Friday, 15 July 2011

I wonder, does the dragon have two tongues ...

... or might it have a forked tongue.  You can decide for yourself, read it here.

The essence of the article is, I believe ...
If people want to write in Welsh, then they are welcome to do so providing they spend another hour at the end translating it into English. Furthermore, some people were concerned that they were being excluded from the debate, and that whilst it is fine for people to speak Welsh, if they want to write about an issue of national importance, it is their duty to do so in English so that everyone can understand. Even if, it seems, that the article in question is about the Welsh language channel, S4C!
These comments angered me. But, rather than just arguing with people on twitter about it, I wanted to widen the debate so that we have the opportunity to discuss maturely why some people felt so aggrieved by our decision to publish something in Welsh.
Being bilingual, and having the right to use both my languages as I like is important to me. Welsh is my first language, and I find it extremely offensive if people suggest that I don’t have the right to use it as I wish in my own country. It is an integral part of me. I think in Welsh. I dream in Welsh. I write my diary and write my daily to-do list in Welsh. I’m not trying to be difficult, awkward, stubborn or offensive. I’m not trying to exclude you or take a stance. I’m simply being me. I express myself better in Welsh, and feel more comfortable speaking in Welsh rather than in English.
penned by Heledd Fychan who chairs Plaid Cymru's research group
Is she correct, is it unreasonable to expect an English translation of Welsh language contributions to a blog such as Wales Home, of course it is unreasonable, but the contribution is not authored by Heledd Fychan, we are discussing a paper written and signed off by Bethan Jenkins, a Welsh Assembly politician, concerning an organisation with a budget of £100 million of British taxpayers money, such objections that I have made are very reasonable.

I believe the staff of Bethan Jenkins have protested too much, the public were initially excluded from the conversation at Wales Home, and the proof rests with the Plaid Cymru website where both versions are available.  If Bethan Jenkins and her staff were truly inclusive in this matter they would have waited until both Plaid Cymru versions were complete and then offered the contribution for publishing at the Wales Home website so that everyone was included, unless of course it wasn't meant to be inclusive. 


  1. Speaking as a mere Englishman (though one whose mother and father were from Aberdare) I find Plaids Cymru's attitude to most Welsh folk as rather strange.

    Welsh is a cultural and heritage language. I can understand that people who speak Welsh, wanting to use it, and good for them.

    But most Welsh people (75-80%) do not speak Welsh. I would have thought that ensuring that they had access to important policy statements was a duty of any political party.

    Excluding the 80% because they do not comply to the Plaid Cymru benchmark of Welshness smacks a little of elitism. Perhaps a simple apology for not translating due to the "unforeseen circumstances" would have been a little more inclusive than the tirade from Heledd.

    I don't expect the 80% are particularly impressed by being regarded as second class citizens in their own land.

    Maybe it explains why Plaid Cymru did so badly in the recent elections?

  2. Hi Bill, only a little more than 11% speak Welsh to a standard fit for debate, but it is the weapon of choice for many nationalists, what else do they have.

    They have been putting a lot of effort into nation building through Welsh medium education, unfortunately the language has very little use for youngsters outside school and government, with the average teenager preferring an Xbox to politics it has been a loosing battle.

    The other bow in the armoury of Welsh nationalism has been S4C, unfortunately it has very poor audience numbers and costs £100 million a year, hence the current debate about funding and oversight.

    I wanted to be able to participate in the conversation, I think S4C has a role to play in the formal teaching of Welsh in English medium schools, so that children could experience that part of their heritage that is presently the preserve of the few.

    Not going to happen I'm afraid, nationalists want it for themselves; but only as long as you and me continue to cough up the funding.

  3. I wanted to be able to participate in the conversation

    John, you ARE participating in the conversation by writing about it here. You are also able (and willing, from what I have seen) to discuss S4C on 1001 other sites on which the future of S4C has been the topic. What you seem to be objecting to is ANY discussion on S4C being held in the language in which the channel is broadcast; which seems a bit extreme, even by your standards :-(

  4. A point of information, Heledd Fychan isn't a member of Bethan Jenkins' Staff she works at the National Museum of Wales.

