Press release

Alun Cairns issues rallying call to Welsh speakers to ‘take individual responsibility’ for the language

Minister delivers keynote speech on the Welsh language in which he will emphasise the UK Government’s commitment to the language.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

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He will also issue a rallying-call to all who care and cherish the language to take individual responsibility for its future and to use it as often as possible.

Legislation

Whilst acknowledging the importance of political gains such as the passing of the Welsh Language Act 1993 and the establishment of S4C, Mr Cairns will argue that no government can simply legislate life into a language. Welsh-speakers themselves have to take on responsibility if the language is to thrive, he will tell the audience at the Wales Governance Office at Cardiff University. Pursuing further legislation could, he will argue, prove counterproductive and emphasis should instead be placed on promoting the use of Welsh:

No government can simply legislate life into a language. I do not want to see a regime of regulating the language that neglects efforts to promote its usage.

Our aim must be to encourage the language organically, particularly at a grassroots level, and for it to take root as a thriving, living, community language. The disappointing 2011 census figures confirm the scale of this challenge.

Welsh and the economy

Mr Cairns will also draw attention to the fundamental link between the Welsh language and the economy, echoing the famous Welsh Language Society slogan from the 70s ‘Dim iaith heb gwaith’ (‘No language, no work’):

In order to address the steady flow of young people leaving the Fro, or Welsh heartlands, governments at both ends of the M4 must create job opportunities to enable our young people to stay in their communities, says Mr Cairns.

Grassroots

The Minister will also pay tribute to the ‘drivers’ that breathe life into the language, grassroots organisations such as the Urdd, Mentrau Iaith and Merched y Wawr. These organisations offer a range of invaluable social and cultural opportunities for young and old through the medium of Welsh.

He says:

Those who take pride in the language tend to find expression for the language in cultural pursuits. I am issuing a challenge to create similar opportunities for the language to flourish in other spheres – in technology, engineering, and in digital design.

Language usage

The minister will also comment on the perceived elitism attached to the Welsh language:

I issue a further challenge to everyone to do more to embrace and encourage Welsh learners and to be tolerant and supportive, especially of those from traditionally non-Welsh speaking communities.

Sadly, there are far too many Welsh speakers, particularly a younger generation who have studied Welsh to the age of 16 at school, who still don’t see themselves as Welsh speakers, or do not have the confidence to use the language beyond the classroom or the school yard.

The Welsh Media have an important role to play in challenging linguistic patterns and building people’s confidence in speaking Welsh and using it in their everyday lives.

Published 25 February 2015