. English isn’t so much being chosen as being imposed around the world. It’s no coincidence therefore that the British intelligence shills in the Sindo and RTE are so hostile to the Irish language revival movement

    • English was not imposed upon me – I recognised its importance early on and made a real effort to achieve reasonable fluency in it.

      I know that the Brits used the stick on the Irish in the past, but it was 100% the carrot for me.

      It’s a positive feedback loop – the more people learn English and create content in it the more appealing it becomes for others to learn.
      The UK has actually little to do with the English language and its spread nowadays.
      They don’t even have anything like the Académie française that could regulate the language – English is an open source project now and belongs to everyone who has learned it. 🙂

      It offers real benefits to me – I can access vast amounts of information about subjects that interest me.
      I can also access a wide array of English language cultural products – books, movies, music, video games, etc.

      It would also be impossible for me to work as a programmer if I didn’t speak English.

      Irish or Latvian languages just can’t offer all that.
      Living as a Latvian or Irish monoglot would be like living with a debilitating mental illness.

      • But what of someone who speaks only English? Since everyone you meet will always speak to you in English, whether foreigners (well most Europeans at least) or local minority language speakers, it makes it near impossible for native English speakers to learn other languages, even if they want to, and most are simply uninterested/unaware due to lack of exposure. Why did it have to be English? If we’d stuck to Latin at least there’d be a level playing field. Please excuse my mental debility, it wasn’t my fault. Lab rit!

        • You already speak the most widespread language of the world and can communicate with more than a billion people all over the world.

          But if you’re a Latvian monoglot then you can communicate with less than 2 millions of people only.
          Can’t travel outside of Latvia alone, can access to far less information about the world, have very limited career choices and so on – you feel like in a prison.

          It’s of course far worse for an Irish monoglot (if they exist at all) – he’s confined to his small Gaeltacht community and can’t even travel to the capital of his own country alone.

          If you’re an English speaker living in an English speaking country, then of course you can live perfectly fine with English only, but if you want to emigrate to any non English speaking country you should learn the local language, because otherwise you’ll be treated as a tourist or outsider.

          One of the main reasons why the revival of Irish has failed is because there’s no practical necessity to learn it.

          “It’s your heritage” is simply not a good enough reason for most native English speakers to achieve real fluency in it.

          And fully bilingual state services will not help, because they will still be available in English too – therefore eliminating the need for a native English speaker to learn Irish, because he can still receive services in his native language.
          And the critical mass of speakers required to actually provide these services in Irish just isn’t there.

        • In short – if you speak only a small language (like Latvian or Irish) – it’s like living with a mental illness, but if you speak one that’s widely spoken (like English), then it’s fine.

  10. Northsider

    The UK – or perhaps, more precisely, the City of London – has everything to do with the spread of English. Check out the credits on most programmes on continental television and you’ll find a super-abundance of Anglo-names. The same applies to other media. Furthermore major globalist entities such as the Bilderbergs and the Trilaterals have long established links with the Anglo-establishment (not to mention the Anglo intelligence community). A recent survey ranked Britain number one in terms of “soft power” in the globe, bar none. And no country acquires such power without very strenuous efforts. An Irish guy who worked as a magazine designer for Conde Nast in New York once told me that EVERYONE (apart from himself presumably) in magazine publishing in the U.S., was British. Hence the otherwise inexplicable obsession of such media with the not especially interesting or charismatic British Royal Family. By the way I’m not anti-English language in any shape of form – I just find the prospect of a world where everyone speaks an identikit argot pretty sterile and depressing.

    • Check out the credits on most programmes on continental television and you’ll find a super-abundance of Anglo-names
      What are you talking about?
      Hollywood movies?
      Sure they are widespread – but they’re not coming from the UK.
      An Irish guy who worked as a magazine designer for Conde Nast in New York once told me that EVERYONE (apart from himself presumably) in magazine publishing in the U.S., was British.
      That sure is a reliable source – sounds like a weird conspiracy theory.
      And even then – so what? – it’s not like the UK and the USA are bitter enemies anyway.
      They have “the special relationship” between them and most Americans have British ancestors.

      • Ah janis..You have fallen for that “special relationship ” nonsense.
        The USA Broke the British Empire post WW2. The USA made the Pound Sterling a convertible currency and many of the UK’s former Colonies got rid of Sterling reserves and got US dollars instead.
        This forced an economic crisis in Britain. So much so, that the Brits had to stop paying their USA war debts for a while.
        The USA does not have a special Relationship with the Brits anymore than it dos with the Philipenes.
        The Uk is the American foreign legion in times of war..And that is about it.
        The “special Relationship” is a term that the Brits use to hide the fact that the “emperor has no clothes”
        i.e the Uk is a busted flush.
        Sorry to tell you.

