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Introduction

This report presents some findings from the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. The survey ended earlier than planned due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. More information on the implications of this, and the consequent limitations of the data, can be found in the quality and methodology section.

We intend to publish the remainder of the survey’s results in separate statistical bulletins, according to theme, combining data from the National Survey for Wales 2019-20 where relevant.

Main points

  • Almost three quarters of Welsh speakers came from homes with at least one parent who had at least some ability in Welsh.
  • 28% of Welsh speakers came from non-Welsh speaking homes.
  • Three quarters of those who came from homes with no fluent parent had started to learn to speak the language at school.
  • Welsh speakers were twice as likely to speak Welsh every day if they had at least one fluent parent in Welsh, compared with those Welsh speakers who did not have a fluent parent.
  • Almost half of Welsh speakers, regardless of ability, received primary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly, compared to a third who received secondary education in Welsh.
  • Of all Welsh speakers who received secondary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly, 92% described themselves as fluent.

Language at home during childhood

Language transmission from one generation to the next is key in language planning. It enables and encourages children and young people to acquire the language. The initial findings showed that 43% of Welsh speakers had started to learn speaking Welsh at home as young children.

Adults were asked a question on their parents' Welsh language ability when they were children, and children and young people were asked a similar question, but on their parents' current ability in Welsh. It is important to note that the questions may have been answered by a parent or guardian on behalf of their children. In these cases, therefore, this is probably the assessment of the parents or guardians themselves, rather than the child or young person.

In addition, children and young people were asked a further question about the Welsh language ability of any siblings they have. These questions provide information about the wider levels of fluency of the household, and the relationship between that and the child's own levels of fluency.

According to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20, 35% of Welsh speakers aged three or older only or mainly spoke Welsh at home as children. 9% spoke Welsh and English roughly equally, and 56% spoke English only or mainly.

This varied according to the fluency of the parents. 65% of those with at least one parent able to speak Welsh fluently said that they only or mainly spoke Welsh at home as a child. 87% of Welsh speakers with parents who could speak some Welsh, but not fluently, spoke English only or mainly at home as children.

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This pie chart shows that 28% of Welsh speakers came from non-Welsh speaking homes, 25% came from homes with a parent or parents who spoke some Welsh but not fluently, 17% came from homes with one fluent parent and 30% come from homes with two fluent parents, according to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20.

72% of Welsh speakers came from homes with a parent or parents who had at least some ability in Welsh, so 28% of Welsh speakers came from non-Welsh speaking homes. This is consistent with 2013-15 figures where 71% of Welsh speakers came from homes with a parent or parents who had at least some ability in Welsh. 47% of Welsh speakers had at least one parent able to speak Welsh fluently in 2019-20, the same percentage as in 2013-15.

The percentage of Welsh speakers with at least one fluent parent varied considerably by age. 36% of young Welsh speakers aged 3 to 15 said that they had at least one parent who was fluent in Welsh, while the percentage was 69% among Welsh speakers aged 65 or older. In 2013-15, the difference between the age groups was greater, with 29% of Welsh speakers aged 3 to 15 saying that they had at least one parent who was fluent in Welsh, and 75% for those aged 65 or over.

85% of Welsh speakers living in north-west Wales come from homes with a parent or parents who had at least some ability in Welsh. This is significantly higher than the 57% seen in south-east Wales. Information on local authorities in each region is available in the quality and methodology section.

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The stacked column chart shows the fluency of Welsh speakers according to fluency of their parents for the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. It shows that a higher percentage, 79%, of fluent Welsh speakers come from homes where at least one parent is fluent in Welsh compared with 18% of non-fluent Welsh speakers.

79% of fluent Welsh speakers had at least one parent who was fluent in Welsh, while 9% of fluent Welsh speakers came from homes where no parent spoke Welsh at all.

In terms of non-fluent Welsh speakers, over one in six stated that at least one parent in the household was fluent in Welsh. 45% of non-fluent Welsh speakers came from homes where no parent spoke Welsh at all.

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The stacked column chart shows where Welsh speakers started to learn to speak the language according to their parents' ability in Welsh for the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. It shows that the vast majority of Welsh speakers with at least one parent who was fluent in the language, 84%, started learning to speak Welsh at home as young children in contrast to the vast majority of Welsh speakers who came from homes with some Welsh but not fluent, 84% had started learning to speak Welsh at school.

