It isn't rude to talk Welsh

10th November 2006 at 00:00
Welsh-speaking children should be taught it is not rude to hold a conversation in public, says a leading promoter of the language.

Meirion Prys Jones, chief executive of the Welsh Language Board (WLB), said old-hat attitudes towards language etiquette had to change if minority languages were to thrive.

Mr Jones was asked to speak about the revival of the language of heaven and the board's success in marketing the language to young people at a major conference in the south Tyrol region of northern Italy last week.

Thirty-five per cent of the 940,000 population there speak German, and there are 50 minority languages spoken by one in 10 people across Europe.

"Wales really is a success story among minority language regions across Europe in reviving Welsh among the young," said Mr Prys Jones. "We are using pop music and sport to generate interest in the language among the iPod generation, something we can share with other regions."

However, Mr Prys Jones said a lack of tolerance among young speakers was still a problem within the Welsh borders.

The board's own figures show that a fifth of Welsh speakers would not converse in the language on a bus or while shopping.

Reports from the WLB show that, since 2003, a rise in the number of young Welsh speakers inside schools has not been matched by chances to improve fluency levels in the community.

Last month Plaid Cymru complained to government officials that there is still a lack of employers offering Welsh-medium work placements for young people.

Shadow education minister Janet Ryder said more opportunities to speak Welsh outside the school should be an important part of the 14-19 learning pathways reforms.

Mr Prys Jones said making it easier for young people to identify fellow speakers should be top of any minority language agenda. He praised the red badge scheme used by Welsh businesses and youth clubs to identify speakers.

And he said Young Farmers Clubs in Wales and the promotion scheme Menter Iaith were also helping.

In Rhondda Cynon Taf, Clwb Carco, an offspring of the Menter Iaith initiative, is bringing children together for after-school activities such as paint-balling and swimming - in Welsh.

But it is vital there are more opportunities for speaking Welsh at work, as well as in the pub, he added: "It's not just about language, it's also about building up communities."

nicola.porter@tes.co.uk

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