29 September 2017
Yesterday’s article provided some context to the Welsh Government’s draft Welsh language strategy, and insight into the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee Report on the Welsh Government’s proposals. It also looked at key aspects of the Welsh Government’s Final Strategy – Cymraeg 2050 (PDF, 2.79MB).
Today, we delve a little deeper into the key themes and the Welsh Government’s Work Programme for 2017-2021.
Key Themes and the Work Programme 2017-2021
The Strategy has three strategic themes that underpin the Welsh Government’s plans to achieve the goal. These themes are considered interdependent, as are many of the individual aims within the Strategy.
Theme 1 – Increasing the number of Welsh speakers
Language transmission is an important contributor in sustaining the language. Research has shown that there is a direct correlation between Welsh language fluency and where the language is acquired. In general, the earlier it is acquired, the greater the likelihood that an individual will become fluent.
The strategy duly acknowledges the importance and need for supporting language transmission in the home, and providing help and support for new and future parents. However, despite the importance of language transmission in the home, there is a finite number of new Welsh speakers that can be created by this method.
In order to create the mass of Welsh speakers required, the Welsh Government will need to lean heavily on the education system as the principal method of creating new Welsh speakers. The system will need to ensure that young people do not lose those skills learnt in statutory education as they progress into post-16 education and into the workplace.
The Welsh Government’s aims under this theme include:
- expanding support for families to transmit the language in the home;
- expand Welsh-medium early-years provision;
- create a statutory education system that helps increase the number of confident Welsh speakers;
- develop post-16 Welsh language provision and increase progression rates;
- increase and improve the education and training workforce who can teach through the medium of Welsh.
Theme 2 – Increasing the use of Welsh
While increasing the number of Welsh speakers is integral to the strategy’s success, the real success of the strategy will be increasing the daily use of Welsh. The Welsh Government wants to see the use of Welsh as ‘a routine part of everyday life’, with products and services offered proactively in Welsh.
Ensuring there are opportunities for people to use the language in a variety of situations, socially and in the workplace will be crucial for the strategy’s success.
The Welsh Government’s key aims under this theme are:
- increasing the use of Welsh in the workplace across all sectors;
- increasing the number of services offered and use of services in Welsh; and
- ensuring opportunities to use the language socially.
Theme 3 – Creating favourable conditions
This theme is focussed on ensuring ‘suitable conditions and an environment where the Welsh language and its speakers can thrive’. Developing a thriving, sustainable economy across Wales is integral to creating the social conditions that allow Welsh speakers to stay within their communities.
Another important aspect of this theme is developing the infrastructure that supports language development and skills. This includes developing digital resources, ensuring a healthy and diverse media, and supporting the translation profession.
The Welsh Government’s key aims under this theme include:
- supporting the socioeconomic infrastructure of Welsh-speaking communities;
- ensuring the Welsh language is at the heart of innovation in digital technology;
- ensure the continued development of Welsh language infrastructure (dictionaries, terminology and translation profession); and
- embedding language planning nationally, regionally and locally.
The Welsh Government published a Work Programme 2017-2021 (PDF, 697KB) that sets out how it intends to do deliver on the strategy’s aims over the next four years. Some key milestones to reach by 2021 include:
- Support the expansion of Welsh-medium early years provision by 40 nursery groups;
- Improve planning of Welsh-medium early years provision to facilitate progression into Welsh-medium statutory education;
- Increase number of seven year olds in Welsh-medium education from 7,700 (22%) to c.8,400 (24%);
- Increase the number of primary teachers teaching through the medium of Welsh from 2,900 to 3,100;
- Increase the number of secondary teachers teaching through the medium of Welsh from 1,800 to 2,200;
- Increase the number of secondary teachers teaching Welsh as a subject from 500 to 600.
- Review the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011;
- Develop better support to enhance integration of in-migrants into Welsh speaking communities drawing on similarities with the Voluntariat per la Llengua Programme in Catalunya.
The Welsh Government has set itself an ambitious target, and admits the target will be a ‘challenge’ to achieve. In setting an ambitious target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050, the Welsh Government stresses that this is not simply a challenge for the Government itself, but for the whole nation:
Government cannot insist that a parent uses the Welsh language with a child. It cannot insist children play together in Welsh. And it cannot require someone to use the Welsh language at the post office. This is part of a plan for us as a nation and as a society. (Consultation on the Welsh Government draft strategy: a million Welsh speakers by 2050)
The Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee in its Report has clearly thrown its support behind the Strategy, saying it ‘fully supports the bold aim of the policy’. But it also warns that if the Strategy is to be successful, it will require ‘hard work, considerable additional resources and clear targets’. More importantly however, the strategy will need to be ‘founded on the continuing support of the people of Wales, Welsh and non-Welsh speakers alike’.
If the Welsh Government’s Strategy is successful, it would halt a century long decline in the number of Welsh speakers in Wales, and almost double the number of Welsh speakers currently in Wales.
On 04/09/2017, Assembly Members will debate in Plenary the Culture, Welsh Language and Communications Committee report on its Inquiry into the Welsh Government’s new Welsh Language Strategy.
Article written by Osian Bowyer, National Assembly for Wales Research Service