Welsh, Cornish, Irish, Scottish, and Manx Dopers: how important is Celtic language revival to you?

I’m interested in linguistics, language death, and language revival, and there’s some exciting things going on with regard to the revival and promotion of the surviving Celtic languages in Britain: Irish Gaelic (Gaeilge), Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig), Manx (Gaelg), Welsh (Cymraeg) and Cornish (Kernewek). Cornish and Manx in particular were almost dead and gone but have enjoyed something of a resurrection as second languages. Wikipedia estimates there’s about 2,000 speakers of Cornish (most of them L2 learners, but a small number are bilingual native-speaking children) while Manx has about 100 people who can speak it fluently or reasonably well. Scottish Gaelic has about 60,000 speakers in Scotland. Estimates of Irish Gaelic speakers and their fluency vary, but is probably somewhere in the 500,00-1 million range for speakers who can use the language to some extent. Welsh manages about 600,000 speakers, about 20% of the population of Wales, which is pretty impressive.

Although I’m not trying to leave out the Breton speakers, I’m primarily interested in what the British Dopers who live in Wales, Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland (or for that matter England, if they have the interest) feel about the efforts to keep these languages alive. Do you speak any of the Celtic languages? Are you an L1 (native) or L2 (second language) speaker? Do you make any effort to learn one if not? If you have children or plan to have children, would it be important to you to send them to a school where they could learn a Celtic language? Are you interested in learning or speaking one of these Celtic languages because it’s part of your cultural heritage, or because you simply think it’s cool or worthwhile for some economic or personal reason?

The 20% figure for Welsh is somewhat impressive until you consider that the figure was 30% in 1950.

Without the advent of S4C and the 1993 Welsh Language Act (both mainly thanks to the efforts of Welsh-language proponents like Plaid Cymru, rather than the preservation instincts of the British government) it’d probably be dead already.

I’m Irish and spent my school years being forced to learn Irish. It was taught badly, it was difficult and it was unenjoyable. I haven’t spoken it since I left school. I never intend to speak it again. I’m not in the minority with this.

There is a bit of an uptake in the language at the moment though. Gaelscoileanna (schools that teach through Irish) are very en-vogue at the moment. I have nieces that go to one and they have picked up the language very easily. .

Either way the language seems to be picking up. But a lot of people in my age group have no interest in it.

Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass go.

It’s largely a North Wales thing. Few people in South Wales can speak Welsh, nor are they interested in speaking it.
In the Irish Republic instruction in the Irish language is compulsory, but in the past this was done in a rather heavy-handed manner, with the result that many people reacted sharply against it and refused to speak the language once they had left school and were no longer compelled to do so. The number of speakers in the Irish Republic who call themselves fluent (and who probably overestimate their abilities) continues to decline.

I’m english but come from the perspective of having a welsh partner.

She is not a fluent welsh speaker, coming from South Wales as she does, but my impression is that there’s immense pride in the language and that most welsh people know at least some of the language through compulsory classes at school. Her day-to-day language is peppered by welsh words, both accidental and intentional, and this seems to be true of all her friends and family. I remember her once remarking that she feels ‘ashamed’ that she doesn’t speak her national language fluently.

I can’t comment for Scotland as government and law is mostly operated from Edinburgh there, but with regards to government services and operations that encompass England and Wales, a LOT of money is spent by government keeping the welsh language alive. Basically, any piece of government communication is produced in both english and welsh. (check out the link to welsh on this government website: www.direct.gov.uk) Welsh translators are never short of work.

I used to do a lot of design work for the Land Registry (gov department that registers property across England and Wales) and ALL the huge amount of comms we sent to lawyers was produced in dual language - despite the fact that there won’t be a welsh lawyer alive who doesn’t speak english.

I’ve a hefty dose of Scots and Cornish and Viking in me and I’m not bothered. My main attitude is, ‘Get over it’.

By the way, you can gauge the dominance of Welsh in a given area by looking at the road signs. In an predominantly english speaking area (south east Wales) the road sign will list English first, e.g.

Hospital 1/2
Ysbyty 1/2

Drive 50 miles down the road and the road signs will start to read:

Ysbyty 1/2
Hospital 1/2

Don’t ask me how it’s pronounced.

