The Welsh language is not “pointless”

Photo credit: Carwyn Williams

It is with great regret that this comment piece must be written as a reaction to the abhorrent behaviour, which many of you may have seen, by Oli Dugmore (assistant editor of the Tab) regarding an article on the Welsh language.

The article in question, published by the Tab, was simply explaining the allocation of £1.8 million funding to Cardiff University to preserve the Welsh language. This had some students of Cardiff University standing mockingly beneath bilingual signs and questioning what the Welsh meant. We would like to alert these students that the Welsh says the same as the English, but in Welsh. Meaning the below is as the above but translated into the native language of Wales, the oldest surviving language of this country. The Welsh language was spoken before the Victorian era, before the Shakespearean era and long before William the Conqueror arrived on these shores. They have similar signs all across the country, and also mainland Europe, such as Switzerland, where one can see signs in German, French, Romansch and Italian, possibly even English.

But what really caused hurt was Dugmore’s caption for the article on Facebook: ‘What is even the fucking point.’ The author of the comment seems to forget in which country he resides: Wales. A country which has only one official language recognised by law (The Welsh Language Act). That language is Welsh. Therefore, one of ‘the points’ is to respect the law, and respect the language of this country, of which this city is the capital. This city which has a vast number of Welsh speakers and many more people that understand it, and that number is ever growing thanks to the success of Welsh medium education.

Having offended so many, a member of the Welsh language community attempted to alert the Tab, via Facebook, of their error. In reply, we received further insulting comments. We feel that if they had been said in relation to Middle Eastern languages they would be have been dubbed insulting, if not racist, and would have received instant condemnation by the institution and would have made headlines at BBC News, not just a comment piece in a student newspaper.

The replies, by Oli Dugmore quote: ‘… the language is pointless. A bare minority of people speak it, all of whom also speak English.’ Firstly over 21 per cent of the population are able to speak Welsh comfortably. This accounts to over a fifth; a large proportion of any population.

Dugmore then goes further and states that ‘Having two language [sic] instead of one is pointless’. Mr Dugmore, more than half of the world’s population speak at least two languages. In no way is speaking multiple languages ‘pointless’: it boosts brain power. Multilingualism stalls the progress of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, expands career potential and opens up cultural opportunities unavailable to non-speakers. We would encourage anyone to learn as many languages as possible. Oli Dugmore’s remarks are simply ignorant and obnoxious.

Finally, as Welsh speakers, we feel aggrieved by such comments. But our grievance is also enhanced by the complete absence of support from the Student’s Union, which condemns any form of ethnic hatred (which could quite possibly in this instance be classed as racism), and also Cardiff University. This recent episode further reveals the urgent need for a full-time Welsh language officer to protect speakers and ensure that our voices are heard on campus and to ensure that such unacceptable behaviour is condemned. We have been exposed to this hatred as a result of the lack of support for the Welsh language and its speakers by the establishment. The need has never been greater to have a full time Welsh language officer.



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  • In my opinion this is insulting and hypocritical behaviour from a student in a Welsh university who says much about himself and shows such abysmal ignorance of the value of the oldest and originating Brythonic / British language. Is this further evidence that now that. in effect, every man and his dog goes to ‘uni’, some of the student population really do not have the cerebral capacity to grasp what is the real purpose of such a privilege?
    I am a member of the Derby and Nottingham Welsh learners’ circle – I love and respect this beautiful and ancient language and the culture it preserves – a culture which has suffered so much at the hands of bigots . Cymru am byth!!

  • While I agree with almost everything this article says, and I agree with kicking the Tab in its complete lack of balls, I must point out, as an Anglophone Welshman, that the language I grew up with is also an official language of Wales. English has equal status with Welsh in Wales, and is an official language.

    Ironically of course, it is not in England….

  • Isn’t it time that the rights of Welsh speakers were protected under BME (Black and minority ethnic) policies? Welsh speakers are a culturally ethnic minority, why don’t they have the same rights as others? The university will have a BME policy, why doesn’t it apply to all ethnic minorities?

  • It is disappointing that a higher education establishment appears to be happy for ignorance & bigotry to be so openly defended as ‘free speech’

  • Finally, someone’s said it. Hope that Dugmore feels as stupid as he is. Would also like to hear the Union/University’s stance on this matter as a bi-lingual, ethnic minority student in Cardiff.