Welsh Government proposals for growing the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050 have been officially launched at the Eisteddfod in Abergavenny.
The consultation paper sets out an ambition to create a Wales which responds in a planned way to the growing demand for Welsh-medium education, and increase the number of people learning and able to use the language with their families, in their communities and in the workplace.
The proposals look to set an ambitious direction for each area that influences the language and acknowledges the need for creativity if we are to reach the target of a million speakers.
They recognise the need for Government to lead the conversation but also work in partnership with many other institutions and organisations towards making the Welsh language central to public life in Wales.
The consultation will be run until the end of October and identifies six key areas for discussion:
- Planning - The Welsh language belongs to us all – it needs to be included in strategic planning to make it a part of every aspect of life.
- Make the language a normal part of everyday life - Goodwill is important. We want those who speak it to use it, and those who don’t to feel respect and goodwill towards the language.
- Education - The education system is an important part of introducing people to the Welsh language, whether it takes place during school, college or while learning as an adult.
- People - We want more Welsh speakers to pass the language on to their children, more places where the Welsh language is used, such as in the work place and more communities where Welsh is used naturally.
- Support - We need sound foundations for the language to grow. We want the building blocks, from dictionaries to digital tools, to be developed to help people live their lives through the medium of Welsh, and a varied and relevant Welsh language media.
- Rights - Laws give the language official status in Wales. There is already legislation to ensure services are provided in Welsh – we want to make sure that these laws remain effective and up to date.
The First Minister, Carwyn Jones said:
“We are a proudly bilingual nation. The Welsh Government has always recognised the significant contribution our language has made on our past, history and living culture, and will continue to do so.
“Since devolution we have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to preserving and growing the language. In 2011 we introduced legislation to protect the future of the language, and we are confident the discussion we are launching today will continue to help us grow the language so it thrives as a vibrant, living part of our communities.
“It is vital we support our most important resource, namely our people—those Welsh speakers across the country, whether fluent, lacking in confidence or learning. We need to continue to support people to use the language in increasingly practical, creative and fun ways. Our language influences music, stories, traditions and daily life.
“Vibrant Welsh speaking communities contribute to the diversity of the country, making Wales a place unlike any other to call home or indeed visit. However, government can’t do this alone, so I am eager for the whole of Wales to contribute to this discussion.”
Minister for Lifelong Learning and Welsh Language, Alun Davies said:
“I’m honoured to lead this national conversation about how we can strengthen the Welsh language in communities across the country, how we can ensure that Wales is a bilingual nation in reality and not simply on paper or in speeches.
“We want everyone to have the opportunity to learn through the medium of Welsh both from early years right through to higher education, and that it will be seen as an integral part of our overall provision, and not something that is separate from it.
“Reaching a million speakers is a deliberately ambitious target. There are challenges ahead, but we can undoubtedly face those in the knowledge that we are building from a position of strength.
“If we are to foster a bilingual nation, it is something that the whole nation needs to do together. A politician can’t impose that, but politicians can lead that, and what I’m anxious that we do is ensure that people have the opportunity to learn Welsh and to receive a Welsh language education in every part of the country, but then that people have the confidence and the wish to use that language at all times.
“This consultation process is an opportunity for everyone to have their say on the future of perhaps this countries finest asset. I am confident it will enable us to take the language forward in a way that is both pro-active and proportionate.”