03 October 2015

Why Welsh, even?

In my Dutch days I tended to be very surprised if foreigners would learn Dutch.Why bother? It's a tiny language spoken in a tiny country. And pretty much everyone who speaks Dutch also speaks English.

Now I live in a country that is half the size of the Netherlands, of which the native language is only spoken by about 0.03 times the number of people that speak Dutch (according to Wikipedia). And everyone who speaks Welsh also speaks English. Yet I'm learning the language.

When I read about,say, another Amazonian language lost I get sad. A language is a treasure in itself! And we already have enough one-size-fits-all western porridge! It's lovely to have cultural diversity. And when a language vanishes that tends to be due to either a population group dying out, which is sad, or because of a dominant other language taking over, which is sad too.

So if I think cultural identity and native languages are a good thing, then learning Welsh is the most logical thing to do. I already speak Dutch so I don't have to worry about that. And I'm on my way doing my bit to give Wales its own language back! There is a Welsh social media site (a sort of miniature Twitter with lots of y's and ch's) and its motto is: A country without a language is a country without a heart. I agree! And nowadays the English may not be as actively discouraging Welsh as they have done in less enlightened times, but if you do as much as watching the start of a Rugby match in the world cup, you might quickly notice that the English team belts out its national anthem in full force, accompanied by both royal princes, but the Welsh team struggles*, and only one prince will offer back-up vocals (quite a telling picture of the singing here - among lots of other pics, sorry about that). The language is still the underdog. But not on my shift!

There are many examples of this; on the ship I was, at one point, having a beer with some colleagues; among them an Irish and a Basque woman. They spoke Gaelic nor Basque. A present Englishman defended the use of his so universally applicable native tongue. And I agreed one should indeed speak this language (and Spanish if one is Basque), but I asked "would you really only want to speak the language of the imperialist oppressor"? That was taken as a rather provocative question. I myself would like to see centuries of homogenisation undone and all such endangered languages blossom! And if I now come across someone desiring to learn Dutch I don't dismiss that but put on my unusually articulating newsreader's voice!

ps you could put that down to them not liking singing, but that would be quite at odds with the national stereotype. In this context, BTW, I find it slightly sad that Wales's second opponent, Fiji, sang its national anthem in English, even though there also is a Fijian version!

1 comment:

Jesper Hansen said...

I admire your sense of languages.... Jeg er helt enig i dine synspunkter!