Thursday, 30 January 2014

Forget the apology

Comments by Michael Fabricant sparked a bit of a Labour-Tory spat this week.  He claimed in an interview that there was no need for Welsh to be used in education in Wales, and that insisting on doing so was holding us back – sentiments with more than a little hint of the infamous Blue Books.
As evidence for his view that Welsh was unnecessary, he pointed to the fact that the Welsh word for neutron was the same as the English.  Others have already pointed out that this is not something which is exactly unique to Wales.  The word itself derives from Latin, of course.  Perhaps we’ve inadvertently stumbled upon the solution to the not insignificant educational problems of England as well – insisting on using English rather than Latin as the medium of instruction is clearly holding them back.
Why anyone would expect the MP for Lichfield to have any useful expertise on matters educational in Wales (even if he does have, as he reminds us from time to time, some Welsh ancestry) is almost as big a mystery as why anyone would take what he has to say seriously.  The point, if there is one, isn’t really about him or the specific point that he made, but about what it tells us about an underlying attitude – ignorance, even – towards Wales, and the Welsh language, amongst those who still make most of our laws.
I don’t blame Keith Davies AM for picking up on that point – although, to be honest, I can perfectly well believe that a similar attitude is shared by many other MPs in London, Labour as well as Tory.  Why on earth, though, did Mr Davies have to pursue the all-too-common political ruse of demanding an apology from the Tories?  It almost invited the even sillier response from the Welsh Tories that “Carwyn Jones is the only person who should be apologising…”.
A serious point about underlying attitudes towards our language in the corridors of power was turned into a slanging match about who should apologise for what and to whom.  And they wonder why politics turns people off?
I really don’t care whether the Tories give a meaningless and insincere apology for the words of one of their members or not.  And I don’t care either whether Carwyn Jones gives an equally meaningless and insincere apology for the state of education in Wales.  I do care about changing the attitudes towards our language, and I care even more about sorting out the educational system in Wales.  I’d have a bit more respect for politicians if I thought that they cared about those things as much as they care about being seen to try and extract pointless apologies.


Anonymous said...

All talk about the language is nonsense.

Free competition throughout Wales will ensure its survival or otherwise. Free competition for school GCSE and A'level results. Free competition for university places. And free competition in the workforce for private sector jobs.

It's only within the public sector that matters will remain distorted. But there is increasingly less reason why one has to 'buy' public services from Welsh providers when better may well be available from English sources.

Again, it's just a question of time. The language will only survive if those speaking it ensure the services they provide are worthy of survival.

T-Man said...


It's obvious that a minority language like Welsh will be extinguished by a strong majority language like English if Wales is to adopt a policy of linguistic Darwinism as you seem to be suggesting.

Thankfully most people don't share your fundamentalist fascination with markets as benevolent and quasi-sacred forces of righteousness to which we should all surrender ourselves.

What is the point of expending resources on preventing poachers from killing the last few thousand rhinos? I can see no clear use for a rhino in our contemporary market economy, except perhaps attracting a few tourists. But give 'em a swimming pool and a few nicely decorated huts and I'm sure they won't care - after all, Africa has plenty of other animals.

Not all things in life should be reduced to simplistic supply and demand metrics.

Neilyn said...

Anon @ 10:55

Sorry, but your talk about 'free competition' as applied to language is utter nonsense.

There isn't a single country in Europe that doesn't teach its own language, or through its own language, to its own children, with English increasingly taught alongside as the first choice inter-national language.

'Free competition', a.k.a. mandatory English/optional Welsh is a grotesque Victorian ideal, 100 years and more past it's sell by date. It has been shown to lead to a downwards educational spiral resulting in English monolingualism, a very unusual and disadvantaged state of affairs, and very much a minority sport.

Mr Fabricant should focus his attention on matters for which his constituency in England elected him. Those include, I'm sure, the integration of new citizens and their children whose grasp of his beloved English may be somewhat limited.