The value of Welsh
It would have been far easier, and would have guaranteed more views, had I entitled this piece “What’s the cost of Welsh”? But that would be feeding in to the culture that is prevalent when the Welsh language is being discussed, the obsession around cost and an ignorance of value.
The cost of Welsh. This appears to be the prime bone of contention of those who appear to have a problem with Welsh. This argument is a historic one and despite “their” protestations they still appear to be under the pretention that somewhere in a South Wales valley a print works is churning out millions official documents, bills and communications in English AND WELSH at great expense to the taxpayer.
Whilst making this claim they conveniently forget that Welsh speakers also pay taxes. Non Welsh speakers who send their children to Welsh school (parents and grandparents) pay taxes. They are the people giving the benefits of a bilingual education, these non Welsh speakers, who according to every survey conducted in recent memory, think the Welsh language is something that should be treasured, ALSO PAY TAXES.
Print costs may have had an impact a few moons ago, but today thanks to the age we live in the vast majority of such communication is now digital. I don’t know about you, but my postwoman is now mostly redundant, it’s only parcels I get in the post these days, bills and communications from central and local government come via my inbox. Print costs don’t come into it anymore. So that’s point one answered.
“But what about the cost of translation”? “Angry” from Cardiff retorts. The cost of creating a template, which answers the issue as far as bills go is peanuts, literally, in the grand scheme of things. Yes, there is a translation cost associated in translating things from Welsh to English (it does go the other way as well you know) and from English to Welsh. I would be fascinated to learn the total costs, weighed against the benefits such communications provide. Add to this the advances in machine translation, the matter of cost pales in to insignificance.
Even major international companies are realising the benefits of communicating with the Welsh language community via the medium of the language of heaven. As digital language technologies develop we will see more content appearing online in Welsh, not less, as translation and AI platforms improve. Point two put to bed, I hope.
The final claim, and oh boy does this upset some, is that the “Welsh language is forced” on people, mainly via their throats. When challenged as to where this is the case there are two places this is prevalent. First, road signs. According to the most recent statistics I could find for Wales and the UK, it appears that Wales isn’t awash with people careering off roads as they choke amidst the chaos that the bilingual signs cause on our highways. Second, in schools. Imagine the horror that in a country where Welsh is classed as an official language and where 1 in 5 can speak it that children are taught Welsh, along with Geography, History, English, Maths, Science, RE, PE….. I was forced as a child to learn about Shakespeare, oxbow lakes, and pollination and didn’t suffer any adverse affects. Granted, how Welsh is taught as a second language in secondary schools needs looking at, and I’m glad to report that this is currently the case. We need to equip all young people in Wales, first and second language with the necessary skillset to reap the benefits from bilingualism. “They should be learning a useful language like German, French or Mandarin”, is the other standard response, well guess what, being able to speak Welsh as well as English is beyond useful, and not just in Wales.
The benefits of bilingualism are well documented. I have yet to see a report where being fluent in more than one language is detrimental as opposed to being able to speak just one. Bilingualism opens another door in the mind. It places Wales in a unique position commercially. In an increasingly global digital economy, internationalisation of content is key. In Wales we have a workforce who can tap in to this market and bring financial benefits to ALL who reside in Wales.
So, the next time someone asks you what the Welsh language costs, explain to them its value.