Wales: various letters to editor

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Tue Nov 18 18:30:41 UTC 2008

Plea for language opt-out nothing new

SIR – I am writing in exasperation at the news that Milford Haven town
council wishes to get out of the provisions of the Welsh Language Act
1993 on the grounds of cost. This is nothing new, it is an old
chestnut. As a student at Swansea University between 1982 to 1985 I
attended a particular meeting of the National Union of Students. Union
policy was that all clubs and societies had to produce literature in
English and in Welsh. The athletic union proposed an opt-out because
of the added costs incurred in production of bilingual leaflets.

I opposed the motion, which was carried largely with the support of
Middle Eastern students with no commitment to Wales. I do not believe
that the National Assembly will allow Milford's opt-out, it would
merely open the floodgates to similar request by other local
authorities. The Welsh Language Act 1993 is an Act of Parliament and
only Parliament can repeal it. There can be no exceptions or opt-outs
to the Act. Opting out would be breaking the law.

The all-Wales accord of May 2007, which established the Labour Plaid
Cymru coalition in Cardiff Bay, says of the Welsh language "it belongs
to us all, whether we speak it or not and we are also united in our
commitment to achieving our dream of a genuinely bilingual country". A
great many people campaigned for many years to achieve the Welsh
Language Act 1993. It established for the first time, the equality of
the English and Welsh languages within Wales, if only in the public
sector. That principle of linguistic equality is priceless and the
National Assembly of Wales is the guardian of this equality and our
national identity.

SM Oliver

Trefechan, Aberystwyth

Four reasons Welsh speakers are shy

SIR – The article on the use made of Welsh language services (Nov 11)
was interesting but, as always, some of the statistics merit probing
and analysis.

As someone who is (reasonably) fluent in Welsh as a result of years of
effort, I think I can see the complexities of the problem.

Historically, the low take-up of some Welsh services by people raised
in a Welsh-speaking home is, I believe, the product of those years
when virtually all Welsh-speakers were dragooned into an all-English
education (even in some cases in Welsh literature lessons!) and the
stamping out of Cymraeg was seen as England's mission – aided by
indoctrinated, misguided Welsh teachers and administrators etc.

Cymraeg has survived – but in the 1960s and '70s I remember being
surprised at how Welsh-speakers in Gwynedd would be much more at home
speaking Welsh, but preferred to switch to English for writing and
reading when dealing with any form of officialdom.

Had they been educated through the medium of Welsh, and with living in
Welsh-speaking areas, the story would surely be different.

Why, today, do fluent Welsh-speakers sometimes not resort to Welsh
language helplines, forms etc?

First, you have to know they are available.

Second, I have at times phoned a so-called Welsh language line only to
be told no-one is available or been refused a Welsh version of a form
as they have none.

Third, we all live hectic lives and some people who are less than
fluent or still learning feel that they prefer the speed of
skim-reading an English form rather than the slower grasp of
"official", formal Welsh.

Fourth, in a bilingual society there should be choice – and a
Welsh-speaker has the right to choose (especially if they lack the
confidence to use Welsh when face to face with an official).

However, as we are engaged in a struggle to ensure the healthy
continuity of Cymraeg for future generations, all Welsh-speakers
should (in my humble opinion) make the effort to use Welsh when
offered: bank machines, BT bills, helplines etc.

I have to admit that at times I struggle with some Welsh leaflets and
forms – but I persevere because (as they say) practice makes perfect.
And without any doubt, the spreading use of Welsh in the "official"
and commercial world has helped me improve my Welsh.

As for fluent Welsh-speakers, perhaps they should realise, (or in my
case, remember) the long catalogue of sacrifices made in the '60s and
'70s by language activists, people who were jailed, who had the
bailiffs in, who were heavily fined, who were ridiculed by some of the
media – all to achieve the basic and just language rights we enjoy

Efallai fe ddylwn i ymddiheuro am sgrifennu y llythyr yma yn Saesneg!


2 Llewellyn Street, Nantymoel

Can't we just celebrate diversity?

SIR – Just who on earth are these people who complain that the Welsh
language is being "forced" on them? And, more importantly, where on
earth do they live – not in the same country as me surely?

I have lived in various locations in Wales for 53 years and I have
never, ever, been forced to speak, read, listen to or write Welsh.
Wherever Welsh is used in public life there is also an option to
access English and nobody can claim that Welsh is forced on them in
their private life.

Instead of complaining about differences can't we celebrate our
diversity and treasure the things which make us special and distinct,
one of which is our ancient but living language?


Llanwddyn, Powys


Calzaghe is an A* Welsh ambassador

SIR – King Calzaghe indeed! What an apt front page headline by the
Western Mail on Monday followed by an excellent coverage inside as
well as an extremely supportive editorial comment and rightly so.

What a phenomenal Welsh fighter from Newbridge – Calzaghe from Cymru !

He has stayed extremely loyal to his roots, family and friends from
that area and is undoubtedly an A* ambassador for his beloved Wales.

His career surely ranks as the most outstanding one in Welsh, British
and World boxing – a living legend with a long, undefeated
professional career.

Maybe his really final swansong will take place on home ground after
all at the Millennium Stadium in the near future and here's one fan
that will definitely be there.

In the meantime, however, I look forward to his pending CD (recorded
with the Stereophonics) and DVD portraying his life story.

Llongyfarchiadau gwresog i ti Joe a gobeithio un diwrnod mi fyddi di
yn Syr Joe !


Llangain, Carmarthen

Digital switch must give full English TV

SIR – The Welsh Assembly seems concerned that after digital switchover
some areas of Wales may not receive Welsh Language broadcasting, and
are contacting Ofcom and the broadcasters to attempt to remedy this.

I trust that the powers that be will now assure Welsh viewers and
taxpayers that, if a Welsh service is provided in every area, it will
be in addition to a full English Language service, and not instead of
a full service – after all, the reason uptake of satellite TV took off
faster in Wales than England was undoubtedly due to people's desire to
seek an alternative to the appalling S4C.

After all, England and Scotland receive S4C as well as a full English
language service on digital, and we in Wales pay the same TV tax as
them, and have a right to expect the same standard of service


Waunlwyd, Ebbw Vale

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