Although the majority of people living in Wales can speak English, the Welsh language continues to thrive. Half a million people in Wales can speak Welsh, that’s around 19% of the population.
It’s called Cymraeg, and is a language with entirely regular and phonetic spelling. Our place names may look complicated but once you know the rules, you can learn to read and pronounce Welsh fairly easily.
Our Celtic language is closely related to Cornish and Breton and is one of Europe’s oldest living languages; the Welsh we speak today is directly descended from the language of the Sixth Century.
Welsh – a living language
Welsh is a living language, used in conversation by thousands and seen throughout Wales. Welsh Language Act 1993, Government of Wales Act 1998, and The Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 provide that the Welsh and English languages should be treated equally. Public bodies are required to prepare and implement a Welsh Language Scheme.
Both Welsh and English exist harmoniously in Wales. The bilingual words of poet Gwyneth Lewis featured on the design of the iconic Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay is a proud illustration of this. The English reads ‘In These Stones Horizons Sing’ and the Welsh is ‘Creu Gwir Fel Gwydr o Ffwrnais Awen’, which translates as Creating truth like glass from the furnace of inspiration.
Welsh – an official language
Public bodies, including local councils, health boards, and the Welsh Government use Welsh as an official language. They provide services, issue official literature and publicity in Welsh as well as in English. Road signs in Wales are in English and Welsh.
Welsh language in schools
Welsh is a compulsory subject for all pupils up to the age of 16 in English-medium schools in Wales. Welsh is taught as a first language in Welsh-medium schools.
Welsh medium TV, radio and press
We have a national Welsh language television channel, S4C, and a Welsh language radio station, BBC Radio Cymru. There is a weekly national paper as well as Welsh language magazines and regional monthly papers.
Two Welsh language films have been nominated for Oscars – Hedd Wyn and Solomon a Gaenor under the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category.
Hinterland, our own Nordic-noir-style TV detective series was filmed twice. The Welsh version, Y Gwyll, was shot simultaneously as the English version, Hinterland. It has been sold around the world.
The Welsh language can be seen online with an increasing number of Welsh language sites and blogs popping up. There are an increasing number of Welsh language Apps and Games available – did you know you could play Minecraft in Welsh?
Welsh speakers in Patagonia
The Chubut province of Patagonia in Argentina was formed by Welsh settlers in 1865. Today there are still around 5,000 people who speak Welsh in the region.
The Welsh Language Project promotes and develops the Welsh language in Chubut. Every year three Language Development Officers from Wales develop the language in the Welsh speaking communities through both formal teaching and informal social activities.
There is also a permanent Teaching Co-ordinator from Wales based in Patagonia, who is responsible for the quality of teaching. Another aspect of the project is a network of Patagonian Welsh language tutors in the region.
You don’t have to live in Wales to learn Welsh. There are books, online resources as well as classroom learning.
Pethau Bychain means ‘do the little things'. The phrase comes from our patron Saint, Dewi Sant. Find out how to start using Welsh in every day life, to live, learn and enjoy.
Learning Welsh in the USA
Cymdeithas Madog, the Welsh Studies Institute in North America Inc., is an organisation dedicated to helping North Americans learn, use and enjoy the Welsh language.
Every year during Welsh Learners week there are courses held somewhere in North America. In July 2015 courses are being held in Portland.
Learn the Welsh National Anthem
If you want to learn the Welsh National Anthem, an iPad app has been developed by the National Library of Wales aims to teach the words and melody of Hen Wlad fy Nhadau, line by line. The Gwlad Gwlad [Country Country] app is available to download for a small fee.