Sunday, December 16, 2012

Anglicisation, that's not the name of the game

Anglicisation, now there's a word whose use needs to be severely curtailed in Wales.  It's a word that suggests that there's a shrinking heartland, a proper Wales if you like, and then a watered-down version where most of us live and which is well on the way to becoming England.

I just did a google search using the term "anglicisation of Wales" and got 309,000 hits. By contrast searching for "anglicisation of Ireland" came up with less than 20,000. Most of those Welsh hits refer to just one topic - language shift, and perhaps that would be a better term to use.  There are very few people in Wales who never speak English and in that sense they are anglicised, as are people who read English newspapers, watch English television, shop at Tesco or whose ancestors adopted an English style surname.  Indeed the Welsh have been adopting English ways since before the good folk of Chester complained that it was hard for them to spot a Welshman because they had started wearing trousers!  We are all anglicised to an extent and to pretend that there is some Pura Walia is daft.

Now I tend to accept that the British state, either deliberately or by default, has always sought to extirp Wales's separate identity.  If that is their intention then they're not making a very good job of things.  A hundred years ago the Valleys were full of English migrants, today the census figures show that these are the areas of Wales where the highest % of the total population identify themselves as mere Welsh.  Even Newport with 55.5% of the population choosing an exclusively Welsh identity, outstripped Ynys Mon (54.7%) and the Monmouth council area at 44% only just failed to outscore Ceredigion (46.6%).  Not much evidence of the two Wales model there.

Of course those low figures in North and West Wales are the result of recent in-migration, especially of the old and economically inactive. What the census does tell us is that most Welsh born people feel Welsh and nothing else.  Using my rough and ready calculation (see earlier post) the figure for those born in Wales and identifying as solely Welsh (not British and Welsh) are: Ynys Mon 82%, Gwynedd 88%, Conwy 76%, Denbigh 76%, Flint 72%, Wrexham 75%, Powys 87%, Ceredigion 84%, Pembroke 80%, Carmarthen 85%, Swansea 78%, Neath 83%, Bridgend 81%, Vale of Glamorgan 75%, Cardiff 73%, Rhondda 83%, Merthyr 83%, Caerffili 80%, Blaenau Gwent 80%, Torfaen 78%, Monmouth 73%, Newport 71%.  What these figures* show is that there is one Wales, a Wales that, whatever its first language, feels Welsh.  Like Ireland it is an identity that could well be strong enough to survive the further marginalisation of the language.

Incidentally I believe the language stats are not as bad as some believe.  The figures for school age children are more believable than in 2001 and old people attracted to the Costa Geriactica surely cannot pose the threat to the future of the language their numbers might suggest.  A greater problem is the new class of here-today-gone-tomorrow managers in local government, you must have heard them blundering through the bilingual declarations on election night.  Bring back democracy!

* By the way a large majority of the half million Welsh born folk living in England also tracked down and ticked the Welsh only identity box.

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