An Argument Against a Full-Time Welsh Language Officer

It may surprise some readers to see one of the Vice Presidents writing in the comment section and not just being commented upon. However, this topic is of such importance that a balanced argument should be presented. Last week this section featured an article outlining why we should have a full time VP Welsh Language and thus why the referendum is important. However, the full story wasn’t displayed, and the argument was one sided.

The current Union Welsh Language Campaign Officer (WLCO), Steffan Bryn Jones, tabled a motion originally to Student Senate to have a referendum for full time paid Vice President Welsh Language. This was debated and narrowly defeated by the body of students who have been elected to represent the student population.

Interestingly the motion wasn’t submitted to the Union’s AGM, the highest decision making body of the Union, save that of the Trustee Board. Here it could have been debated in front of 650+ students with both arguments being vigorously examined and fiercely defended. Yet, by the WLCO’s own admission, it wasn’t tabled at AGM for fear it wouldn’t pass, which in my opinion is clearly damning evidence that the full time role isn’t a popular choice. Don’t get me wrong, we must hear the voice of our minority communities, which is exactly why we have the campaign officer role. However, in my opinion, it isn’t necessary to launch this into a full time paid sabbatical position.

So as explained last week, a petition was launched which, over the period of an entire month, only secured 513 signatures: scraping over the minimum of 500. As a result, time and money will be put into launching a referendum that must secure 1500 votes within 5 days, in order to be binding. Many previous referendums have failed to reach this binding minimum and I imagine this will be the case once more. Nevertheless, I agree this shouldn’t be an argument not to have one. However, it is an argument for it going to the next AGM, and not a referendum.

Before I launch into the reasons why we shouldn’t have the role full time and therefore why you should vote ‘No’ in the referendum, let me first dispel some of the “misunderstandings and prejudice” that last week’s article attempted to address.

As a Welshman myself I am fully in support of the Welsh Language and its use. Whilst my own proficiency is ashamedly somewhat limited, I agree it is an important foundation of Welsh culture and key to living in Wales. I would, however, question the proposition that using Welsh is deemed perverse or threatening. In my experience this certainly isn’t the case. Moreover, having a full time VP Welsh Language will not normalise it but drive the Welsh speaking community further away. I appreciate that poor translation is frustrating, but I am unsure as to the “lack of service” and “arrogant and dismissive attitude” which was commented on last week.

The Union has recently taken on a member of staff to be Welsh translator. Most University services can be accessed through the medium of Welsh if requested. The Union has simultaneous translation at AGM and Senate meetings and has in its 3 year strategy “To improve welsh language provision” as a top priority. Furthermore the Union has adopted the Welsh Language Charter and recently set up a Welsh Language Steering Group to drive the Welsh agenda.

What concerns me most is last week’s author felt Welsh speakers were not represented and were “An invisible minority” with the need for someone to pass on the community’s feedback. Clearly they think little of the work done by the current Campaign Officer, as this is precisely what they should be doing. Never mind the fact that the current President is a fluent Welsh speaker himself.

Last week’s statement that Cardiff and Swansea Students’ Unions are the only Unions that don’t have a full time Welsh Language Officer is simply untrue. In fact it is quite the opposite: the only HE institutions with a full time role are Aberystwyth and Bangor, which both have entirely separate Welsh Unions and a much higher percentage of Welsh speaking students. The other 7 institutions do not have a full time role.

So why shouldn’t we have one? Simply put: because it would change little and be a waste of time and resources. That may sound stark and rather harsh but allow me to elaborate.  It is my understanding that the main remit of the officer would be to drive the Welsh agenda, but also be the contact point for all issues pertaining to Welsh students. Effectively they would become the VP Societies, Sports, Welfare, Education, Postgraduate and indeed President, for Welsh speaking students. This goes directly against the suggestion of normalisation but causes a divide. It would also be impossible to effectively represent those students on the 30+ groups I alone sit on whilst also campaigning of welfare issues, improving sports and society provision, and translating.

It seems to me to be far more effective to write into all the current positions’ job descriptions a need to improve Welsh language in their respective remits or something to that effect. That way in all areas of activity the Union could create effective change.  The Campaign Officer role as it stands should be to advise and feedback to the current officers on issues affecting their cohorts. Is this not exactly what is trying to be ‘reinvented’? The resource for this role could then be put to the cost of translation and double printing.

