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Embracing a New Dialect – Part 1

Sep 15, 2014

The identity of a culture is often linked with its language, but what happens when that language changes? This blog is the first in a series on the evolution of different languages and how they are affecting people all over the world.

The native language of Wales has been in steady decline for a number of years now. Between 2001 and 2011, the percent of people who speak it fell from 21% to 19%. The region most affected by this decline was the rural northern and western heartland (pictured in the map). This is largely due to native speakers leaving work and being replaced by English-speakers.

Welsh culture and identity is one that is very closely linked to the Welsh language. As a result of the recent language shift to English in most parts the government has taken action to try to help save their language. Almost 25% of all primary school children are now taught in Welsh. Some jobs, such as Civil-service and media, still require frequent use of the Welsh language. As a result, the growth of this overall declining language can be seen in politically dense regions like Cardiff.

The difference is that the Welsh being spoken in schools and on the streets is not what most native speakers are accustomed to. “So bloody fake” was how one man described it and Daniel Glyn, a local comedian, mocked the dialect by saying, “I can speak English and Welsh, but neither of them proper, bach.”

Colin Nosworthy, a spokesman for the Welsh Language Society, is a supporter of the new dialect, stating that the birth of a new dialect is actually good for a language. “Better a slack Welsh than a slick English” is his thought on the dialect, and many agree with him.

The support of this new dialect is one of the better methods being used to preserve the Welsh language. Other protesters have held up roughly 6,000 construction jobs and 8,000 homes to keep non-Welsh speakers out of them. With that in mind, allowing schoolchildren to speak a few awkward phrases seems like a much smaller price to pay.

Languages are always changing, evolving, and adapting as time moves on and the users of it change. Some users fully embrace the change, while others try to hold onto the older, more proper forms of a language. Look for our next blog in this series to find out how the English language is changing and what people think of it!