Contradictory arguments against the Welsh language show that the game is rigged

Evan Davis on Newsnight. Picture by BBC

 

Dylan Llŷr

Anyone who’s ever manned the barricades against attacks on the Welsh language will have noticed that the arguments against it are often contradictory.

This is because the game is rigged. It’s designed so that we can’t win.

The most common hostile claim is probably that the language is ‘useless’. There’s no point in speaking it, much less learning it, because it’s allegedly of so little practical value.

This argument is usually accompanied by the claim that Welsh is ill-equipped to deal with the modern world, as we supposedly struggle to come up with new words for the latest fancy gadgets and ideas.

These claims are false, obviously, but that’s not the point here. Rather, it’s that we also face complaints – often by the very same people who just argued the above – that Wales is run by a Welsh-speaking ‘crachach’ or ‘Taffia’ that saves the best jobs for those who are fluent in the secret code.

That isn’t true either, of course, but it’s also completely inconsistent with the previous idea that Welsh is pointless and primitive. After all, it’s hard to think of a more useful and relevant thing you could do with a language than run a country in it.

It’s common for defenders of the language to have to argue back on contradictory fronts like this. Another example is having to respond both to the claim that we can ‘all speak English anyway’ and also that teaching kids Welsh somehow harms their English.

These claims reveal that those making them are being disingenuous.

Imagine, in the first instance, that, for whatever reason, we could not, in fact, speak English. Would they then abandon their hostile position?  Of course not.

They would simply move the goalposts and deem such a scenario an educational emergency, blamed, naturally, on our persistence with Welsh at the expense of English.

Likewise, when we explain that Welsh-speakers’ English is just as good as that of the English themselves, they can simply pivot back to the ‘you all speak English anyway’ canard.

Our response to Argument A is countered with Argument B. Meanwhile, our response to Argument B is countered with Argument A. Heads they win; tails we lose.

It’s a loop, designed to be unsolvable, and shows that you can’t debate when the other side is insincere.

Already decided

Personally, I suspect that many young Welsh-speakers actually overstate how uncomfortable they feel using English instead of Welsh, because they want to show the pragmatic case for policies to protect the language.

The truth is that our English is perfectly fine, and usually much better than Julian Ruck’s (mine certainly is). It’s ridiculous that we should feel we’re undermining our own justification for existing by saying so.

The rigged system is even at work when the topic is something relatively straightforward like the numbers of Welsh-speakers.

On the one hand, if we point to more positive interpretations of the statistics to say that Welsh is quite healthy, then why does the language need help at all?

On the other hand, when we acknowledge that the trends are worrying and that the language is under threat, that just shows it’s dying anyway so, again, what’s the point?

The thing to remember is that these people have already decided that they’d prefer a world in which Welsh didn’t exist. All that follows is post hoc rationalising. They’ll use whatever argument is convenient at any given moment.

This is not to say that arguing back is pointless. It needs to be done, especially after last week’s Newsnight debacle showed the extent of the genuine ignorance about us.

If someone is using all of these arguments simultaneously, we can be quite sure that they’re just bigots who can’t be swayed. But there’s a good chance that there are other people reading who can be.

We should reject the very premises of these arguments. The aim should be to show precisely how rigged the game truly is.


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Tellyesin
Guest
Tellyesin

So if English doesn’t need support, why are they paying for English to be taught as a compulsory and technical language in every school in England?

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

WOW! Nailed square on head or what! Boom tish!

John Cydweli
Guest
John Cydweli

I rather like the word #tafferati for those who can trydar yn y Gymraeg!!!

Ken Kyffin
Guest
Ken Kyffin

Excellent article. Unfortunately today, numbers are the favoured tools to clinch debate, not logic.That’s where J Arghhhh and Co have got us – they can even put the £ sign in front.. We might try a counter attack to the effect that if Mike Ashley were to use one thousandth of his wealth he could benefit both the NHS and GIG and Football while still having enough in his left trouser pocket to pay for a week at Nant Gwtheyrn. Fat chance.

'ö-Dzin Tridral
Guest

I think this is the nub of the matter “The thing to remember is that these people have already decided that they’d prefer a world in which Welsh didn’t exist. All that follows is post hoc rationalising. They’ll use whatever argument is convenient at any given moment.” Which also means that any argument stemming from such an approach is irrelevant. Another ‘can’t win argument is the flip/flop between – Welsh is too much like English (ambiwlans, tacsi), and – Welsh is too dissimilar to English (ysgrifennu, darllen) There’s also the idea, that comes from only having one language, that every… Read more »

Emyr Wyn
Guest
Emyr Wyn

And there’s me thinking that la ambulance and le taxi were French words?

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Guest

With regard the actual piece; it is outrages that a Welshman could think and talk like that and that the BBC ensured no one was there to defend our language!

M
Guest
M

Who/Where/Why is £500,000 Huw Edwards?

BigBadNat
Guest
BigBadNat

Perhaps, had he been asked, he would’ve been able to tell Evan Davies what a crock the segment was. Otherwise what’s your point?

Ximi
Guest
Ximi

Great article. Really enjoyed that.

