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Eisteddfod message: be positive about our language's prospects.

Byline: Dafydd Wigley Former Plaid MP writes for the Daily Post

Our national anthem is, arguably, the most stirring in the world. Rugby players assert how Hen Wlad fy Nhadau has roused them before an international match. Athletes are moved to tears on the victor's podium.

Wales soccer players recall how the anthem, sung spontaneously by Welsh supporters in France, provided that extra edge.

The refrain - "Gwlad! Gwlad!" - delivers a spine-tingling impact. It concludes with the commitment "O bydded I'r hen iaith barhau!".

Not everyone who sings that line understands its meaning: "Oh that the old tongue shall survive!" If they understood, would they unequivocally commit to that objective? Do all those who understand, accept the message? The survival of the Welsh language is a 21st century miracle. But it can't be taken for granted.

As people gather in Anglesey next weekend for the National Eisteddfod, - we will again take the pulse of the language - and of the communities which sustain it.

Anglesey's foremost pianist, Iwan Llewelyn-Jones, stirred a hornet's nest by suggesting that singers might use other languages in the Eisteddfod.

This runs contrary to the Eisteddfod's central rule that Welsh is the only official language.

Efforts are made to help those who don't speak Welsh, by simultaneous translation and mobile interpretation. All visitors are welcome, whatever language they speak.

But rather than gaze at our navels and talk ourselves into a self-fulfilling doom, let's be positive about our language's prospects.

Let's respond constructively to Carwyn Jones' ambition of securing a million Welsh-speakers by 2050.

An impossible target? Certainly not!

But it won't be achieved by empty words and vague assertions. Just as Wales needs a detailed plan to achieve the economic goals of successive governments - so also there must be a detailed language strategy focussed on delivering, step by step, the First Minister's target.

This needs a revolution in nursery and primary schools, so that every child is fully bilingual by the age of eleven. Thereafter, the language should be normalized as a mainstream characteristic of secondary education.

Adults should be encouraged to learn Welsh in imaginative ways which create interest and enthusiasm. Outside education, the use of Welsh should be stimulated wherever possible.

Equally, an economic revolution must ensures that our young people have job-opportunities to remain in Wales, or return home after gleaning experience elsewhere.

For the language won't survive if those who speak it are forced to leave in search of work. The unexpected drop of 20,000 Welsh-speakers in Wales between 2001 and 2011, is wholly explained by the number of young Welsh-speakers who departed to seek work.

An economic plan and a language plan, are the two sides of the same coin. The success of each plan needs resource allocation and personal commitment.

Which brings us back to our anthem. Please, everyone who sings that stirring refrain, don't just mouth the words as a meaningless chant.

The Welsh language belongs to us all, whether or not we speak it. As responsible guardians, let's sing with conviction, that "the old tongue shall survive"! And let's make it happen!

See you at the Eisteddfod!
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Publication:Daily Post (Conwy, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 27, 2017
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