Sunday, October 28, 2012

Talk of the Town

The 2011 Census figures may well show an increase in the numbers of Welsh speakers, but this will only mask the continuing decline of Welsh as a community language or even - to use a useful term from the past - a hearth language.  Although Wales may have the appearance of being a bilingual country, in essence this is not the case - for example, while every public servant in Wales must be able to speak English, a knowledge of Welsh is not a necessity, even in those areas considered to be Welsh-speaking heartlands; while many local and central government policies, far from assisting the language, might just as well have been designed to hasten its demise.

It is with this surface appearance of bilingualism in mind that we should consider Llandrindod council's recent deliberations in respect of placenames in the town.   First up a request that Temple Drive should have a street sign, with the council agreeing that any sign also read  - Rhodfa'r Teml.  To me this is the worst kind of faux bilingualism.  It only serves to provide ammunition to the enemies of the language who could quite justly demand that Lon Cwm also read Valley Lane.  If councils really want fair play for the language then they should ensure that every new street have a name with some historical basis in the locality, which in most cases will mean a Welsh name.

Next the naming of the new court and police building in Llandrindod.  The town council preferring  Parc Neuadd Park but having to accept Powys Council's Parc Noyadd Park.  There are two issues here, firstly the demands of faux bilingualism which require both Parc and Park. Surely no-one would object to the use of Parc alone?  Secondly the use of Noyadd instead of Neuadd.  Now as it happens I'm all in favour of idiosyncratic spellings such as Noyadd, which reflect a traditional pronunciation and/or long historical usage.  It's why I'm quite happy to use Rhayader or Llandegley on this blog.  Mind you the town council did have a point, as this will from 1832 shows.

The original impulse to make Welsh visible as a public language was all well and good, but bilingualism will not be a reality until, for example, any police officer stopping a speeding motorist anywhere in Wales is able to converse  with the miscreant in either of the country's two languages.  Anything less is mere show.

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