Note: A small number of respondents have indicated that they started learning to speak Welsh at home as young children, but that none of their parents had any ability in Welsh. These are not included in the chart.

In the Welsh Language Use Survey, of Welsh speakers with at least one parent who was fluent in the language, the vast majority, 84%, had started to learn to speak Welsh at home as young children. 8% reported that they had started to learn to speak Welsh in nursery school, 5% in a primary school and 1% in a secondary school.

Of those who did not have a fluent parent, the highest percentage, 34%, had started learning to speak Welsh in primary school, 31% in nursery school and 10% in secondary school. This means that three quarters of those who come from homes without a fluent parent started learning to speak the language within statutory education.

Welsh speakers were twice as likely to speak Welsh every day if they had at least one fluent Welsh parent, compared with those Welsh speakers who did not have a fluent parent. Around a third of those who did not have a fluent parent spoke Welsh every day.

Almost twice as many Welsh speakers come from homes where the mother can speak Welsh (regardless of ability) and the father cannot speak the language, than from homes where the father can speak the language and the mother cannot (16% compared with 8%). It is important to note that a higher percentage of women than men are Welsh speakers (20% of men who can speak Welsh compared with 23% of women according to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20).

This is consistent with the 2011 Census findings. The transmission rate (the proportion of three to four-year-olds in a family who can speak Welsh) for couple households, where one adult could speak Welsh, was higher in those cases where the Welsh speaker was female rather than male (49% and 40% respectively).

In addition to the ability of parents, the survey asked about the use of Welsh by Welsh speakers aged 16 or older with their parents when they were children. 36% spoke Welsh only or mainly with their parents (the same percentage for mother and father).

Welsh speakers aged 3 to 15 were also asked about their siblings’ linguistic ability (if applicable). Of those who answered, 35% had a sibling who was fluent in Welsh. 44% had a sibling who could speak Welsh but not fluent, and 8% had a sibling who could not speak Welsh. Almost half of the children and young people who spoke Welsh every day had a sibling who was fluent in Welsh.

Language of education

As part of the survey, adults and children and young people were asked different questions about the language of their education. The adults’ questions focused on the language of their education at all stages of the education system. Children and young people were also asked about the language of their nursery, primary and secondary education, but were asked additional questions about the language in which specific subjects were taught. Only secondary age children answered these questions in the children and young people's questionnaire.

Table 1 shows the percentages of Welsh speakers who received their education in Welsh only or mainly.

Table 1: Percentage of Welsh speakers educated in Welsh only or mainly, July 2019 to March 2020
  Welsh only or mainly
Nursery school 38%
Primary school 48%
Secondary school 30%
Further education 15%
Higher education 7%

Source: Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20

Note: Children and young people were not asked the question in relation to further and higher education, so these categories provide the percentages of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older.

Almost half of Welsh speakers, regardless of ability, received primary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly, compared with almost a third who received secondary education in Welsh. There is a further reduction in the percentage of Welsh speakers who receive, or did receive, their further and higher education through the medium of Welsh.

These percentages varied considerably by age, particularly for primary education, with 54% of Welsh speakers aged 3 to 15 reporting that they had received/were receiving their primary education in Welsh only or mainly, compared with 42% of those aged 65 or older.

Higher percentages of Welsh speakers in north-west Wales have been taught through the medium of Welsh than in the other regions, from nursery school to higher education.

The indicators in the Cymraeg 2050 annual reports and also our action plan for Welsh in education show that fewer pupils in secondary school are currently being assessed in Welsh first language than in primary school.

This difference between primary and secondary education is also seen in Pupil-Level Annual School Census data. In January 2020 (when this survey was carried out), 23% of year 1 pupils (around 7 years old) studied Welsh as a first language compared with 20% of year 7 pupils (around 12 years old).

The Welsh Language Use Survey data show a clear link between fluency and the language of education. Fluent Welsh speakers are much more likely than non-fluent Welsh speakers to have received their education through the medium of Welsh.

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The stacked column chart shows Welsh speakers'  language of education according to fluency for the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. A higher percentage of fluent Welsh speakers receive their education only or mainly through the medium of Welsh throughout the education system. A high percentage of fluent Welsh speakers had received their nursery and primary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly (69% and 84%).

A high percentage of fluent Welsh speakers had received nursery and primary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly (69% and 84% respectively).