Basically we’re banjaxed! Like you say though, we’ve just got to keep going.

Euros Lewis
Guest
Euros Lewis

No, not keep going. Change direction. Shake the shackles away. The British Broadcasting Corporation is there for a purpose. It’s a British purpose. Its only purpose. Whatever language they’re talking about or broadcasting in. Even Latin: Divide et impera

Dave Jones
Guest
Dave Jones

Why did English become THE international language of choice for the airways, seaways, the EU etc. Was it because it was easy to learn because it borrowed/adopted words from other European languages or is it easy to speak despite the odd spelling ?

daffy2012
Guest

I used to frequent a forum which was UK wide. I would often cross swords with another guy on there who lived in Wales and was very anti-Welsh language and of course, hated those nasty ‘nats’. On one thread he said that all public sector jobs were going to Welsh speakers. Later on in that thread, he said that if you phoned his local council (which was Swansea) you would be greeted bilingually but that would be it as none of the staff could actually speak Welsh! 🙂 I did cut and paste to put both statements next to each… Read more »

Helen Lewis
Guest
Helen Lewis

I am wholeheartedly of the opinion that the Welsh language should be used and taught in all schools at every level in all Welsh schools, to the eventual aim that everybody educated here will be bilingual. Having said that, what we have to overcome is the bigotry that exists on both sides of the language debate.

BigBadNat
Guest
BigBadNat

I await Jacques’, Michaela’s, and Julian’s considered contributions to underline the points made in this excellent article.

sibrydionmawr
Guest

Have you ever come across those types face to face, where they are almost frothing at the mouth over the Welsh language issue. They are a peculiarly Welsh phenomenon, some of the Saeson Dwad can get a but superior, but don’t as rule become appopoleptic. They usually blame their unfortunate traumatised state over meeting a Welsh person who tod them that they were inferior because they didn’t speak Welsh – who in all likelyhood merely innocently mentioned that they were Welsh speaking. They then go on to explain, at length, how they are just as Welsh as any Welsh speaker,… Read more »

whywhy
Guest
whywhy

You were doing quite well in presenting your paint, then said everyone who opposes you is an ignorant bigot. And with that you have the audacity to claim other people have prejudged the situation and are closed to your arguments … smh.

BigBadNat
Guest
BigBadNat

You have to suppose bigots are ignorant … how awful would it be if they were possessed of knowledge and still bigots?

Dylan Llyr (@dylanllyr)
Guest

All I can suggest you read the article again more carefully.

Karl
Guest
Karl

Well i dont like the fact they are trying to rid the welsh language all together sorry i am fluent in welsh and look what im doing typing in english too lol but i honestly think if people in england dont like the language do not come to wales then were happy with our language i think that im quite luck to be welsh its a beautiful language at least we are billingual for your needs thats all im saying and where i live there are loads of english people have moved here because they love the language so there… Read more »

Myfanwyapstiwart
Guest
Myfanwyapstiwart

As a first language Welsh speaker, I must admit that artifical support for the language puzzles me. I’m assuming the million target is merely a PC exercise to raise awareness rather than a meaningful target. I’m fortunate to work across many national borders and what strikes me about returning here is the fanatical obsession that some have over the language. It is merely a single minority language, largely oral, and whilst it has many fine attributes, if it can’t sustain itself without some form of life support, it should be left to go. It won’t die out but we won’t… Read more »

Myfanwyapstiwart
Guest
Myfanwyapstiwart

My last paragraph should read

My youngest daughter comes home from school using a mess of dialect – if I hear another north Wales ism in everyday language I’ll throw a fit! She however is lucky enough to have another source to modify her language but her friends have only the language they hear at school and whilst the quality is poor, vocabulary use is a geographical mess.

Tame Frontierman
Guest
Tame Frontierman

I quite like Evan Davis. He is a clearly a man of intellect with a keen, incisive, analytical mind. However, it doesn’t seem that he or indeed the Newsnight production team were sufficiently interested or enthused to present more than a superficial and frankly intellectually wanting treatment of this subject. Might it be better for current affairs programmes like Newsnight to career-develop some Welsh correspondents for whom the matters of Wales are genuinely interesting and allow them to take the reins for such pieces rather than an “A lister” who’d rather be exploring one of his or her pet interest… Read more »

Trailorboy
Guest
Trailorboy

To be honest I welcome the outpourings from some of the peiple mentioned. Id far rather these views out in the open than the traditional sly ways of pretending otherwise.

Over the years the people who have really done the damage to our economy and culture have been the silent ones who scheme and plan ways to undermine anything based on values they consider alien or a threat.

These people are generally still muted and the ones we latch onto, who love to niggle and causr trouble are the least of our problems.

Wrexhamian
Guest
Wrexhamian

Basically, the BBC article was a 21st-Century equivalent of Brad y Llyfrau Gleision in the 1840s, and Wales has not yet fully recovered from that.
Sign the SSiW petition to have the Beeb’s policy towards the Welsh language placed officially under review (if it’s not too late to sign).
The Guardian is just as bad, by the way.