      • Northsider

        “What are you talking about? Hollywood movies?”

        No. Quiz shows and panel shows of the Have I Got News For You or Mock The Week type, and so on – stuff that one would expect to be indigenously made in most instances.

        “That sure is a reliable source”.

        If a first hand account from someone who worked at a fairly high level in these media is not reliable, perhaps you can tell me what is. I neglected to mention that as well as being a magazine designer with Conde Nast, this guy is also a well-known and respected fashion photographer. And by the way when he said the British dominated magazine publishing in the States he could not have been less conspiratorial about it. It was a simple statement of fact. Far from being anti-British, I’d guess his views on the Irish/British question are far closer to yours than to mine. And anyway what he said is fairly common knowledge in media circles. Indeed the British often openly boast of their clout in the U.S. media – Anna Wintour, Tina Brown, Harold Evans, Mark Thompson and Martin Bashir being just a few of the more prominent examples.

        As an aside, the fact that Britain managed to get its role in torture redacted from the recent Senate report into CIA practices illustrates once again their significant political power in the US. AMS is certainly right in saying that in military or industrial terms British power is not what it once was, (British forces were humiliatingly driven out of Basra in Iraq by a ragbag local militia – ditto Helmand province in Afghanistan) but one could argue that the relationship between the US and Britain is in some respects the opposite of what is commonly supposed, in that the US provides the military muscle and Britain (or, again, more precisely, the City of London) dictates play.

        • It’s plausible that the USA and the UK can influence each other’s governments.
          And of course the UK spends a lot of money to promote English – it would be foolish for them not to do that.

          My point is that English is not seen as a tool of oppression and colonisation outside of some parts of the former British Empire.
          It’s seen as a valuable tool that helps to communicate.

          When I’m in Estonia or Lithuania I speak English not because the evil City of London is imposing the language upon us or because I’m ashamed of being a native Latvian speaker, but because that’s the easiest way for us to communicate.

          I need online resources like MSDN, and to do my day job – they are not available in Latvian (is that because of the Evil Brits?) – that’s a legitimate reason for me to learn English.

          And they certainly don’t show “Have I Got News For You” in Latvia, because people don’t really care about the internal politics of the UK.

          Some of the shows might be inspired by them, but they sure as hell aren’t being made by the Brits.

          • that’s nice, but why do you come here? you could go to another blog that celebrates the english language, or start such a blog yourself. why do feel the need to convince people not to speak/promote celtic languages? why would you even care as you come from lativia. your (to be frank) rant above seem totally unconnected with the topic of the original post.

          • Northsider

            As I thought I made fairly clear, I was speaking of international equivalents of Have I Got News For You – not the show itself. And as I stated before, the rise of English is not happening by default – anymore than the saturation coverage of British royalty throughout the western media happens by default. So enthusiasts for other languages are perfectly entitled to push back against this extremist nationalist attempt to impose English as a one size fits all global idiom. The major difference between Irish language enthusiasts and the Unionist west-Brit presstitutes in the Sunday Indo and RTE is that the latter have contempt for true cultural diversity. Or rather their paymasters do. Attributing independent (no pun intended) opinions to the Sindo/RTE shower is to unduly ennoble their lapdog status.

            Apart from anything else, it has long been recognised that speaking only one language leads to the decline of vital brain functions. Maybe that’s part of the agenda too.

            • So enthusiasts for other languages are perfectly entitled to push back against this extremist nationalist attempt to impose English as a one size fits all global idiom.
              Are you saying that the ability to communicate with other people who speak a different native language is a bad thing?

              No one imposed English upon me – I wanted to learn it myself and I certainly don’t regret that.

              And what do you mean by “pushing back”? Being against learning English? That’s an incredibly stupid thing to do.

              • No, people who have their own languages learning English is not the problem, or at least it’s only half the problem. It wouldn’t be a problem at all if English speakers were open to learning other languages when they find themselves in contact with their speakers, but mostly they are not. It’s not really their fault either, unfortunately, because “everybody speaks English”, and will very probably speak English to them, so they may not even realise that the other language community exists, or quite what it constitutes in the eyes of its speakers. There is often a complete mental block here, I’ve come across it in otherwise broadminded liberal types, they just don’t seem to have a mental slot to fit the idea into.

