You don’t have to understand Welsh to respect it.
It’s always a risky thing, the weekly trawl through the offerings of the internet. The faceless nature of blogging and the comments which accompany them offer many the luxury of vitriolic anonymity (though one hopes this column does not suffer from the same misgivings, even if it is given over to a little vitriol from time to time). The rage and ignorance that bubbles under the surface of online comments can shock, horrify but ultimately disappoint us, and so it is that we come to the Welsh language. Flip through the Western Mail over the space of a year and you will inevitably find a report on someone being glib towards a Welsh speaker, a company acting in an insensitive manner towards someone wanting to use their first language in a business place, and so forth. Thankfully, these public and named instances of either abuse or ignorance towards out language are, if not rare occurrences these days, they are certainly far less prominent than they were, were we to look back to the 1980s and ‘90s, where Welsh acted as the poor man’s stand-up comics last resort should all other material fail.
However, just because our mainstream media are finding less instances of public abuses of the Welsh language and culture, does not mean for one moment that the consensus over the border has become one of tolerance and acceptance to the idea of people in Wales having a language which is not dead/dying/irrelevant, and acknowledging it as an important part of the modern day Welsh cultural landscape. Reading Jasper Rees’ article in the online version of the Telegraph, proved a worthy distraction (have a look here http://t.co/l4AdJ2c) in the build of the Eisteddfod, but more troubling were the comments added below. While in the minority, it is clear that an attitude pervades, predominantly from across the border, that the Welsh language is a costly irrelevance that should be left to die a peaceful death (or forced to die a rather aggressive one should the tone of certain commentators be taken on face value). Type the phrase ‘Welsh language’ into a blogging search engine such as digg.com, and sadly the best results you will find topping the search will be meshed together with foul diatribes lambasting the importance and position of the language.
We must remember in Wales that the language is part of us. While you do not need to speak Welsh to be Welsh, you cannot have Wales without Welsh. Long term that relationship may be untenable, but that is why we encourage rather than force the use of Welsh, we embrace its use rather than wield it as a stick to smack those who would undermine the nation (as once was the way in which the language was used around the 1970s-80s). But we must also remember, and always be on our guard, that within and nearby to Wales, are many who would look to strip us of our most distinctive cultural resource. Just because the reports are less frequent, the same old ignorance, antagonism, and jealousy of our distinct cultural traits, are alive and well, just hidden in the murky realm of the blogosphere.