A slightly different picture was seen in analysing the language of secondary education. Just over half (57%) of fluent Welsh speakers had received their secondary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly, with one in five having received Welsh and English secondary education roughly equally. 16% of fluent Welsh speakers had received their secondary education through the medium of English only or mainly.

The percentage of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older receiving their education through the medium of Welsh continues to decrease as they go on to further and higher education. Table 1 showed that 15% of Welsh speakers received further education in Welsh only or mainly, and 7% received higher education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly.

When looking at non-fluent Welsh speakers, the percentage receiving their education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly is very low throughout the education system. Primary school has the highest percentage of non-fluent Welsh speakers who receive, or did receive, their education through Welsh only or mainly, at 15%. Almost three quarters of non-fluent Welsh speakers received their secondary education through the medium of English only or mainly, and high percentages receive their further and higher education through English only or mainly.

Of all Welsh speakers who received secondary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly, 92% described themselves as fluent, compared with 86% in 2013-15. The percentage in 2019-20 is similar to that reported in the Welsh Language Use Survey 2004-06.

There is a clear link between the age and percentage of people who received their secondary education through the medium of Welsh, as seen in the initial results. No Welsh-medium education offer was available to the older age groups, nor were there the same expectations on local authorities to increase access to Welsh-medium education as there are now. There were fewer Welsh-medium schools and therefore fewer opportunities for learners to receive their education through the medium of Welsh. Chart 5 shows how the secondary education of fluent Welsh speakers aged 16 or older varies by age.

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The stacked column chart shows the language of secondary education of fluent Welsh speakers aged 16 or older according to age for the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. It shows that fluent Welsh speakers aged 16 to 29 and 30 to 44 years are much more likely to have received their secondary education only or mainly through the medium of Welsh compared to those aged 65 or older.

Fluent Welsh speakers aged 16 to 29 and 30 to 44 were over three times more likely to have received their secondary education through the medium of Welsh only or mainly, compared with those aged 65 or older.

We see that similar trends to those seen between the language of education and fluency in this section are also evident between the language of education and those who speak Welsh every day, and also between the language of education and the Welsh speakers who had started to learn to speak Welsh at home as children. These Welsh speakers are more likely to have received their education through the medium of Welsh.

Language of education of children and young people

Pupil-Level Annual School Census 2020/21 data show that 24% of all primary age learners in Wales are in Welsh-medium or bilingual primary schools, and 20% of all secondary age learners in Wales are in Welsh-medium or bilingual secondary schools.

We asked 11 to 15-year-olds who said that they could speak Welsh in which language they study different subjects in secondary school.

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The stacked column chart shows the language of subject study in secondary school among Welsh speakers aged 11 to 15 for the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. It shows that the proportion studying a subject always or mainly in Welsh, or in both languages roughly equal, ranges from 38% in science to 48% in physical education and history.

Chart 6 shows that the proportion of Welsh speakers aged 11 to 15 studying a subject always or mainly in Welsh, or in both languages roughly equally, ranges from 38% in science to 48% in physical education and history.

Young people who were fluent in Welsh were more likely to study secondary subjects through the medium of Welsh than through the medium of English. The figure below shows the language in which fluent young people learned different subjects.

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The stacked column chart shows the language of subject study in secondary school among fluent Welsh speakers aged 11 to 15 for the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. It shows that the proportion studying a subject always or mainly in Welsh, or in both languages roughly equal, ranges from 94% in mathematics to 74% in science.

The proportions of fluent young people aged 11 to 15 learning different subjects always or mainly through the medium of Welsh, or in both languages roughly equally, varied by subject. Mathematics (94%), physical education (91%) and history (91%) were the subjects with the highest proportions of fluent Welsh speakers studying the subject always or mainly in Welsh, and science (74%) and modern languages (81%) had the lowest rates of fluent Welsh speakers studying the subject always or mainly in Welsh, or in both languages roughly equally.

Comparing the core subjects over time, we see that the percentage of fluent Welsh speakers studying mathematics always or mainly in Welsh, or in both languages roughly equally, has increased from 85% in 2013-15 to 94% in the latest data. This increase is not seen for the percentage of fluent Welsh speakers studying science always or mainly in Welsh, or in both languages roughly equally. There was a decrease from 79% to 74% between 2013-15 and 2019-20.

Welsh for adults

Learn Welsh programme data is managed by the National Centre for Learning Welsh. This is the authoritative source used to measure progress among Welsh for adults. It includes information on all learners registering to follow a course for a specific period each year. However, the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 included questions about how adults started learning to speak Welsh.

