JEREMY Bowen has been urged by a fellow BBC journalist to join Cardiff City’s most passionate supporters to experience “thriving bilingualism” in his hometown. 

The veteran BBC correspondent has come in for fierce social media criticism, including from BBC News colleague Huw Edwards and education minister Jeremy Miles, following comments he made about the Welsh Government’s policy to boost use of the Welsh language

But Gwyn Loader, who is employed by the BBC as Welsh language channel S4C’s chief news correspondent, has praised the ‘This Union Being Welsh’ series Bowen made for Radio 4 in which he made the comments and invited the Bluebirds fan to attend a game in the Canton Stand at the Cardiff City Stadium. 

In a series of tweets Loader said he was “glad” the experienced reporter hadn’t “shied away” from discussing “the undoubtedly complex and controversial issue of language and identity”. 

In the second episode of the three-part series, broadcast this week, Cardiff born and raised Bowen said: “A Welsh Government surveys says right now 70 per cent of people in Wales can’t speak Welsh about 20 per cent of the population speak it regularly. 

“I fear the Welsh Government’s determination to spread the language risks devaluing the identity of Welsh people like me.” 

During the programme Bowen also spoke with ‘Sam from Ely, Cardiff’ who expressed a desire to learn Welsh but said he didn’t perceive he would have much opportunity to speak it with others in his day to day life. Bowen said he, like friends he’d grown up who don’t speak Welsh “value the language and respect it" but they "grumble about, what they saw as official bias in favour of Welsh speakers”.  

READ MORE: Call for sport and the media to support use of Welsh outside of the classroom

The BBC's Middle East editor said he hadn’t lived in Wales since leaving for university in the late 1970s and many online complained that Bowen had presented an out dated view of Wales or that the programme reflected his own experiences from 40 years ago. 

Plaid Cymru’s South Wales East MS Delyth Jewell said on Twitter: “What Jeremy Bowen doesn't understand is that in the time he's been away from Wales, the linguistic divide has healed. This attitude reflects a divisive past, whereas modern Wales is a confident, bilingual nation where people respect each other, whether they speak Welsh or not.” 

READ MORE: Jeremy Bowen to front radio documentary on ‘being Welsh’

Loader, who said Bowen has previously offered him encouragement in his career with the BBC and ITV Wales which has seen him report from across the world, said attitudes towards Welsh are changing.

He invited Bowen to join him in Canton Stand at the Cardiff City Stadium which is acknowledged as the area occupied by the club’s loudest and most passionate supporters. 

“In the Canton stand around me, are Welsh-speakers, Welsh learners and those who don’t speak Welsh. There are no tensions. We are all part of the Cardiff City and Wales of today,” wrote Loader in a Twitter thread. 

“Welsh is no longer the preserve of rural, farming communities only. Would happily welcome @BowenBBC to the Cardiff City terraces to witness the thriving bilingualism in his home city today” 

 

In the thread Loader said as a Welsh speaker from Merthyr, who lives in Cardiff: “I totally understand his reservations about pro-Welsh speaking government policy.” 

In response to the programme former Wales football captain, and professor at Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre, Laura McAllister tweeted to say Bowen hadn’t brought his usual “rigour” to the subject  

She described the programmes as a “highly slanted take” and “its underlying assumptions are mostly those of 70s & 80s, with scarcely a nod to shifts in social, pol & cultural attitudes since then”. 

READ MORE: The dragon has many tongues: how Welsh speakers are polyglots in one language

BBC News at Ten presenter Huw Edwards tweeted: “I like and respect @bowenbbc We are all products of upbringing - this take is 1970s Cardiff. So stop speaking Welsh to make him feel better? (PS I thought criticising government policy was against @bbcnews rules? Asking for a friend whose Welsh flag was deleted by order.” 

Education minister Jeremy Miles wrote: “From one Jeremy to another: Cymraeg belongs to us all, whether we can say just a few words, whether we can speak a lot, or not! And it’s never too late to pick up even just a little Welsh - there’s loads of support and a huge welcome for anyone who wants to give it a go.” 

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