The Million Speakers by 2050 Myth

      The ambition to create a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is a political marketing soundbite where it is assured that those who make the promise it will be out of office by the time target is reached and a significant proportion of them will be dead.

       A bank would not invest in a company unless they have a convincing business plan. What is locking from the promise is the how.

      There is no clear definition of what is meant by the word ‘speak a language’. It implies language fluency, but it could mean absolutely anything. If someone enquires to a person whether they can speak Welsh, for instance, it can be an invitation for them to engage in a Welsh speaking conversation with them. But it could simply mean that they can say ‘bore dda’ (Good morning).

       The notion that encouraging evermore English-speaking children to learn Welsh to be educated through the medium of it and adults to learn Welsh language so a million Welsh speakers  can be created is narrow minded and oversimplistic.

      Languages need to be learned and retained. Life on planet earth is dictated by science, not political optimism. Evaluating the future of the Welsh Language is in the domain of education. Simple solutions to complex educational problems will yield oversimplistic results.

        When learners are being aggressively encouraged to learn Welsh what is rarely admitted is that it will take around six years of part time study to reach A Welsh Language standard. The learning potential of adults is not equal, and their language learning must compete with cognitive demands of working people’s professional lives.

        Dr Margaret Newcombe stated in her book that when learners reach a successful level of Welsh language learning that the battle for them to become able to speak Welsh to native speakers begins. Languages cannot be learnt in classrooms. They can only be lived through. Classroom learning can only be described as a preparation for this.

      Research clearly illustrates that it takes 1000 hours of practise to develop new language fluency. It is a notional figure, but it illustrates the scale of the task.

      The brain is very plastic. Factual learning is very transitory. At the heart of languages are words, which are facts. Languages need to be intensively practised to acquire and to retain them. They can be refreshed through speaking and receiving the language.

      Professor McChoist in Cardiff University contends that there is no evidence that minority languages can be resurrected. Native Welsh speakers acquired their language from, and they learn it naturally in language rich home environments, where they develop at a very young age, a very secure fundamental grasp of the phonology of a language that they learn. Older children and adults must learn Welsh more consciously.

      The fundamental problem that English speakers confront in learning Welsh is that 67% of speakers are needed for a language to remain living, which is the language environment that they need to enjoy to successfully learn a new language. Welsh medium schools can create these environments in schools. They can exist in Welsh speaking homes.      

      It is much easier for a Welsh speaker to learn and retain English, because it generally all around them, than for a Welsh speaker to learn and develop well rounded Welsh Language fluency. The Archdruid has claimed there is no longer any Welsh speaking strong holds in Wales. When the percentage of Welsh speaker drops to under 50% the Welsh Language is dying in the Welsh speaking communities.    

      Languages exist like viruses. they need the shade to keep them living. They are not codes. and they are inherently complex. The irregularities in languages and the dreaded Welsh language mutations can only be developed through intensive use of the language. There are also idioms which are understood by speaker, where the wording does not represent the true meaning of phrase and shortening of the language.

        Speakers need to negotiate with Welsh speakers to develop their language into accuracy. We will all have the experience when speaking our native language, especially to young children, where we need to establish what they mean when they say something and also  when they do not understand something they will require clarification. This process is fundamental to developing language fluency.

      In new language learning  there is a pain barrier that must be fought through to develop a confident fluent speaking capability. Young children who naturally learn their oral language from birth are not generally conscious of this. It arises when children struggle to learn to read.  

   Fluent languages exist at the tip of our tongues and point of our ears. Dr Margaret Newcombe explained that when Welsh adult learners attempt to speak Welsh to Welsh speakers, they normally insist on speaking English to them. This is because it will be a slow and painstaking process for both.

      There will be no intrinsic value for a person to choose to learn German, which is a minority language in the United Kingdom, for the sake of it. They will not choose to devote years learning unless they can use what they learn for a pragmatic purpose.

      Language exists like viruses, but it takes thousands of hours to infect a person and to constantly reinfect them. The fundamental problem of learning Welsh in Wales is that the English language is a super virus. It is all around Welsh people and the opportunities to use English will always remain immensely greater for English speakers than Welsh speakers to use Welsh.      


      The brutal reality is the reason that the Welsh is a minority language in Wales is because it is one. It is possible for English speakers to live fulfilled educated lives in Wales without needing to acquire anything resembling Welsh Language fluency. It is necessary for Welsh speakers to become fluent in English.

     The issue of bilingualism is much more complex that is popularly believed. The concept of what is meant by being a Welsh speaker is vague and ambiguous. The only way that the living Welsh Language can survive will be if the language spreads out from the language rich environments in Wales like virus. What mitigates against this is the Welsh Language is a di fragmented and scattered language. The local dialects not always intelligible. The written language is very distinct from the spoken language.

     Dr Margaret Newcombe contended that English has always been a language of commerce and law in Wales since the Act of Union in 1536. It may be reasonable to suggested was treason of the Blue Book that undermined the Welsh Language in 1847, but history cannot be undone.

    The problem with the Welsh Language is that it is a ‘hen iaeth’ an old language that has not adapted to the modern world. It appears to be becoming a more simplified and unified language through speakers choosing to speak slang.

    The fundamental issue is how will it be possible to convince all the English shoppers on a busy Saturday to start speaking Welsh instead of English, and what will be achieved because predominantly all people in Wales, Welsh and English speakers are primarily interested in getting on with their everyday lives. If the people are asked, would they like to learn Welsh, the answer is likely to yes from significant proportion of people, but if they are asked if they want to devote six years of their lives to learn it, the answer is likely to be very different.

       Many demands are being made about what must be done to create a million Welsh speakers but there is lamentable detail of what is meant by the term or how it will be achieved.


               This extract from Dr Margaret Newcombe's, Cardiff School of Welsh 2009 book clear indicates what her concept of Welsh Language Learning Success is in the Welsh for Adult Service.  She admits a large proportion of learners 'drop out', which means stop participating or being involved in something.

            There is clear evidence that her concept of Welsh Language Learning Success is the ability to apply it in the community.         

         There is the issue of what Dr Margaret Necombe refers to as turbo Welsh.  Professor Michael Eysneck cognitive scientist  stated:-

         This the problems a successful Welsh Learner referred to when attempting to actively use Welsh :-

  Summing Up   

           Life on planet earth is dictated by science.Poven research is that accept by a whole cohort of authorities.  Dr Margaret Newcombe in the above admits that clergyman was working in a Welsh Speaking heartlands and that he had parisioners, more than one, immersed him  in a 'sea of Welsh'.

            The harsh the vast majority of English speakers in Wales cannot enjoy that environment or support. As Shah stated about the Irish Language:-

         The brutal reality is that the Welsh Language is in a catch-22 situation. It reasonable to suggest that the sea of Welsh that learners need to be drown in ideally needs to 50% Welsh speakers. This environments can exists in Welsh Speaking homes, it can be created in schools and Welsh speaking workplaces, but it not be easily be created outside those situations. 

        Welsh speakers will be living in an ocean of English. It is and it will remain impossible to live every day lives exclusively through the medium of English. At the very least they will need to translate Welsh into English to do so.

       This article is drawn from research and refers to authorities have no direct interest in the Welsh Laguage. There is an invitation for anyone to offer a professional response.