Developing a sustainable Wales is what drives me forward every day. Sustainability in the true sense of the word; economically, environmentally, socially, and culturally.
In my little self-righteous way, I believe that my work and the fantastic work of the team at M-SParc contribute to igniting ambition in the region, creating quality jobs, a diverse economy, and a low-carbon environment while supporting our communities and the language. It was therefore a great disappointment to read the findings of the census on the numbers of Welsh speakers.
You can have a look at the figures in a presentation on the subject by following this link. The focus of the conversation will be the “Percentage who can speak Welsh in 2021” – 17.8% or 538,300 people, down 1.2% or 23,700 people since 2011.
There is a significant reduction in the number of children who can speak Welsh while the figures show the biggest reductions in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Anglesey.
M-SParc’s annual survey shows that 76.92% of our tenants speak or learn Welsh and indeed benefit from salaries that are significantly higher than the national average.
We are also proud of our work to support the language with every member of staff able to speak Welsh and specific interventions to support use of the language.
We encourage people to learn by holding courses and residential visits over to Nant Gwrtheyrn and run an annual ‘Returners’ campaign to help people come home to Wales and we had the privilege of running and organizing “Welsh Language Hack” at the start of the year considering the opportunities to innovate in the field.
Providing the skills to work in the sector is essential, not only because there is a lack of skills in the science and technology sector but because these are good quality jobs that will allow our young people to stay here and for some who are of working age to return here. M-SParc’s STEM program is tailored to provide STEM through the medium of Welsh and to respond to the opportunities from the new curriculum. There is a golden opportunity here not only to close the skills gap but also to ensure that the Welsh language is available to everyone from all fields, including in science and technology.
We are also proud to support several businesses that are focused on the language and benefit from the excellent work of the Bedwyr Center at Bangor University. Over the past year we have seen the companies Pai Technologies, Haia and Animated Technologies Ltd together with the OgiOgi app from Menter Mon Ltd innovating in M-SParc creating jobs and supporting the language.
I have respect for our learners at M-SParc and there are many of them who go about it and succeed but we as fluent speakers need to take time and care to practice and not turn to English at the first opportunity. There is also a group who know Welsh but need the confidence to speak it.
We, like many other bodies, are very keen to consider the opportunities that the Arfor 2 plan will offer to set about realizing the target of having a million speakers by 2050. The concept is strong and appealing, how can we use entrepreneurship and developing the economy to support the strongholds of the Welsh language and, thereby, maintain the language? That is the challenge for the program which was announced in October 2022, a special opportunity to make a difference.
The Future Generations Act states “A Wales with a vibrant culture where the Welsh language flourishes” as one of the 7 goals. As one of the most powerful laws to come into force in recent years we need to take the language seriously. Has the Welsh language received fair and balanced attention in the special work that goes on with the other goals of the act? It is and it should be possible to be innovative in the Welsh language.
I am proud of our work and our community of Welsh speakers and although today’s figures are disappointing in places, we need to be proud of successes and the opportunities that innovation offers for the future. There is work to be done with our young people and providing a STEM program through the language infused in the new curriculum is certainly part of the solution. Seeing the impact of programs like the Skills Academy and the jobs that are created is also a reason for us to be positive and there will be further opportunities through programs like Arfor, from Canolfan Bedwyr’s research and the innovation of our tenants.
With the Welsh football team landing at home from Qatar it is clear that the question is not asking if Dafydd Iwan is still here. Demanding that “the Welsh language will be alive” Dafydd Iwan and over 230,000 children joined him to sing the song recently as part of the Urdd Jamboree and we must also demand and do our part to reach the goal.
How about some early resolutions this year, the Welsh language manifesto for 2023?