It was reported in the initial results of the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 that around 10% of Welsh speakers had started learning to speak the language as an adult. Of those who had started learning to speak Welsh as an adult, a third spoke Welsh every day. Two thirds of those who had started learning to speak Welsh as an adult indicated that they could speak a little or a few words only. 6% indicated that they could speak Welsh fluently.

Those who had started learning to speak Welsh as an adult were asked how they learned. There were formal and informal options to choose from and they were able to note all learning styles that were relevant to them.

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The bar chart shows the percentage of Welsh speakers who had started to learn to speak Welsh as an adult according to mode of learning. It shows that over half of those who had started to learn to speak Welsh as an adult had used a self-organised Welsh language learnings course.

Note: The respondent was able to choose more than one answer. This data reports on all survey respondents who indicated that they had started learning to speak the language as an adult. This could be at any point in their lives, and is not only relevant to those learning Welsh as an adult during the survey period.

According to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20, over half of those who had started to learn to speak Welsh as an adult had used a self-organised Welsh language learning course (as the only method of learning, or combined with some of the other methods).

Comparing the formal methods (self-organised course, work-based course or university or college course) with the informal ones (online and through friends and/or family), we see that around half of those who have learned through the formal methods have learned through that method alone. A much lower percentage say that they have started to learn to speak Welsh as an adult using the informal methods alone. The data therefore suggests that informal methods are used as support resources for those learning Welsh as adults.

Linguistic ability

Although the aim of the Welsh Language Use Survey is to learn more about the use made of the language, it also provides another estimate of the percentage of the population able to speak Welsh. Cymraeg 2050 clearly states that the census is the authoritative source for the number of Welsh speakers in Wales, and this is how we will measure progress against the ambition of having a million Welsh speakers by 2050. The 2011 Census noted that 19.0% of the population aged three or older could speak Welsh, or about 562,000 people.

Table 2 shows the percentage of Welsh speakers according to age group based on language use surveys.

Table 2: Percentage of Welsh speakers according to age group, 2004-06, 2013-15 and 2019-20
Age group 2004-06 2013-15 2019-20
3 to 15 35% 40% 37%
16 to 29 22% 25% 23%
30 to 44 16% 21% 19%
45 to 64 16% 18% 19%
65+ 18% 18% 17%
All (3+) 21% 23% 22%

Source: Welsh language use surveys

Note: The methodology for calculating the percentage of the population able to speak Welsh has changed in relation to the 2013-15 and 2019-20 data. The section on quality and methodology has more details.

According to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20, 22% of the population aged three or older could speak Welsh, compared with 23% in the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15. In 2019-20, the percentage able to speak Welsh decreased with age. It was highest for those aged 3 to 15 at 37%, and lowest for those aged 65 or older at 17%. The percentage of Welsh speakers in all age groups decreased between 2013-15 and 2019-20, with the exception of those aged 45 to 64. However, as we compare with 2019-20 data, we see that there has been an increase since 2004-06 in all age groups, except those aged 65 or older.

In order to be able to report at a consistent geographical level throughout this report, we present data at a regional level. Information on which local authorities are in each region can be found in the quality and methodology section. These regions are consistent with those used in the National Survey for Wales' analyses of the Welsh language. Some data from the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 is available at local authority level in the data tables that will be published in due course.

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The map of Wales above shows that the percentage of Welsh speakers aged three or older varies by region showing the highest percentage in north-west Wales and the lowest in south-east Wales.

The percentage of the population able to speak Welsh varied by region and local authority. The highest percentage of Welsh speakers was in the north-west, at 55%, and the lowest percentage in the south-east, at 13%.

It is important to note that the Welsh Language Use Survey is a supplementary element of the National Survey for Wales. A Welsh Language Use Survey paper questionnaire is given to all Welsh speakers aged three or older who are identified in the National Survey. Chart 9 shows the percentage of Welsh speakers according to the National Survey for Wales, which underpinned the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 sample.

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The stacked column chart shows the percentage of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older according to fluency for the National Survey for Wales from 2012-13 to 2021. It shows that the has been increasing overall since 2012-13, from 24% in 2012-13 to 33% in the period April to June 2021. The percentage decreased during 2019-20, to 24%.

Note: Data on the number of Welsh speakers was not collected in 2015-16 while the National Survey was being developed.

The percentage of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older has been increasing overall since 2012-13, from 24% in 2012-13 to 33% in the period April to June 2021. However, the percentage decreased during 2019-20, at the time of the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20, to 24%. The greatest decrease is seen in those who can speak a little or a few words only, but there has been some decrease across all categories during this period. However, the percentages have risen back to similar levels for the periods January to March 2021 and April to June 2021.

It is possible, therefore, that people were less likely to indicate that they were able to speak Welsh at the time of conducting the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20. This also appears to be the case, to some extent, at the time of the last language use survey in 2013-15, looking at Chart 9.

It is important to bear this in mind, therefore, when interpreting the results for the percentage of the population who indicate that they can speak Welsh.

As well as asking for an ability to speak Welsh, adults and children and young people were asked about their ability to understand spoken Welsh, and their ability to read and write Welsh.

Table 3: Welsh language ability, 2011 Census, and Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15 and 2019-20
Welsh language ability 2011 Census Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15 Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20
Understand spoken Welsh 23% 20% 20%
Speak Welsh 19% 23% 22%
Read Welsh 18% 18% 18%
Write Welsh 16% 20% 17%

Source: Census of the population and Welsh language use surveys

In 2019-20, 20% of the population said they could understand spoken Welsh, 22% could speak Welsh, 18% could read Welsh, and 17% could write Welsh. In the 2011 Census, these percentages were 23%, 19%, 18% and 16% respectively. We see in Table 3, therefore, that a small number of those who can speak Welsh report that they cannot understand spoken Welsh. It is not clear from the data what the reasons are for this.

Welsh language ability varied according to age, with the youngest being more likely to indicate Welsh language ability than the older ones for each of the skills. It also varies by region, and is highest in the north-west.

A more detailed question was asked relating to the ability to write in Welsh, and for the first time another was asked about their ability to read in Welsh. Slightly different questions were asked of adults and children and young people.

In analysing this information, it must be remembered that respondents reported on their own ability to read or write Welsh, and there is an element of subjectivity about their answers, in the same way as there is an element of subjectivity in reporting on their ability to speak Welsh.

According to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20, 66% of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older were able to read and understand most or a significant amount of written Welsh, and 56% were able to write in Welsh or a significant amount in most situations.

There was a change to the question asked about the written skill level of Welsh speakers in 2019-20, so the data is not comparable over time. In 2013-15, 57% of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older said that they were able to write well or very well in Welsh, a decrease from 67% in 2004-06.

Table 4: Ability of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older to read and understand Welsh according to language use, fluency and where they started learning to speak the language, July 2019 to March 2020
  Can read and understand most or a fair amount of things written in Welsh Can read and understand simple sentences in Welsh, or less
Daily 85% 15%
Not daily 45% 55%
Fluent 97% 3%
Not-fluent 35% 65%
Home 90% 10%
Not at home 45% 55%
All Welsh speakers 66% 34%

Source: Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20

Welsh speakers who speak Welsh every day are more likely to be able to read most or a fair amount of written Welsh, compared with Welsh speakers who do not speak Welsh every day (85% compared with 45%).

A similar trend (that is, a higher percentage able to read most or a fair amount of written Welsh) can be seen when comparing fluent Welsh speakers with non-fluent ones, and when comparing those who started learning the language at home as young children with those who have learned in another way.

Table 5: The ability of Welsh speakers aged 16 or over to write in Welsh according to language use, fluency and where they started learning to speak the language, July 2019 to March 2020
  Can write most or a fair amount of things in Welsh Can write simple sentences in Welsh, or less
Daily 77% 23%
Not daily 32% 68%
Fluent 93% 7%
Not-fluent 18% 82%
Home 82% 18%
Not at home 33% 67%
All Welsh speakers 57% 43%

Source: Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20

The trends in writing skills of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older are very similar to the trends in reading skills, as seen in Table 4, but we see lower percentages able to write most or a fair amount of Welsh.

The percentages of Welsh speakers who can write and read in Welsh are relatively consistent in all age groups. The highest percentages of Welsh speakers aged 16 or older who can write or read most or a fair amount in Welsh live in the north-west and the lowest percentage in the north-east.

Children and young people were asked about their level of ability to read and write in Welsh for the first time in 2019-20. 69% of Welsh-speaking children and young people replied that they could read Welsh well or very well. 70% indicated that they were able to write Welsh well or very well. A higher percentage of children and young people aged 11 to 15 were able to read and write Welsh well or very well than those aged 3 to 7, showing progress as they went through the education system.

The relationship between being able to read and write Welsh with fluency and where they started learning to speak Welsh was not as clear for children and young people as it was for adults. A high percentage of those who spoke Welsh every day were able to read or write well or very well. 

Quality and methodology information

The purpose of the Welsh Language Use Survey is to know how often, where, when and with whom Welsh speakers use Welsh, and to know more about their skills in the language. We consider that the census remains the main source of information about the skills of the population aged three or older in Wales in Welsh, but this survey provides us with information about the use of the language by Welsh speakers.

The Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 is a continuation of research undertaken jointly by the Welsh Language Commissioner and the Welsh Government in 2013-15. There was also a Language Use Survey in 2004 to 2006, carried out by the Welsh Language Board.

The Language Use Survey 2019-20 was carried out as part of the National Survey for Wales, in similar fashion to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15. The fieldwork was carried out between 1 July 2019 and 14 March 2020.

The questionnaires used for the 2019-20 survey were developed by the Welsh Government following consultation with users of statistics about the Welsh language. Most of the questions had not changed since the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15. However, some new questions were introduced, for example, about the views of Welsh speakers about the language, and the confidence of Welsh speakers in speaking the language.

There were two types of questionnaire, one for adults (aged 16 or older) and one for children and young people (aged 3 to 15). The questionnaire for children and young people was completed by the parent or guardian, or by the young person if they wished to complete the questionnaire. The questionnaires could be completed in English or Welsh. Copies of both questionnaires can be found on the survey materials webpage.

The survey response rate was 47%, i.e. of all Welsh speakers identified in the National Survey for Wales, 47% of those had completed and returned the questionnaire. This is slightly higher than the 44% response rate in the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15.

Further technical information and information about the quality of the National Survey for Wales can be found on our website.

Technical and quality information from the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 (including further information on the survey acceptance, return and response rates) will be in the National Survey for Wales 2019-20 reports once available.

Change in the way in which the population’s Welsh language ability is calculated

Previous language use surveys, and the initial results of the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20, have calculated the Welsh language ability of the whole population based on those who answered that they can speak Welsh in the Welsh language use survey, and those who indicated that they cannot speak Welsh in the National Survey (or the Living in Wales Survey for the Welsh Language Use Survey 2004-06).

However, a very small number of people who indicated that they can speak Welsh in the National Survey then indicate that they cannot speak Welsh in the Welsh language use survey. We have now changed the way in which the Welsh language ability of the whole population has been calculated to include those respondents, and have revised our initial results, as well as comparisons with data from the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15. Unfortunately the methodology cannot be replicated for the 2004-06 data. The changes are as follows:

A decrease of one percentage point in the percentage of the population aged three or older who can speak Welsh fluently in 2019-20, from 11% to 10%.

A decrease of one percentage point in the percentage of the population aged three or older who can speak Welsh in 2013-15, from 24% to 23%.

A decrease of one percentage point in the percentage of the population aged three or older who speak Welsh daily in 2013-15, from 13% to 12%.

Welsh regions

In order to be able to report at a consistent geographical level throughout this report, we present data at a regional level. These regions are consistent with those used in the National Survey for Wales' analyses of the Welsh language. Some data from the 2019-20 Language Use Survey is available at local authority level in the data tables that will be published in due course.

Regions of Wales and constituent local authorities used in this report

North-west Wales

Isle of Anglesey

Gwynedd

Conwy

North-east Wales

Denbighshire

Flintshire

Wrexham

Mid-Wales

Powys

Ceredigion

South-west Wales

Pembrokeshire

Carmarthenshire

Swansea

Neath Port Talbot

South-east Wales

Bridgend

The Vale of Glamorgan

Cardiff

Rhondda Cynon Taf

Merthyr Tydfil

Caerphilly

Blaenau Gwent

Torfaen

Monmouthshire

Newport

The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

Following the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15, the original intention was to conduct the follow-up language use survey between July 2019 and March 2021, namely the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-21. However, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the survey ended earlier than planned, during March 2020. What is presented here, therefore, is the results of the first nine months of the survey, the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20.

The results of the survey are based on a sample of just over 2,200 Welsh speakers. The sample size of the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15 was almost 7,200 people. As the 2019-20 sample size is smaller than planned, it is not possible to analyse the survey results by local authority for all the data as was done in the previous surveys.