Scrutiny committee would then be able to hold all the ull time Officers to account should it be felt that enough wasn’t being done. Moreover, one of the full time team could be designated as lead on the Welsh provision strategy to further ensure this agenda was driven forward and the Welsh Language Charter fully achieved. As covered above, the Union is already making great strides towards achieving this with some very positive steps, including the taking on of a translator and the setting up of a steering group. Rather than pushing back against this progress, I am of the opinion that this should be celebrated and highlight how well the current system of having a campaign officer is working.


For all the above I urge you to vote ‘No’ in the upcoming referendum.


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  • To the comment that agrees with this post; It’s not a feeling of inferiority, it is a constant battle to be seen equal . We only ask for parity and fairness with the English language. It is obvious you have no grasp of the meaning of this language to it’s speakers. In a city as diverse as Cardiff you have no idea how hard people try o ensure equality for ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation. But when it comes to the Welsh Language, it’s fair game. I have so often heard how boring, old and useless the Welsh Language is by English students. They do not understand the importance of the language and see any attempt to use and promote it as a futile plan. This Welsh language officer would ensure that the rights of the Welsh Language and it’s speakers is put next to those who speak English. Not above it, equal to it. The fact that you believe that a non-welsh speaker could do a similar role confirms that you haven’t a clue about the subject and being Welsh doesn’t give you expertise on this matter. I will urge everybody to vote ‘yes’ in this referendum.

  • Describing yourself as a ‘Welshman’ seems a little redundant. How can you expect the full time offers to devote time and energy into a cause with which they share no affinity and little understanding? Your bitter and frankly embarrassing argument against a Full Time Welsh Language Officer has done nothing but make it increasingly obvious why CSU desperately needs one.

  • Futhermore, to the anon comment saying ”don’t get too attached”. Are you really telling Welsh speakers not be get ”too attached” to their first language, their native language? I’m sure you’d not adopt the same dismissive attitude were the English language marginalized, ignored and ridiculed like the Welsh language. The fact you also cannot see how Welsh speakers being able to use their own language within their Union in their own country proves that you cannot be taken seriously.

  • It is no coincidence that the one comment here against the proposal is written by somebody with absolutely no experience of the language in Cardiff. Contrary to what he/she claims, there is a very active Welsh-speaking community here in Cardiff: at the University and the city in general. This obviously does not register in their monolingual worldview. Their dismissive artitude is a perfect example of the ignorance we face. We cannot and will not be denied our rights.

  • Meh – we’re all be speaking Chinese soon enough, so don’t get too attached.

    I think realistically, I don’t know what this position could actually achieve. While I’m not against it per se – I just don’t see the point. It’s sad that people feel like their language is somehow inferior – but you’ve just got to recognise that it is the language of the minority in this city. Try going into any shop here in Cardiff and order in Welsh, you’re just going to get some poor assistant looking at you oddly. Again, while it’s sad that this is the case of an officially recognised language its own capital city – this is the reality. Allowing fluent Welsh speakers to conduct more of of their correspondence with the uni in Welsh isn’t going to have any meaningful impact when they leave at the end of their degrees.

    But, equally, if it will make some people enjoy their university experience more while they’re here – I’m not going to stand in their way.

    • While I appreciate your atrempts to see both sides, I would like to correct you on some matters.

      Allowing Welsh speakers to conduct their correspondence with the Uni in Welsh will have a huge impact, and not just from a welfare perspective.
      For example, for someone who intends to work with the public, perhaps in a Healthcare position, being confident and strong with their use of the langaue can be incredibly valuable for developing rapport with very young or old patients/clients. It most definately isn’t a reduntant skill.

      Having the opportunities to use our Welsh on a daily basis allows not only the most fluent to feel more at home and happier at their Uni life, but also those who have are less confident with the language to practice and become familiar with its daily use, should they wish to. This can make a difference when it comes to writing CVs and applying for jobs because they are able to say that they are confident in speaking Welsh socially, which could help career prosects.
      Most people who have a hold on more than one language will know of these benefits, and will understand the importance of this role.

