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Wednesday, 15 August, 2001, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Call for money to save language
National Assembly
The Assembly "needs to spend more to save Welsh"
The Welsh Assembly must find 60m if it wants to save Welsh as a community language, an expert has said.

The umbrella group for community language ventures in Wales, Mentrau Iaith Cymru, said that was the level of expenditure necessary to secure the future of Welsh in the community and in schools.

Dr Cefin Campbell, chairman of Mentrau Iaith Cymru, said politicians needed to respond with practical measures to the fears which have been expressed recently about the language's survival.

His statement came after several weeks during which there has been a bitter public row over the pressures which the language faces in its territorial heartlands in north and west Wales.

Attempt to cool debate

Several people have claimed that large numbers of mainly English incomers have been pricing Welsh-speaking locals out of the property market in the last communities where Welsh is the majority tongue, thereby endangering the language's survival.

The terms in which these fears have been voiced have led to accusations of racism against some of those who have spoken out, including the former chairman of the Welsh Language Board, John Elfed Jones.

John Elfed Jones:
John Elfed Jones: Criticism
However, in turn, many incomers have been accused of being prejudiced against the native Welsh and of having no respect for the language of the area to which they have moved.

The new statement by Dr Campbell, who chairs the publicly-funded organisation charged with stimulating the use of the language in the community, is an attempt to move the debate beyond accusations and counter-accusations of racism.

Language facing a 'crisis'

"Of course, we have to look at what we must do to revive Welsh," said Dr Campbell.

"There has been a lot of emotion, naturally, over the last month, and unfortunately it has taken harsh statements by a number of people to set the subject of the language on the public agenda.

"It's not a bad thing, because those of us who are working in the field realise the serious crisis which the Welsh language faces in Welsh-speaking communities."

Welsh is spoken by just over half a million people in Wales, around a fifth of the Welsh population, and is the majority language of large areas of north, west and mid Wales.

While the number of speakers of the language has grown markedly in anglicised areas in recent decades thanks to bilingual education policies, the geographical areas in which it is is the majority tongue have steadily reduced.

Rhodri Morgan:
Rhodri Morgan: Economy is key
< Many supporters of Welsh argue that the long-term viability of the language will be endangered unless it retains some territories in which Welsh-speakers are a majority and which will generate first-language speakers as a result.

They argue that the Welsh-speaking heartland comprises some of Wales's poorest areas, and that the local housing market consequently needs a degree of protection from outside pressures so that Welsh speakers are not forced out.

Wales's First Minister Rhodri Morgan has stressed that the answer to the problems of areas of that kind lies in strengthening the local economy so that local people can compete in the housing market and do not have to leave to find work.

See also:

10 Aug 01 | Wales
Language protests at Eisteddfod
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