  5. Heledd Fychan also wrote elsewhere she was a researcher with Plaid, she also wrote she altered the dates of publication. More to the point, Jenkins is a politician ..... and S4C belongs to the taxpayers in full, everyone has a "right" to be able to understand what she says, otherwise how can we judge her at the next election.

    I do take exception to your "You are also able (and willing, from what I have seen) to discuss S4C on 1001 other sites on which the future of S4C has been the topic."

    These days I rarely opinion on other sites, yours occasionally, Betsan sometimes, WalesHome if it is topical and political, the 995 others are figments of your imagination. I never comment as anonymous.

  6. John, I suspect that you are confusing Heledd's voluntary position as the chair of Plaid Cymru's Research Group with that of an AMs paid researcher. Plaid's research group is a committee that goes back into the mist of time to a period when the party didn't have two ha'pennies to rub together never mind enough money to pay researchers.

    I didn't suggest that you made anonymous comments anywhere, (if you did I wouldn't know that Anon was you), I just pointed out that there are plenty of places where you are willing and able to voice your opinion on S4C and other matters, and that you are not being excluded from the debate in any way because some of us choose to debate in a language that you don't understand.

    Do you feel excluded from debates about the Euro-crisis because some commentators have voiced their opinions in Greek, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese?

  7. In reverse ...

    The idea that I might wish to follow the Euro-crisis in Greek for example didn't enter my mind, the topic is covered in such depth by the countries you mention using English, besides which I haven't migrated to Greece so have little interest in the crisis regarding the feelings of the Greek man or woman in the street. I am interested in its effect on the UK only.

    The S4C debate ... there is little debate in the English medium, as I have said before where a politician enters the arena he or she must expect to debate using both languages, to present a paper/position in Welsh without a translation is without a doubt, in my opinion, exclusion. On the other hand if you personally write using Welsh in a personal blog, that's quite rightly your prerogative. Bethan Jenkins brings to a debate the legitimacy of election, it should bring a responsibility to include, it didn't happen, and I complained, if she had presented the paper/position in her personal blog I could not complain, Wales Home is a very public place of debate.

    To suggest, as Heledd Fychan did, that a Google translation will give the reader the gist of the meaning and should be sufficient is I feel insulting. She became involved because .... I don't know, did someone ask her.

    Whoever she might work for, she is involved with Bethan Jenkins and her staff, and as such projected herself as spokesperson for the politician, let me remind you of what she said in her personal capacity ...

    "Being bilingual, and having the right to use both my languages as I like is important to me. Welsh is my first language, and I find it extremely offensive if people suggest that I don’t have the right to use it as I wish in my own country."

    This from a person who stood at the last election for Plaid Cymru, what exactly is she saying to the 90% of people who do not have sufficient Welsh ....

    ... also, is she speaking on behalf of BJ.

    Notable at Wales Home, BJ hasn't at the time of writing responded as writers usually do ....

  8. Quite a number of bigoted remarks here I'm afraid. It is by no means unreasonable to post something in Welsh and then altter post it in English. Welcome to the real world of the Welsh speaker. I can name you numerous Plaid Cymru politicians who release press statements only in English for us Welsh speakers having to fight tooth and nail for a version in our language. I could name you ten times more a Labour/Conservative/Liberal Democrat politician who serves a bilingual electorate yet only produce literature in English.

    The fact of the matter is a translation was provided. I operate a bilingual blog, I post first in Welsh as it's the language I convey myself better in. I then go at it an hour o so latter to produce an English version. Why? So that they both have time in the blog rolls and also so I ensure quality of debate in both languages. Many here are deeming Welsh as something extra rather than something real. That isn't the case.

    I've blogged on something similar here - Is there really linguistic apartheid in Wales -