Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and the Welsh Language.
Earlier this year, I promised to establish a Commission to look at the future of our language in communities. Today I’m launching that Commission.
We’re not creating a new institution this morning, that’s not what the Commission is, rather a group of specialists who’ll tell us the truth about how the economy, policy decisions and demographics will affect the future of Cymraeg in our communities.
And in terms of us at the Welsh Government, we’ve got big ambitions for our language, and as the Minister for Cymraeg, I want to root that ambition in evidence and reality.
In the every day reality of those people who use our language.
In the reality of the difficulties and challenges which we must face.
Those challenges facing Welsh-speaking communities have increased in recent years.
We in the Welsh Government have already taken many steps to tackle these: we’ve announced new policies on second homes for example, and next month we’ll publish the Welsh Language Communities Housing Plan. I’ll be talking in more detail about that in a dedicated session this afternoon. And you’ll be welcome at that session.
One thing I’ll be saying this afternoon is that there are a million people who say they can speak Irish, but fewer than eighty thousand who do speak it every day.
And one thing I’ll be asking is what will be the situation of Cymraeg in 2050?
But it’s obvious to me that there’s a need to think anew about the needs of Cymraeg in many policy areas following COVID-19 and the effect of recent societal changes on our communities, the impact of Brexit and other things too.
I published one response to this in July last year (The effects of COVID-19 on Welsh language community groups: government response). That responded to a social research report we at the Welsh Government commissioned.
And we commissioned it because strengthening the community base of our language is central to the vision of Cymraeg 2050. And we need more. And more will be done.
The future of our language will depend on thousands of individual decisions — individual choices, the priorities of institutions and companies, and policy steps by governments at every level. This is part of the responsibility we all share together as Welsh citizens. We all need to work together for Cymraeg.
That’s why I’m establishing the Commission for Welsh-speaking Communities, y Comisiwn Cymunedau Cymraeg, to contribute to this process of developing new policies. The goal is to strengthen our language in communities which are traditionally considered to be the heartlands of the Welsh language.
Establishing the Commission also reflects the Welsh Government’s commitment to mainstream Cymraeg across every element of our work. To ensure that it’s considered in the context of the work of every team, in every department across the Government, every time.
The Commission for Welsh-speaking Communities will publish a report within two years. A report which will consider possible interventions.
And it will also make policy recommendations.
As well as that, it will offer an analysis of the results of the census in our Welsh-speaking communities. Because of everything that’s happened since we began our journey to Cymraeg 2050 in the summer of 2018, it’s hard to know what to expect. But whatever the results are, we need to interpret them honestly, as well as look at other sources, such as the Welsh language use survey for example. This will ensure that we better understand the current situation of our language.
Doing so will help us recognise areas of linguistic sensitivity, that’s to say areas where we need to support and strengthen Cymraeg as a geographical community language.
This is not a Gaeltacht for Cymraeg. Welsh is a national language. It belongs to us all, wherever we live in Wales. But for our language to continue to develop as a national language, we need to take steps to support it as a community language in parts of Wales where it’s under threat.
That’s why we’re going to identify areas of linguistic sensitivity. The challenges that face Welsh as a community language can be very different in different parts of Wales of course. Perhaps there’ll be a need for a type of intervention in one specific area or areas that is key to the future of Welsh as a community language there, but social conditions in other communities may be different. Our language policy is a national policy. But that shouldn’t prevent us from effective intervention at the area level when that’s what’s needed.
After the Commission has made recommendations about Welsh as a community language in areas of linguistic sensitivity, it’ll consider the future of Cymraeg as a community language in other parts of Wales.
Dr. Simon Brooks, who’s here beside me, will be the Chair of the Commission for Welsh-speaking Communities. Simon was the author of the report, Second homes: developing new policies, that was commissioned by the Welsh Government in order to consider possible interventions in relation to second homes. Thank you for the report, and thanks to you in advance for the work you’ll be doing from now on!
The Commission will have ten members as well as Simon as Chair.
The members will contribute their experiences and specialist knowledge in many policy areas, including the economy, housing, education, local government, community regeneration, technology, language planning and other fields too.
I’m glad today to announce who they are:
- Talat Chaudhri
- Lowri Cunnington Wynn
- Cynog Dafis
- Meinir Ebbsworth
- Delyth Evans
- Dafydd Gruffydd
- Myfanwy Jones
- Shan Lloyd Williams
- Cris Tomos
- Rhys Tudur
As well as sharing their specialist knowledge, they’re also sharing freely of their time, and for that I’m grateful to every one of you. Your work will be essential to the future of our language.
I’ve said many times that the Cymraeg belongs to us all, as does the responsibility for its future. We’ll have to be brave and tackle things together that might be difficult. I’m sure that some of the things the Commission will tell us will be challenging but that’s important: that’s what’ll help us find the most effective answers too! I look forward to the contribution of the Commission to the debate, to discussing with the Commission, and, more importantly than all of that, to the ensuing action.