Wales: Language Phobia

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Mon Oct 27 21:06:35 UTC 2008

Language phobia

SIR – It's odd how particular forms of public spending are guaranteed
to enrage some of your readers. Hundreds of billions of pounds can be
spent bailing out greedy and reckless bankers – that's no problem.
£30bn on the ridiculous Trident missile update – that's fine. £25bn on
two new aircraft carriers – that's cool. Countless billions on illegal
wars and invasions – that's OK.

Billions for London's Olympic Games – not bothered, it's got to be
done. Millions for the upkeep of the English/ German royal family – no
worries, it's our heritage. Thousands for a Welsh- language TV series
on some of the world's major rivers – no way, that's way out of order!

This final extravaganza provoked one of your readers into writing the
angry letter that you published last Monday. Clearly KM Downes does
not believe that Welsh-speakers are deserving of the costs of
occasionally sending a film crew to the Yangtze, Nile or Ganges.

I suppose it would have cost less to produce a "Great Tributaries of
the Teifi" series.

An even cheaper option would have been to point a camera at a tap
dripping to the endlessly repeated soundtrack of Huw Jones' song

I'm afraid that if there is anything that can be made with fewer
resources it has so far eluded me.

However, I suspect that Mr Downes and his ilk will not stop
complaining until expenditure is reduced to zero and would only be
truly happy if the language ceased to exist.

Only he can tell us why he feels this way but thankfully the vast
majority of non-Welsh speakers bear no ill-will, and believe that the
language is an asset.

Usually their biggest regret is that they didn't have the chance to
learn the language at school and many are making sure that their own
children do have that opportunity.

Perhaps Mr Downes should try to tackle his Welsh language phobia in
the classical way, by gradually confronting his fears. He could start
by watching subtitled programmes on S4C. There's a very interesting
one with fine photography called "Yr Afon".

It's about some of the world's major rivers...

Pontcanna, Cardiff

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