Do people know where Wales is

Bilingualism in WalesLabor government wants to hear more Welsh

Small orange speech bubbles stick to the collars of passers-by in the rainy streets of Cardiff. And you can also see them in the office buildings and schools. Maggie Morgan wears a ribbon with her job identification card around her neck. In the printed speech bubbles it says: "Cymraeg" - "Welsh".

"I work in a very large vocational school and if I meet someone from the staff or a student in the hallway or in the canteen I don't know and they see this speech bubble, they know I speak Welsh."

Official Welsh language officer appointed

In a referendum in 2011, the Labor government found that Welsh was being spoken less and less - and thereupon created the post of official Welsh language officer, who now distributes the orange speech bubbles across the country, among other things.

"I think that's a great idea. It encourages me to speak Welsh in my everyday life. Normally, out of courtesy, people would rather start a conversation in English because they don't know if the person you are speaking to can speak Welsh." She herself now always speaks Welsh as soon as she spots someone with the orange speech bubble, she says.

English was considered the language of social advancement

Maggie Morgan loves languages. She speaks Russian, French, German and Hungarian. And she loves adventure. When she wanted to learn German, she moved to West Berlin in the 1980s and regularly smuggled punk tapes to friends across the GDR border. And to learn Hungarian, she went to Budapest in 1988 and taught English there. The Welshwoman moved again a year ago after raising her two children in the south east of England. Now the 55-year-old has returned home.

"I was very unsure whether I could still speak Welsh. I would open my mouth sometimes and it took a while for Welsh words to come out."

This article is part of the five-part series Wales - Confident in the UK.

Because not only in the 30 years in England did she mainly speak English. As a child, she grew up in a Welsh-speaking neighborhood, but her parents raised her in English. The language that was considered necessary for social advancement.

“My father only spoke Welsh until he was five, but my mother couldn't speak Welsh. And in the 1960s, when I was growing up, parents were under enormous pressure to teach their children only English. that I would have better chances if I didn't grow up bilingual. "

Welsh - a singsong with a lot of poetry

Today Maggie Morgan is fluent. And every Monday evening she goes to the Chapter, a cultural center in Cardiff with two cinemas and a pub café, where she meets the neighborhood to speak Welsh.

Why is he learning Welsh, Maggie asks Alex, who has just started. Because he lives here and is interested in the language, Alex says, explaining that he only moved from Northern Ireland to Wales to live with his girlfriend four months ago. A Northern Irishman who speaks Welsh with a Northern Welsh dialect because his Welsh teacher is from the north, laughs Maggie Morgan. A "Gogledd", as the people from the north are also called. The language is more widely spoken in the rural north than in the more industrial south.

Welsh is a singsong with a lot of poetry, explains Maggie. A language that is expressed a lot in pictures and with proverbs. Like Irish, it belongs to the Celtic languages.

"Speaking Gaelic is an absolute political issue in Ireland," explains Alex. "Here in Wales I can come into contact with Celtic culture without having to justify myself to my friends, as I might at home."

Because in Northern Ireland the language was so badly abused by nationalists in the past that it was still understood as a nationalistic act to learn Irish.

"Wales has become a more confident nation"

In Wales, the government simply wants to protect the language from extinction: teachers can take a five-week mini-sabbatical to learn Welsh. The government is promoting the opening of Welsh language schools. Being able to speak Welsh, says Maggie Morgan, is therefore no longer a disadvantage, but a qualification.

"A lot of English-speaking parents these days send their children to Welsh schools to learn Welsh and grow up bilingually. I don't think that's a coincidence. Wales has just become a much more confident nation. And part of that confidence is that we are the language today see them very positively and love them very much. "

In any case, Wales can already report one small success: the export of the orange speech bubble. The Scottish Language Authority has just announced that it is introducing a turquoise speech bubble based on the Welsh model.