  • “I appreciate that poor translation is frustrating, but I am unsure as to the “lack of service” and “arrogant and dismissive attitude” which was commented on last week”

    Does anyone else find it ironic how arrogant and dismissive this quote is seeing as the writer has just stated that he doesn’t speak welsh?

  • I’m really pleased to see that the Union seems to be proactive on this matter. The Welsh Language Charter, a recently appointed translator, and making improving Welsh language provision a priority are all excellent on paper, but sadly these ‘good’ intentions are clearly not being seen in the provision and this is where I feel your views are flawed.

    The simple statement that “Most University services can be accessed through the medium of Welsh if requested” says everything about the current status of the Welsh language at the University and the Union.
    This role is vital for normalizing the Welsh language, contrary to what you say, and the fact that Welsh language students have to request provision highlights this. If the language was an expected, normal and visible feature of the University and the Union’s provisions, then it is likely that there would be a much greater use of Welsh on the sites, and Welsh-speaking students would feel closer to the Union and the core of the student body. If things stay as they are, the Welsh-speaking students will distance themselves, as views such as “the Union has nothing to offer us” and “they don’t care whether we’re here or not” and “they can’t bother to even get the translations right” drive them to congregate outside of the Union, and to segregate away from the student body.

    Secondly, it is a fool’s dream to expect all those applying for current positions to improve Welsh language in their respective remits. It is an incredible challenge to promote and develop something you have no knowledge of, and no interest in: that is essentially what you’re asking Union officers to do. It would be much more efficient and effective for the lead on Welsh language matters to come from a VP, so that the other officers can concentrate on the reasons they actually applied for the roles.

    And lastly, I take offense at “So why shouldn’t we have one? Simply put: because it would change little and be a waste of time and resources”. I’d like to ask you, how do you know? As someone who describes his hold on the language as “somewhat limited”, how could you really appreciate the value and importance of accessing the variety of the Union’s offerings through the medium of your mother tongue without having to make a song and dance about it each and every time you try? The Union provides for your mother tongue without you even having to ask. Why shouldn’t the Welsh-speaking community have the same privilege, especially as we are based in Wales? The psychological and social value of better Welsh language provision may not be obvious to you, but you are wrong to say that this is a waste of time and resources. This view is out-dated and prejudiced.

    These are the reasons why I believe that it is about time for Vice President Welsh Language. Cardiff University and it’s students’ Union are late to the party, and are poorer for it.

  • “As a Welshman myself I am fully in support of the Welsh Language and its use.”
    – How can you claim that you support the Welsh Language 100% if you are against a Full-Time Welsh Language Officer?

  • “Don’t get me wrong, we must hear the voice of our minority communities…”

    But not too much, eh?

    An interesting approach to democracy…

  • You debate your point fairley, but have a few flaws to your facts.

    Bangor and Aber have a higher precentage of Welsh speaking students, yes! But if you look at the numbers (which you haven’t botherd to, it seems) Cardiff’s number is sky high compared to Aber and Bangor. Both are smaller institutions than Cardiff, by a singnificant number, therfore of course the precentage is going to be higher.

    As the leading University in the Capital of Wales it’s shameful that you would post such an arrogant result. It not only shows your poor attiute towards the Welsh Language, but also shows your lack of courage to stand up for what people want. Isn’t that the whole point of an Union?

    And you say you would need all the other candidates to conicide with the Welsh Language. This isn’t true, in Aber you have the main Union wich merges with the Welsh Union, and the sabatical Welsh Language Office works for both unions.

    It sounds to me like the union couldn’t be botherd with the hassle of having to ‘accomodate’ the Welsh speakers. We shouldn’t have to be accomodated, as everyone else who doesn’t speek welsh should be the ‘accomodating’ ones. Welsh is the only official language in Wales, Cardiff University as a whole fails to recognize this.

    I’m glad you have employed the one translator to translate on ‘request’. Nothing should be ‘requested’ as it’s now an expectation that anything that is being released or published should be in both langauges.

