So… MANY… interesting responses to my piece about America yesterday…
And I’ve GOT to share one of them – a fascinating piece of thought/explanation from Kass (see http://www.kassmcgann.com):
‘As an American who has felt this way about a language to which I have ancestral ties, please let me offer an explanation. Most Americans have their origins in another country. But the melting pot culture of America has always led our antecedents to reject their parent culture in an effort to “become American”. My grandfather did it with not speaking his Italian dialect to his children. I’m sure my Irish family did it in the 1840s so as not to appear “foreign”.
As a result, we Americans feel, very rightly, that something of our personal history has been taken away from us. You mentioned a few days ago how Welsh people sometimes feel that the English took away their language (and explained why that isn’t really true). As Americans, we did it to ourselves. But instead of pointing the finger at our grandparents, some of us decide to recover that language through study and practice.
To you, it may seem like we’re a little nutty (and maybe we are). Why would we want to put ourselves through the expense and bother of taking classes, spending hours studying, and even travelling across an ocean to learn a language that its native speakers have rejected?
Remember when you wrote about the kid in school who told you you aren’t Welsh because you weren’t born there and you didn’t live there and you don’t speak the language? We feel EXACTLY like that. In the US, we say, “I’m Welsh” and that means that I have Welsh ancestry. But come to Wales and say, “I’m Welsh” and they look at you like you’re out of your skull.
So yeah. Our passion comes from a very similar place to your passion, Aran. We’re just kinda one step removed.’
Isn’t belonging FASCINATING?
And language is such a crucial part of belonging – of all the complicated whirls of identity and connection.
Before I went to Washington, I thought it was *nice* that we had a lot of learners in America. Nice and interesting.
By the time I got home, I felt I’d been very slow to realise that it was much more than *nice* – that it was IMPORTANT.
I’m not entirely sure how just yet – but I have a stronger and stronger sense that Welsh learners outside of Wales are going to play an enormously important part in shaping the future of the language.
Which gives me a new and more urgent desire to show our online, video-supported courses to as MANY people as possible OUTSIDE Wales.
If we can keep the prices low, and find ways to reach all the people out there in this big old world who are genuinely, passionately interested – then maybe we can play a useful part in building the new, non-geographical layer of Wales…
So if you’d share this post with anyone in America interested in Wales, I’d be HUGELY grateful…:-)