A number of posts last week across the Welsh blogosphere relating to the Welsh Language LCO attracted comments from Brian Barker from the UK Esperanto Lobby.
I have never quite understood the idea of Esperanto, and have never favoured the idea of "one universal language". However Mr Barker's comments in favour of a legal status for Esperanto do raise an interesting point regarding Language issues and the Assembly. Specifically, why should the Assembly request competence for just the Welsh Language?
Wales is a multi cultural, multi linguistic community. The idea that the National Assembly should have authority to legislate and make policies in regard to just ONE of those many languages doesn't seem right to me.
Many of those who object to any protection for the Welsh language worry that such protection is, in some way, going to force them to learn Welsh or disadvantage them because they don't speak Welsh.
Most Welsh speakers despair when we hear such arguments. We know what linguistic disadvantage is and we know that giving our language a legal status is not going to endanger the future of English in Wales! However, we have to accept that the worries of the non Welsh speaking community, despite being unfounded, are genuine worries.
Competence for Language, rather than just the Welsh Language could enable the Assembly to give the English speaking majority assurances that would enable them to support the protection of Welsh without fear.
Wales doesn't have just two indigenous languages - it has three. Since its inception the Assembly has accepted that BSL (sign language) is the third most commonly used indigenous language in Wales. The Assembly is the only government body that accepts BSL as an official native language. A language LCO that gave the Assembly authority over BSL as well as Welsh might make ITV Wales think again about ditching BSL on it's news programmes.
In some wards in Wales both English and Welsh are minority languages, the Assembly should have the language competency to cope with these communities, and to react to their linguistic needs sensitively. An exclusive Welsh language LCO doesn't give our government the tools needed for that job!
I don't think that the current Welsh Language LCO can be adapted into a general Language LCO, given its passage. But whilst the current competence order is going through its paces, it would be good if the Assembly started to think about other broader linguistic responsibilities it could aquire as the next step!