[lg policy] Event in Cardiff, 27 June: Potential positive and negatives in the Welsh Government's drive for increased bilingualism

Dave Sayers dave.sayers at CANTAB.NET
Thu May 22 11:07:42 UTC 2014

I've managed to convince the estimable Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, 
Data & Methods (WISERD), in association with the Social Research Association, to host 
me and some associates of mine for a panel discussion about language policy issues in 
Wales. It will take place in Cardiff on 27 June, with a fascinating series of talks, 
and a talk by me :)

The web page for the event, including synopses of the talks and booking information, 
is here:

And for your convenience, here's the blurb from that page:

This panel discussion will review the Welsh Government’s drive for increased 
bilingualism, and offer a balanced look at the potential for both positive and 
negative outcomes to emerge from these language policy interventions, based on recent 

The wider context for this discussion is a prevailingly optimistic cross-party 
political consensus about the need for increased bilingualism, a mix of optimism and 
agnosticism in academic fields, and a vibrant (sometimes heated) hubbub of civic 
debate in the Welsh public sphere. We hope to inform all angles of this debate with 
insights from research into Welsh language policymaking, Welsh-English bilingual 
schooling, and Welsh-language broadcasting.

1.00pm	Welcome and introduction by WISERD

1.25pm	Chair’s introduction, Professor Gwynedd Parry, Professor of Law and Legal 
History, Director of the Hywel Dda Research Institute, Swansea University

1.45pm	Potential positives and negatives in Welsh language policy documents, Dr. Dave 
Sayers, Sheffield Hallam University & Swansea University
This talk discusses the different priorities stated in the Welsh Government’s 
flagship policy documents published over the last decade. Overall these texts tend to 
prioritise the Welsh language as an end in itself, separately prioritised over and 
above the pursuit of human wellbeing. At least, that is the balance reflected in the 
explicit wording of these texts. Understandably this is not the whole story; there 
are clearly layers of implicit meaning within plans to increase bilingualism, to do 
with community empowerment and cultural survival. Nevertheless there is a shortfall 
in how those additional meanings are articulated. Meanwhile policy texts contain some 
justifications for excluding individuals from the workforce as a result of low Welsh 
proficiency, which could be a palpable detriment to those employees’ wellbeing. There 
are clear potential positive and negatives in Welsh language policy texts, which 
emerge under this sort of close reading.

2.15pm	Potential positives and negatives in bilingual education, Dr. Charlotte 
Selleck, University of Copenhagen
This talk discusses the findings of an ethnographic study among young people in a 
south-west Wales town, including two contrasting schools: one predominantly 
Welsh-medium and one predominantly English-medium. The findings suggest that 
students’ experiences of ‘choice’ (a watchword of Welsh language policy) are 
inconsistent. Positive aspects include encouraging young people to foster pride and 
enthusiasm in the Welsh language amongst each other, encouraging both increased 
bilingualism and a sense of shared identity. Meanwhile negative outcomes are felt 
through top-down directives from teaching staff, urging Welsh use and sanctioning 
English – spurring tensions and, paradoxically, rebellions towards English. There are 
deeply fundamental questions at play here. By inadvertently fostering such rebellion, 
are current tendencies towards ‘separate’ bilingualism hastening the very language 
shift they aim to prevent? Can the Welsh language be strengthened by a more open and 
flexible approach, or would this be ineffective in the long run? And if the future of 
the Welsh language is ultimately down to younger generations, then how can power and 
control be delivered to them?

2.45pm	Potential positives and negatives in Welsh language broadcasting, Dr. Elen 
Robert, Cardiff University
With a remit to broadcast principally in the Welsh language, Sianel Pedwar Cymru 
(S4C) has a number of internal language policies specifying how Welsh should be used. 
There are written downstream of Welsh Government policy, sharing many of its 
principles. Particular attention is paid to avoiding borrowings from English. 
Professional broadcasters carefully control their use of Welsh terminology, while 
non-professional participants (members of the public invited on to discuss an issue) 
are not under such official constraints. There are potential positive and negative 
outcomes here, discussed in this talk with findings from a detailed analysis of S4C 
broadcasts. These include heartening cases of productive accommodation between 
broadcasters and guests where English borrowings are used, and contrasting tensions 
relating to the ‘correct’ form of a given word. There is also an issue of potential 
employment barriers in S4C itself, for those who are proficient in Welsh but who may 
use English borrowings for various reasons. This feeds into a wider debate over 
language purism, defending Welsh from perceived infiltration, and whether this is the 
most effective way to promote the language.

3.15pm	Discussion

4.15pm	Close

Hope to see you all there!


Dr. Dave Sayers
Senior Lecturer, Dept Humanities, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Honorary Research Fellow, Arts & Humanities, Swansea University, UK
dave.sayers at cantab.net | http://swansea.academia.edu/DaveSayers
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