Since the last speaker of Cornish died in 1709, how are we sure that the stuff they are teaching today (as Cornish) really is?
Sounds like this revival thing is doomed to fail-how do you update a language which hasn’t changed on 300+ years?

People have been publishing Cornish dictionaries, orthographies and grammars for about a hundred years. In any case, the last native speaker of Cornish did not die in 1709. The most recent surviving example of “original” Cornish text is a letter written by a fisherman in about 1760 - bemoaning the dearth of Cornish speakers, ironically enough.

That is the exact reason why I am against the Celtic language revival. When at a roundabout you have to go scan through 8 lines of text to find the exit you need instead of the usual 4.

Why can’t you retain your culture heritage and traditions without speaking the language? That is like saying because someone is deaf or mute, they will never be able to have culture or ethnic heritage.

Who said they couldn’t?

Ask us (the Hebrew speaking Israelis…) It **can **be done.
Of course, starting the process in the late 1800-s – before the Age of Information, and in an area of the world in which the Lingua Franca du Jour was not spoken at the time, probably helped. But yes, it can be done and has been done.

They do it, somehow, frequently by adapting english words. Welsh friend was talking about her computer the other day and said something that sounded like ‘dibitsi’. Apparently she was using the welsh word for 'digital.

I guess every language does this sort of borrowing, even the ‘live’ ones.

Not that much Irish is spoken in Britain.

In Northern Ireland there has been substantial progress in reviving the language, specifically in parts of Belfast and other urban areas. This is impressive in that a similar urban revival doesn’t seem to be as focused in the Republic of Ireland. However, Gaelscoileanna (Irish language schools) are thriving and multiplying, at least at Primary level. AFAIK there isn’t as much provision for continuing Irish language education into adulthood.

I think the revival of Irish is important to me and many others but am very well aware that it simply not an issue of huge import to many of my countrymen. I’m looking into attending an adult refresher course as I want to improve my Irish. I know several Gaeilgoirí in the Dublin area and a number of my cousins are fluent. Unfortunately there is a shame attached to Gaeilge for many non-native speakers, we feel clumsy speaking in Irish so it can be hard to get the ball rolling. I have passable conversational Irish but of course my English is far better.

I encounter a lot of retired folk who have the time who are getting into learning Irish. I doubt it will ever fully die out but as a “natural” language its days seem numbered.

Double Post, sorry folks.

In Irish you say everything twice!

To be sure, to be sure.

No one ever said or suggested that – and your example confuses me, because in my experience deaf people tend to be among the MOST passionate about their language (the various Sign Languages) and its preservation. You do *not *go popping your mouth off (or hands, or text, I guess) to them about it, or they’ll set you straight.

If there’s interest in the languages, and a will, then why not save them? I don’t think anyone could put forth any reasonable argument that there’s no aesthethic or cultural value in the Celtic languages. And there clearly *is *a will, or Manx and Cornish (which seriously were gasping their last) would not have been saved from extinction. It takes a lot of effort and love on the part of a lot of people to resurrect these languages, people who look at them and see not only a medium of communication with the world, or a part of their past, but also a part of their future.

I’m English, but of (very recent) Irish and Breton descent. I’d love to learn both languages, and I suspect at least a little part of the resurgence of interest in and funding of Celtic language learning is perhaps to do with people like me, who don’t have anything much to do with the places their ancestors came from, but who like the thought of it. Part of the whole ancestry.com thing, you know.

I’d also be interested to know whether the huge number of different languages coming into the UK has had any impact on people wanting to preserve the … I was going to say native languages of these islands, but of course there’s no such thing. Older than the newer ones. The UK’s pretty small; you don’t have to go far to hear a lot of different languages being spoken (the school where I teach has I think 73 first languages represented, at the last count). I wonder if it could be that people are inspired, either by envy of others speaking their own native tongues, or by wanting to exclude the “others” much as they’re excluded themselves when the others are speaking Polish or Punjabi, or by something else I can’t formulate at the moment. Apparently I’m too tired to even speak English. So much for learning Breton and Irish!