  • Reading this makes me feel like we’re in the 60s. This attitude is just appalling and gives even more reason to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum. If everyone had your ‘the language will be fine’ attitude then it would be dead by now. We can’t just sit by, action needs to be made otherwise a decline is sure to happen, just look at every other minority language in the world. It’s almost as if you can’t be bothered with it, a lost cause almost. Just as in the Welsh Language Measure 2011, Welsh has equal status to English, so this should be within Cardiff University, I mean we are the capital of this country after all.

  • You make some fair points here. However, I don’t feel that sabbatical offers from non-Welsh backgrounds could fully understand the needs of Welsh students, particularly those that have come from full time Welsh education from preschool all the way through to their A levels.

    With Welsh being one of the official languages of the country we’re based in, as a Welsh student in a Welsh university I should be able to discuss all aspects of my student experience in Welsh. The president this year does speak Welsh, but more through pot luck. How many of the officers for next year are Welsh or speak Welsh?

    As regards to the Union’s translator, I have no information on who has got the role so this is not a personal judgment, however I looked at the job description when it was on offer, and I don’t recall there being any requirement for qualifications in the Welsh language, just experience with the language. This alone devalues degrees in Welsh and training in translation. The quality of some of the translations is evidence of this. However, I’m glad that there is an in house translator now.

    Importantly, the intercollegiate Eisteddfod is being held in Cardiff in 2016. The burden of organising this event cannot be placed solely on the part time Welsh officer and the GymGym committee, in my opinion, as I feel it could possibly impact their academic progress. In Aberystwyth and Bangor, an officer is paid to organize this event – at the very least, I think we should have someone in place, working full time for the weeks/months preceding the Eisteddfod putting arrangements in place.

  • If having a VP for the Welsh language is a waste of time and resources, how would the writer of this article explain the huge schism between the quality of Welsh Language services at Bangor/Aberystwyth and Cardiff? Cardiff university even has more Welsh speakers!

    Also, if Rhys is opposed to the idea of this being discussed in a referendum rather than at AMM, he should have raised this earlier – the proponents of a VP for the Welsh language are merely going through the structures of an SU that he himself is VP of.

    I’m tired of the Welsh language being merely something that everyone “wants” to save and would love to see prosper – great, but do something about it, or we’ll have another 50 years of lamenting its decline. Cymraeg am Byth.

  • “Interestingly the motion wasn’t submitted to the Union’s AGM….. Here it could have been debated in front of 650+ students with both arguments being vigorously examined and fiercely defended.”

    650 students is what 5% of the student population? As a referendum, the entire student body can debate both arguments and vigorously examine/fiercely debate the pro’s & cons. Its bizarre that you are seemingly against that; against the student body having the debate & having their say.

    “a petition was launched which, over the period of an entire month, only secured 513 signatures: scraping over the minimum of 500. As a result, time and money will be put into launching a referendum that must secure 1500 votes within 5 days, in order to be binding.”

    Has any petition for referenda ever achieved 500 signatures before? Ever? Again it is bizarre that you are so disparaging of the 513 signatures the petition collected. Given the general lack of student engagement in SU’s, I would have thought that collecting so many signatures is an achievement in its own right, as well as a clear indication that there is a demand among students for the referendum.

    “As a result, time and money will be put into launching a referendum that must secure 1500 votes within 5 days, in order to be binding.”

    If the Union doesn’t exist to provide a platform for students to debate the pressing issues that affect them. Then what does it exist for?

    Being that you admit your Welsh is “is ashamedly somewhat limited” are you really in a position to dismiss comments from Welsh speakers with regards a “lack of service” and “arrogant and dismissive attitude”to the language. Does that not somewhat highlight the hegemonically dismissive attitude to the language and its speakers? Even more so since you go on to blame such attitudes on the current WLO with ” Clearly they think little of the work done by the current Campaign Officer, as this is precisely what they should be doing.”

    Of your 1,000+ word comment piece above. Only 350 words are dedicated to arguments against the Welsh Language Officer role becoming Full-time. The rest/majority is seemingly dedicated to undermining the current WLO and calling in to question the legitimacy of a referendum called constitutionally and with the support of over 500 students you claim to represent. There are arguments against the role, sure; but you haven’t articulated them here.

    I’d urge all students to vote ‘YES’ in the referendum. For the reasons stated here: