Yesterday’s piece about my grandparents, and the beginning of Welsh being lost in our family, struck a chord with some of you.
But in most cases, it’s not a one generational thing – it takes a couple of generations for the language to be completely lost.
That’s exactly what happened to us.
My mother was a war baby – and my Nain moved with her from London to my Taid’s family in Pen Llŷn when the bombing started.
She was there on the outskirts of Rhydyclafdy until she was about 6, we think – her memory isn’t particularly reliable on this.
She’s always said that she only spoke Welsh until then – and in the little bits of Welsh she’s willing to use now with our kids when she thinks we’re not listening, you can certainly hear some first language patterns. And her grandparents would definitely have spoken Welsh to her, and she spent some time at the primary school in Rhydyclafdy, which would have been Welsh only.
I’ve never been sure about the idea that my Nain spoke Welsh to my mother, though – just because I never heard her speak Welsh myself. And I know my great-aunt used to visit, and she definitely didn’t speak Welsh.
So it was probably a fairly bilingual environment, at the least – the kind of thing that is much more common these days, when the sheer muscle of English finds a way in pretty much everywhere.
But after the war, when my Taid came back from the Army, he and Nain moved to the south-east of England for work – and the story goes that my mother was bullied at school for not having any English, and so they decided to change the language at home to English (I suspect it probably was already).
Either way, she lost her Welsh then – adapting as quickly as we can now see children in Gwynedd doing the other way round – thanks to the fantastic immersion courses for children that the council should not even be THINKING about stopping funding.
And she met and married an Englishman – and that was it.
Apart from those little tastes of Welsh in Cwm Cynllwyd and y Felinheli in my first two or three years (my brother, born three and a half years after me, didn’t even get those), we were away overseas and the language of that side of our family was dead.
And once it’s dead, it’s really dead.
It doesn’t just spark back into life by accident.
It’s dead for good.
Unless we DO something about it…
Which is what I did – the best thing I’ve ever done – and it’s what I see more and more people my age and younger doing.
I’ll explain how that happened to me tomorrow.
In the meantime – if you’re on the verge of winning your own language back – have a look at these: