I have been fascinated by languages for a long time. I was going to say since I was very young but my passion really only started after I left school. I never understood the point of speaking another tongue when at school, everyone seemed to be speaking English and the subjects (French and Latin) were taught, to me at least, in a dry and rote way. Perhaps that is the skill of good teachers.
Anyway, I have been learning a smattering of european languages over the years. Latterly I have become fascinated by a series of articles in the back of the New European by Peter Trudgill. I can imagine that this is a newspaper that you are not all familiar with and so may not have come across it.
In a recent edition he described how Switzerland held together as a country despite having four main languages which are in common daily use. He drew a parallel with the UK which has perhaps more languages yet you would not know it. In Switzerland everyone is encouraged to learn at least two languages, their mother tongue and one of the other languages in use in the country. In this way, despite the linguistic variety, the population is able to converse and there is no pressure for other languages to die out.
Compare and contrast this with the UK where its minority tongues are less well promoted. This is an implicit government strategy. For example, the new UK points-based immigration system states that ‘The requirement for migrants to speak English language supports integration, ensuring migrants can live and be part of the wider community in the UK.’ There is no mention how being able to speak on or more other indigenous languages could also do the same.
Before you say it, there are significant Welsh speaking communities outside of the UK.
I know that in some circumstances documents and signposts are translated into other languages but when were we ever encouraged at school to learn Welsh, Gaelic or even Cornish? Tudgill suggested that the encouragement of language learning could be a way to stitch the country back together again and counteract the current interest in breaking up the union.
To be honest I have very little interest in the union but why not have a crack at another indgineous language? I might enjoy it and I might learn something more about the people of this land. You might too.
Rhowch gynnig arni.