We generally do not use totals below 30 people in our analyses, to make sure that the quality of the data is robust enough to draw significant conclusions from the data. To allow the detailed analyses with the smaller sample available for 2019-20, we have included totals between 5 and 30. The lower quality is identified where appropriate.

The Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 was a supplementary element of the National Survey for Wales, in similar fashion to the Welsh Language Use Survey 2013-15. Adults randomly selected to participate in the National Survey for Wales were asked to identify all members of their household who could speak Welsh. All Welsh speakers were then given a copy of the Welsh Language Use Survey questionnaire to be completed and returned by post. As a result of the pandemic, the National Survey for Wales had to switch from interviewing people face-to-face to gathering data over the phone due to COVID-19 restrictions. In addition to the change in the method of collecting data for the National Survey for Wales, it was not possible to obtain telephone numbers for new samples, so it was decided to re-contact previous respondents of the National Survey for Wales so that the survey could continue. It was not possible, therefore, to identify more Welsh speakers, so the Welsh Language Use Survey had to end in March 2020.   

However, as this survey was carried out in the period before the imposition of restrictions across the UK due to the coronavirus pandemic at the end of March 2020, the survey provides a timely baseline on the use of Welsh in the period before the pandemic. We will be considering when we should carry out a further Welsh Language Use Survey, following the publication of the 2021 Census results.

The Welsh Government has published a report on the findings of a survey about the effects of COVID-19 on Welsh language community groups since the start of the pandemic. Known groups were asked to complete the survey, which gathered evidence on how the groups had operated before the pandemic, whether they had been able to operate since the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 and what their expectations were for the future.

Future plans

This is the second in a series of statistical bulletins by theme following the publication of the initial findings of the Welsh Language Use Survey 2019-20 in September 2021. There will be bulletins to follow on the Welsh language in the workplace, the social use of the Welsh language and the use of Welsh with services. We will combine data from the National Survey for Wales 2019-20 where applicable.

National Statistics status

The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

National Statistics status means that official statistics meet the highest standards of trustworthiness, quality and public value.

All official statistics should comply with all aspects of the Code of Practice for Statistics. They are awarded National Statistics status following an assessment by the UK Statistics Authority’s management arm. The Authority considers whether the statistics meet the highest standards of Code compliance, including the value they add to public decisions and debate.

It is the responsibility of the Welsh Government to maintain compliance with the standards expected of National Statistics. If we are concerned whether these statistics still meet the appropriate standards, we will discuss this promptly with the Authority. National Statistics status can be abolished at any time when the highest standards have not been maintained, and re-awarded when the standards are reinstated.

A full assessment of these statistics was carried out against the Code of Practice in 2016.

Since the last review by the Office for Statistics Regulation, we have continued to conform to the Code of Practice for Statistics, and we have made improvements, such as consulting further with our users on their needs concerning the use of the Welsh Language.

Well-being of Future Generations Act (WFG)

The Well-being of Future Generations Act 2015 is about improving the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of Wales. The Act puts in place seven wellbeing goals for Wales. These are for a more equal, prosperous, resilient, healthier and globally responsible Wales, with cohesive communities and a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language. Under section (10)(1) of the Act, the Welsh Ministers must (a) publish indicators (“national indicators”) that must be applied for the purpose of measuring progress towards the achievement of the wellbeing goals, and (b) lay a copy of the national indicators before Senedd Cymru. Under section 10(8) of the Well-being of Future Generations Act, where the Welsh Ministers revise the national indicators, they must as soon as reasonably practicable (a) publish the indicators as revised and (b) lay a copy of them before the Senedd. These national indicators were laid before the Senedd in 2021. The indicators laid on 14 December 2021 replace the set laid on 16 March 2016.

No national indicator has been included in this statement but the national indicator for the use of the Welsh language, which uses the same data source, the Language Use Survey 2019-20, has been updated in our initial results on Welsh language use in Wales.

Information on the indicators, together with a narrative for each of the wellbeing goals and associated technical information is available in the Wellbeing of Wales report.

Further information on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.

The statistics included in this release could also provide supporting narrative to the national indicators and be used by public services boards in relation to their local wellbeing assessments and local wellbeing plans.

Contact details

Statistician: Llio Owen
Telephone: 0300 025 5530
Email: welshlanguagedata@gov.wales

Media: 0300 025 8099

National statistics

SFR 48/2022

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