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And you wonder why Welsh nationalists are sometimes considered out-of-touch

And you wonder why Welsh nationalists are sometimes considered out-of-touch

BBC NEWS | Peer attacks ‘language fascists’ – A woman makes a perfectly reasonable attempt to speak Welsh at the Eisteddfod, but switches to English because she’s more comfortable expressing herself in that language. And some Welsh people jeer her and walk out.

What shameful behaviour. And so impolite. It’s not as if Ms. McAllister was your average English yobbo who thought Welsh wasn’t worth bothering with. She’s tried. It’s her second language. You can’t expect someone (for whom Welsh is a second language) to express themselves as easily in that language.

Perhaps when the jeering yobbos make allowances for the fact that people are trying to adopt the language, and understand those issues and their frustrations instead of demanding that everyone should be mega-fluent in Welsh from day one, the better. Would you expect a native Italian to speak flawless English at a town meeting?


  • The only other people I know of who'd react like that are the French, and then only some of them.

    I have friends who bought a holiday cottage in the south of France. The locals are fine… if you speak to them in decent French. If you're mastery of the foreign tongue isn't up to scratch or if – even worse – you try and talk to them in English, you'll just get the cold shoulder and have to travel a few more miles for your groceries.

    Small-minded bastards. Like you say – at least she's made the effort of trying.

  • yes, at least she made the effort. that really should count for something, shouldn't it? and to me, welsh seems like it might be rather a challenging language to learn, so even more kudos to her. from what i've seen of it, it looks terribly difficult.

  • Gilbert

    "And you wonder why Welsh nationalists are sometimes considered out-of-touch?" Less often than I wonder why YOU are considered out-of-touch, badly dubbed one. You're giving your prejudices a nice public airing, I'm afraid.

    Where is it said that those who booed and walked out were 'Welsh nationalists'? Or is that your prejudiced assumption? This was an argument about the use of language at the Eisteddfod, not the constitutional situation of the Welsh nation. As a politico-media-boy like you should know, it's long been a favourite trick of anti-Welsh right wingers and the even more extreme anti-Welsh wing of the Labour party to link every controversy regarding the Welsh language with 'Welsh nationalism' if it'll grub a few votes. They'd be very proud of you! Perhaps you'll be invited to be a columnist for the Welsh Mirror, if they decide to resurrect that dinosaur…

    If you don't agree with me so far, remember that Prof McAllister (who made the speech in English) has been a parliamentary candidate for Plaid Cymru, and Lord Elis Thomas, who made the 'language facists' comment (for which he has apparently apologised), is a current Plaid Cymru assembly member and, indeed, formerly lead that 'nationalist' party! I wonder then should your blog title have been ""And you wonder why ANTI Welsh-nationalists are sometimes considered out-of-touch?"

  • Gilbert

    A second post from me on this one, badly dubbedster, as your reactionary comments cannot go unchallenged! The whole point of the Eisteddfod is that it is a celebration of Welsh-language culture. That is its raison d'etre. It is the only such event in the world, and for that reason draws visitors from all over the globe. The rule that all ceremonies/events etc are in Welsh was brought in half a century ago when the Eisteddfod was quickly becoming an English-language event (and as such, one amongst thousands of English-language festivals throughout the world, rather than a unique Welsh-language festival).

    The Eisteddfod this year (held in Newport, Gwent) got 150,000 visitors (equivalent to 3 million attending a UK event) in an area close to the English border where 95% of the population do not speak Welsh. Amongst other things it offers a unique opportunity for Welsh-learners to spend a week in a fully Welsh-speaking environment, an experience which would be denied them were the Eisteddfod to go bilingual. So that is what the Eisteddfod is. Everyone who attends knows this – that's why they go. And there's nothing stopping anyone from setting up an equivalent English-languge festival in Wales, if they want to.

    As regards rules, either everyone follows them or no-one. Prof MacAllister speaking in English was an attack on the Welsh-languge status of the Eisteddfod (as a professor who has written books on Welsh politics she hardly did this out of naivety). If the Welsh rule were not followed, the Eisteddfod's unique place as the only major festival in the world held through completely through the medium of Welsh would go. The people who complained at Prof MacAllister did not want that to happen. They were hardly 'facist' for saying so, as the logical result of not complaining was to support a less-diverse, more uniform world, with another part of a minority group's culture disappearing for good.

    I understand people's reaction to seeing this story without a context. But the context you give it: 'Would you expect a native Italian to speak flawless English at a town meeting?' is misleading in a big way – we're not talking about a situation where there is only one English-speaking town left in the world which is under huge pressue to speak Italian. That's the difference.

    Taking a liberal Guardian-reader's 'let everyone do as they want' viewpoint on this is not really on (and I say that as a Guardian reader, of course).

  • So a Plaid Cymru candidate speaking in English (after first speaking in Welsh, but finding it easier to express herself in English) constitutes "an attack on the Welsh-languge status of the Eisteddfod"? A one-time event in a mostly-Welsh-language festival? Puh-leeze.

    As for the Guardian-reader's viewpoint on it, erm… the point of principles is that they're principles that are supposedly applied everywhere. Would you expect a native Italian to speak flawless English at a town meeting? If you do, then fair enough – and I'd say you make no allowances for the way the world has moved on and become globalised over the last 10 years. And I'd say you need to wake up, smell the roses, and fight people who oppose Welsh language status within Wales. Not friends of yours who at least make the attempt.

    Oh, and of course, try using a proper email address instead of ducking and diving. At least Ms. McAllister had the courage to be identified. Do you?

  • I think that everyone should stop bickering, i am 18 years old think that these people saying you should have to be from that country to be iving there are pathetic.
    My new born baby is welsh but i moved down here in 1998 and was made to feel quite uncomfortable by wlesh neighbours because i could not speak their language.
    And the same for the English i am asshamed to say they do the same back.

    I just wish everyone could grow up and drop this feud.

  • Chris220

    It seems that the point has again been overlooked. To wit, there are more non-Welsh speakers in Wales than those that do. To my reckoning it is a dead language anyway especially with the incorporation of many English words due to lack of Welsh equivilents. It further reinforces what the vast majority of the UK perceive of Wales/Welsh. You have an unbridled hatred for those people to the East who
    have paid for your existence for centuries due to having no discernable
    industry infrastructure. This translates as a complex when not taken
    seriously when you speak in a gradually declining language that no-one
    understands. Further to your hatred, Welsh have no ethical problems with using
    the facilities and wealth that this country offers and then continually
    slight it at every opportunity. Finally, because of dwindling numbers, you attempt to align yourselves with other nations by labelling yourselves a 'Celt'. No
    longer are you a member of an irrelevant sect but part of a larger and somehow
    worthy race. Plaid Cymru? It's a joke and a testament to die-hard fanaticism.

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