MORE than half of respondents to a council survey in one Welsh city said they have no interest in learning the language.

In a public consultation carried out by Newport City Council, 55 per cent of respondents said nothing would encourage them to learn the language.

The survey focused on the council’s five-year strategy for the Welsh language and received around 600 responses. The city's population is around 137,000.

Residents were asked if they can speak, write, understand or value the Welsh language. 

One respondent said: “[The Welsh language] is being promoted far too much considering the actual demand that exists in the general population. Whilst I would never prevent someone learning or speaking Welsh out of choice, it should remain just that, a choice.”

But other respondents to the survey had a more positive view of the language.

One respondent said: “I do not use the Welsh language but I am currently learning it. I think it is an important part of Welsh culture and identity.

“People have a right to use their preferred language in all aspects of their life.”

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Newport has historically had a low percentage of Welsh speakers. In June 2021 the Annual Population Survey revealed just 20.3 per cent of Newport residents can speak Welsh – below the Wales-wide figure of 29.2 per cent.

The survey was carried out as part of the Welsh language five-year promotional strategy – a requirement for all local authorities in Wales.

The strategy aims to support the Welsh Government in its goal of reaching one million Welsh speakers by 2050. The strategy was backed  by city councillors at an Overview and Management Scrutiny Committee meeting, which was held on Friday, January 21.

The council has said it wants “everyone in Newport” to be able to “use, see and hear Welsh as a living language in all parts of life in the city”.

By September 2032, the council aims for 11.1 per cent of city pupils in Year 1 (aged five to six) to be educated through the medium of Welsh. Currently, that figure is 5.1 per cent.

At the meeting, Labour councillor Yvonne Forsey, who represents Rogerstone, asked if the demand for Welsh schools met the provision.

Hywel Jones, Welsh language policy officer, said schools are currently under-subscribed but an officer has been appointed to encourage an uptake in places.

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Another part of the council’s strategy is to increase its visibility in informal settings outside of school and work.

A community partnership between the Dragons rugby region and the council has also been set up and will include bilingual match day programmes in an attempt to bring Welsh to those who do not usually speak the language.

One respondent to the survey said: “I think there are very limited free opportunities for people from minority backgrounds to learn Welsh, especially migrants, asylum seekers and refugees or those who may have missed the opportunity in primary or high school.”

The strategy states the council’s intent to promote Welsh as a ‘language for all’.

The results of the survey and the strategy will now go to the council’s cabinet in February to be discussed.

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