It was ten years ago that a local Labour councillor told me there shouldn’t be any Welsh medium schools.

Around the same time, the Labour-Plaid coalition government was trumpeting the Welsh Language Measure (2011) and the creation of the Welsh Language Commissioner.

A decade on and another report, 'The Position of the Welsh Language 2016-20', was published just in time to miss crucial data from the 2021 census.

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There is some good news though. The decline in the number of Welsh speakers (in broad terms) has been reversed with a slight increase to 880,000 or 30 per cent of the population. And that’s really it. Except that the government has come up with a new strategy called ‘Cymraeg 2050’ which aims at having a million Welsh speakers by 2050

And I’m right behind this aim. Not because I speak Welsh, nor because of, or indeed in spite of, my politics, but simply because I live in Wales and so Welsh belongs to me and I belong to it for all sorts of reasons. Who doesn’t like belting out Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau and Calon Lân on match day after all?

My concern lies with the ambition of the government to put its money where its mouth is and invest in our most valuable asset. And, of course, careful investment will yield high rewards. At the moment, £28 million or 0.15 per cent of the budget is spent on promoting the national language. Not nearly enough according to Cymdeithas yr Iaith. In its 2020 manifesto ‘More than a Million’, the Welsh Language Society wants expenditure to rise to 1 per cent or £186 million, mainly to fund Welsh medium education, the key to securing what Cymdeithas really wants which is ‘Welsh language citizenship for all.’

And what an image that conjures up. I once sat in a Brussels restaurant listening to two couples. One would say something in French, someone else replied in Flemish. Another would start a sentence in Flemish and end it in French. And Wales is no different. Two languages - among others - doubly enriching.  A win-win for everyone. 

Nourishing the Welsh language isn’t only about getting the numbers up, though. We should all be concerned by outward migration from Welsh-speaking communities, which require serious and sustained attention.

The 2011 census revealed a 25 percent drop in the number of communities where more than 70 percent of people spoke Welsh: from 53 to only 39. Data from the 2021 census are not expected to show any improvement. If anything, the situation may have worsened as more and more young people are being forced to go elsewhere for the reasons we already know so well.

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Holiday homes, first homes, affordable homes are all on the agenda now thanks to the recent Labour Plaid agreement which promises to take ‘immediate’ action. That’s good news too.

‘Yma o hyd’ sings Dafydd Iwan, and Welsh always will be here. But it can only thrive with political will backed by hard cash. Thus far we haven’t seen much of either.

For more information about Cymdeithas and its plans for tackling the housing crisis listen to Episode 1 of the Leanne Wood Podcast.

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