Why Just a Welsh Language LCO?

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!


  1. Yes, I agree. Giving wider language competencies would be reassuring to many speakers of various languages in Wales (including BSL and Esperanto).

    On a side issue, I would note that the purpose of Esperanto was never to supercede national languages, but to act as a lingua franca alongside other languages.

    Back to the main point - I happen to live in a ward such as you mention where both Welsh and English native speakers are in the minority. This can make for a very interesting cosmopolitan neighbourhood but can also give ample potential for misunderstanding and suspicion. Broader linguistic responsibilities for the Assembly would help the different linguistic communities to work together on supporting and valuing all the languages that make Wales the vibrant and open country that it should be.

  2. You're right about the multiplicity of languages, Alwyn, and each of these languages should continue to flourish.

    I'm in Cameroon at the moment with its myriad of languages. After a meal in Bafut today, people their sang their local songs, and I gave them Calon Lan in return.

    On Esperanto, let me say that this planned language has had a place in Wales for nearly a century. The snappily titled "Agoriad neu Allwedd i'r Iaith Gyd-genedlaethol Esperanto" was first published in 1910. It was reprinted in the 1950s, and a pocket dictionary was published in 1985.

    By the way, I can only get "Anonymous" to work on this, but I don't want anonymity! Bill Chapman