                I admit that to some extent I can see the problem from both sides, but that unfortunately doesn’t help much with a solution.

                You suggested earlier I think that if someone came to live in Latvia it would be natural for them to learn Latvian if they wanted to be seen as “more than a tourist”. A Swede might learn your language, or a Dutchman etc., but probably not an English speaker, not your average Anglophone anyway, because to them English alone is a “proper language” everything else is just some kind of local slang. I wonder, if you went to work in another country where English was not the native and normal everyday language, would you learn the local lingo to ‘fit in’? At least socially? Even if you happened to do most of your professional work in English?

                It is very confusing, I admit. Here is an account by a Welsh speaker/writer that leaves me perplexed as to who is right and who is wrong. I’m translating/summarising …

                The writer enters a café in Arfon (a majority Welsh speaking area) and asks (in Welsh) for a cup of tea, “panad o de” a fairly well known expression in the cupla focal category. “Large or small” comes the reply in English. “Mawr”, he replies. “I’m English”, says the waitress. That to him seems a complete non-sequetor, “I’r dim” (precisely), he replies, “ond fe liciwn i gael cwpaned o de” (but I’d like a cup of tea). At which point she give up and tells another worker to deal with him. (And I can imagine her thinking, “another Welsh idiot …”) This he says happens all the time. He describes going into another place and asking politely in Welsh to see the menu, and again getting the “I’m English” reply. It becomes clear that however he phrases his request, even using gestures etc. he will not be served unless he speaks English, so his only alternative is to walk out.

                From the perspective of the Welshspeaking Welshman in Welsh Wales, the waitresses are being impossibly rude, since they’re working in the country and can’t even manage to passively understand a few common requests, they just can’t be bothered. But from their POV the Welshman is being a pain in the arse, because after all “Everyone speaks English, and we’re in England, (well Britain is there really any difference?) after all”. So there you have the problem, who is oppressing whom …

              • ar an sliabh

                Sounds like someone could make a good living of a Welsh version of Dingle’s “An Cafe Liteartha” in Wales.

              • Well again, yes and no. Yes, it would be nice, but no, it would simply ghettoise Welsh even further. Surely in areas with 50%+ speakers it ought to be perfectly natural and entirely reasonable to expect to get service in the local language, regardless of the fact that “everyone speaks English. Everyone seems to speak English in many European countries but I can hardly imagine say a Dutchman in Holland being expected to order in English. Or how would Jānis respond if back home he went into a café and got “I’m Russian” or whatever the equivalent would be. I just don’t think they do much business. But Welsh, Irish etc speakers, no doubt Bretons too, all suffer from The Cringe and just roll over and take it, having been conditioned to fee that they’re the ones in the wrong for speaking in their own language in their own country. Even when, as in parts of Wales they’re the majority, or as in Ireland they’re using that nations First Official Language. Can you change attitudes by law? It worked for smoking in pubs, and that did surprise me, I’d expected people would just ignore the rule, especially the Irish 🙂 but no, people changed their habits. Could the same thing happen for language use? Who knows.

              • There’s a difference between changing your place of smoking and spending years learning an obscure language.
                You can’t just magically start speaking Irish or Welsh – learning takes a lot of time and costs a lot of money – way more than the dreaded water charges.

                It took me many years to achieve my current level of fluency in English – and I still don’t think that I’m a perfectly fluent speaker.
                And I use that language every day.

                Learning Irish or Manx is even harder – it’s closer to learning Esperanto or Klingon than English or Latvian.

                Very few people speak them and there’s no natural linguistic environment.

                Also meeting up with random people just to speak/practice the language feels artificial to me – it’s like some sort of weird hobby not a natural language.

              • The waitress was incredibly rude in this case.
                The proper action would be to either reply something like: “Sorry, I don’t speak Welsh could you speak English please?” or get a staff member who speaks Welsh immediately.

              • Well that’s your perspective, but to the average English speaker it’s perfectly normal, because everyone knows that all Welsh/Irish etc. speakers (apart from a few very small children and a tiny number of very old people) are also fluent in English, they more or less have to be to survive. So the English view would be something like, “We know damn well that they *can* speak English, like all civilised people, so if they don’t it’s clearly because they’re just trying to make a point, or wind us up, or generally make trouble and be unpleasant.” And even people who on an intellectual level would be opposed to language loss, and who might well give money to a charity to save some lost tribe in the Amazon etc., would still in all likelihood react exactly like the waitress in a face-to-face encounter. It’s an attitude that’s just picked up as part of the culture. In the same way the minority people pick up it’s converse, The Cringe.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: