Very occasionally, people are downright nasty to Welsh learners.
I’d love to say it never happens – but it does – it happened to me, once, and left me feeling faintly murderous for months afterwards. I’ve never really talked about it, until now.
It ISN’T the norm, though – as we say every time one of our learners asks nervously how people are going to respond to them trying out their Welsh.
The norm is warm, enthusiastic support.
But if you *do* run into a nasty one, I hope my experience will help you breathe deeply, ignore them and carry on…:-)
I’m not going to name names, but let’s just say he was a pretty nasty piece of work in other ways as well.
I was standing in a shop – he knew who I was (this level of nastiness does NOT happen at random from strangers) – and he snarled ‘You’ll NEVER belong here, and this will NEVER be your language.’
It seems clearer to me now – that’s pretty much the mating call of the common-or-garden racist – YOU WILL BE EXCLUDED, PERSON WHO IS NOT LIKE ME.
At the time, I was torn between laughing and detonating a small nuclear device, but I was fresh out of small nuclear devices, so I settled for a kind of puzzled growl-laugh.
Of course, I thought of plenty of ways in the following weeks that my puzzled growl-laugh could have been rather more witty or cutting or clever (or just involved any words at all, really).
But now here’s the thing…
It was, of course, absurd – as are so many of the more poisonous contributions to public debate these days.
My grandfather came from a few miles from where we were standing, and I have family scattered all round the place – so the fact my parents lived overseas for a decade or so means I’m no longer part of my own family?!
And Welsh is the language of my home, the language of my children, the language I eat and breathe and live and sleep in – anyone who reckons it’s still not MY language, please feel free to come and try to take it away from me…;-)
But none of that matters.
It doesn’t matter, because our relationship with a language or a culture is utterly personal.
It’s not up for debate – it’s not up for other people’s opinion – it is simply a matter of how we feel and what we choose.
So if you *do* run into a nasty one, remember that – if they have a go at you about the language, or coming from England, or coming from a different part of Wales, or whatever way their poison comes out – realise that they’re just looking for ways to attack.
If it wasn’t the language, it would be something else – maybe your accent, or the colour of your skin, or the clothes you wear – nasty people look for ways to attack, and it’s usually because they’re deeply unhappy themselves.
What we must never do, though – in any sphere of our lives – is let the existence of damaged, unhappy, angry people stop us from living how we choose, from loving how we choose, from being who we choose.
So if you feel *nervous* about learning Welsh, because you’re worried about how people will react…
Please *don’t* be.
I know it’s not like a switch – lights on, lights off – but breathe through it, name your fear, realise that it couldn’t be much worse than I faced (unless it involved axes somehow), and see that NOTHING can stop you.
If you choose to be a Welsh speaker, NOTHING can stop you.
And the vast majority of Welsh speakers you meet will be delighted that you’ve made that choice. ❤
And if you’re not sure how to get started – or if you feel a bit stuck – give SaySomethinginWelsh a whirl – we’ve got a reputation for being particularly good at getting people talking with confidence and a good accent.
It doesn’t have to take much time, either – our ‘6 Minute a Day’ course gets great results:
As Louise Evans says:
“All I can say is give it a go.
“I originally ‘learned’ Welsh 35 plus years ago via traditional second language methods. Of course I did learn some and did my best to use it but it was all bound up with the concerns of using the right grammer, learning to write and read it at the same time.
“The beauty of this six mins a day course, is that it doesn’t do that. It sneeks the grammer in, little by little, and it’s flexible. Some days I do more than others, some less. But I think that I fit far more learning minutes in doing this than any one hour a week evening class.
“I’ve downloaded the lessons and listening practices so that I can listen and practice off line. I’m able to toddle along at a pace that suits me with gentle encouragement from Aran Jones and his team. You’ve nothing to lose, go for it.”