That’s the single most common – and most painful – challenge for English people learning Welsh.
It’s kind of baked into the hills around here – it’s probably our single biggest weakness as a nation, and I don’t say that lightly.
And of course, the only English people who learn Welsh – in Wales or in England – are the ones who are PAYING ATTENTION.
And if they’re paying attention, they’re not going to miss that BIG STEAMING ATTITUDE thing.
In fact, many of them share it themselves – many English learners come to Welsh *nervously*, with a sense that they’re to blame – because almost by definition, they’re thoughtful people, and they have a more nuanced perception of things like the glories of Empire…;-)
Now, imagine this – imagine there’s something that you feel partly responsible for (even though you’re NOT), that you feel nervous about, that is difficult to do – and you DO IT ANYWAY.
Hell yes – we SHOULD be celebrating those people more.
So here’s the thing I’d like all our English learners – and any English people who are interested in Welsh, even if they’re not learning – to hear:
It is NOT your fault.
No, it ISN’T.
[I can already see the ‘Oh yes it is!’ comments coming in, and I haven’t even posted this yet….;-) Don’t worry, I’ll be deleting any nasty stuff.]
Here’s why it is NOT your fault.
The relationship between Wales and England hasn’t been a bed of roses. In fact, it’s pretty amazing that a tiny little country, tucked into the very armpit of the most powerful empire the world has seen, still exists.
Wales is against the odds. I’m not denying history.
English people are NOT the problem now.
I know – I’ve campaigned about it – that inward-migration to Welsh-speaking areas is causing huge damage to the language.
But that is not the FAULT of those individuals.
Imagine what it must feel like to move somewhere that you consider to be pretty much the same as England – because that’s all you ever see or hear about it – and then your kids come home from school and you find out they’re being educated in a language you didn’t realise was a real thing.
Imagine the shock.
It’s not THEIR fault they didn’t know in advance.
It’s OUR fault.
We don’t (mostly) vote for politicians who are willing to highlight these issues – so we have a Welsh government which is unwilling to rock the boat – so there’s virtually no public discussion about this stuff – so people in England thinking about moving to Wales DON’T KNOW that it’s an issue.
That is OUR fault.
It’s up to us to change it, if we care enough.
Oh, and you know who’s going to help more than anyone else?
English people who are learning Welsh, that’s who.
Because they’ll stand with us – they’ll stand up to the people who tell them ‘What’s the point? Why don’t you learn a useful language?’ – they’ll stand up to the few remaining idiots who think that we shouldn’t teach our children through the medium of Welsh – they’ll even stand up to other English people who’ve moved to Wales and don’t have a single kind word for the language.
They’ll stand with us.
If you’re English, and you think it’s fair enough that the Welsh language exists – or even that it’s part of our shared global cultural wealth – or even that it’s interesting enough to learn…
Then you’re standing with us.
You’re seeing the value in small, beautiful things – instead of the bland tedium of gigantic monocultures.
It’s not your fault that Welsh is – still – in a precarious situation.
It’s to your lasting credit that you notice – and you care – and you become part of the solution.
Thank you. Diolch! From the bottom of my heart.
And if you haven’t started learning yet….;-)
Suffer greatly and achieve the remarkable in 6 months:
Or cruise casually to a level of confidence you didn’t think was possible:
Know any English people who need to be told that it isn’t their fault, and that we see and celebrate them?
Do please share…:-)