The interesting responses to my piece about belonging and America last week (coupled with one or two tired idiots banging on about ‘dead’ languages!) has got me thinking about what being international means for Welsh.
I’m often slow to pick up on things like this – as Spenny said in a comment last week, he was preaching internationalism for Welsh (as an Englishman who was building code for us out of the kindness of his heart) way back when we officially launched.
It took me until Washington last year to begin to catch up with him – even though we’ve had learners all round the world for years.
I’ve always believed that the geographical communities where Welsh is the ordinary day-to-day language are where we will either win or lose – where the language will either survive and thrive, or come to a painful and heart-breaking end.
I still believe that.
But the world is changing in interesting ways – community and belonging and identity are being formed in non-geographic ways more than ever before – and it’s dawning on me slowly that we can harness that.
Here’s how I see it working.
I said in Washington that Welsh is ALREADY an international language – you only have to look at our user maps (which have about 5% of our users on them) to see how true that is: https://www.saysomethingin.com/welsh/info/map – but it’s a micro-international language.
We know that there are people who come to Wales – and spend money in Wales – to use their Welsh.
We know that there are people in other countries using their Welsh to talk to other people who also aren’t in Wales – Americans talking to Finns, Australians talking to Argentineans, Italians talking to English people – all through the medium of Welsh.
We know that there are people – all over the world – gritting their teeth in frustration that so much of S4C’s content is geo-restricted.
We know there are people in other countries buying presents (for themselves or others) from companies in Wales BECAUSE those companies are Welsh, or use Welsh on their goods.
And we know that none of this is a passing whimsy.
It is about love and belonging and community.
And it’s all happening when we have just a few thousand serious international learners of Welsh.
Now, forget the present for a moment, and come with me on a quick imaginative tour of the future.
Our courses work wherever you are. So we have no limit on how many people we can help become Welsh speakers.
So we can have TENS of thousands of serious Welsh learners (I won’t be satisfied until we make that HUNDREDS of thousands, but maybe that’s another story).
Those TENS of thousands (or hundreds 😉 ) aren’t like Welsh speakers in Wales.
Welsh is more magical for them – less ordinary, less socially complicated.
So every single way we can make it possible for them to get involved, they WILL get involved – with energy and enthusiasm.
They’ll help drive serious business growth in Welsh-speaking communities.
They’ll help drive sales for content in Welsh – books, CDs, videos, websites, channels we haven’t even imagined yet.
They’ll help drive social change and education and attitudinal change, too.
Imagine how different it will be for people moving to Welsh-speaking communities when they know those communities have thousands of people visiting them every year IN ORDER TO SPEAK WELSH.
Imagine how different it will be for our children growing up knowing there is a global community of Welsh speakers – people to play games with, people to find out about other countries from, people to co-create with – all in Welsh.
Imagine all that extra confidence, and how it would shape Wales.
So yes, Spenny, okay, YOU were right…;-)
The international community is going to make a VITAL difference.
And we’re going to help that to happen by making it possible for more and more of them to become confident Welsh speakers.
And YOU (I’m not just talking to Spenny here, okay?!) can help make that happen by sharing this post, and telling people about our low-time-commitment high-results ‘6 Minutes a Day’ course:
And just in case you’re in any doubt – yes, we’re going to win this.
Welsh is going to flourish in the next 20 years like never before…:-)