Wales is a country of lakes and mountains. Its about the half the size of Switzerland, and it has a population of two and three quarter million. On the north of Wales is located one of the most beautiful sceneries on the British islands, the Snowdon mountain. Snowdon is Britain’s second highest mountain.
Wales is not an independent nation. In 1292, the English king, Edward, invaded Wales and built fourteen huge castles to control the Welsh people. His son, Edward, became the first prince of Wales, since then all the kings and queens of England have given their eldest sons the title, Prince of Wales.
Prince Charles became the twenty-first Prince of Wales. Although the English have ruled Wales for many centuries, Wales still has its own flag, culture, and, above all, its own language. In the towns and villages of North Wales, many people speak English only as a second language.
Their first language is Welsh. In Llanberis, a small town at the foot of Snowdon,
eighty-six per cent people speak Welsh as their first language. At the local primary school children have nearly all their lessons in Welsh.
The children should be bilingual by the time that they are eleven years old. It is not a problem for children to learn two languages at the same time. Children have insight into two cultures, so have all the folk tales of two languages.
Children like Welsh because in Welsh you spell things just how you say them, in English there are more silent letters. Welsh is one of the oldest languages in Europe. Its a Celtic language, like Breton in France, Gaelic in Ireland, or Gaelic in Scotland. Two and a half thousand years before these languages were spoken in many parts of Europe. They died out when the Romans invaded these areas, but some of them survived in the northwest corner of Europe.
But over the last hundred years the number of Welsh-speakers has fallen very quickly. Now only twenty per cent of Welsh people speak Welsh. Here are some of the reasons for the decline. In the nineteenth century people thought that Welsh an uncivilized language. If you wanted to be successful in life you had to learn English, the language of the British Empire.
So in many schools children were forbidden to speak Welsh. At the beginning of the twentieth century many English and Irish people moved to South Wales to work in the coal mines and steel works. They did not learn Welsh. People, especially young people, moved away from the Welsh-speaking villages and farms of north and west Wales to look for work in the big towns and cities, so the Welsh-speaking communities became much smaller.
In the 1960s and 1970s many English people bought holiday cottages in villages in Wales. Most of them did not learn Welsh. This also pushed up the price of houses so that local Welsh-speaking people cold not afford them. English comes into every Welsh home trough the television, the radio, newspapers, books, etc. There are Welsh-language TV and radio stations, but far fever than English ones.
And now there is cable and satellite TV, too-in English, of course! The decline has now stopped, because a lot has been done. Road signs, bilingual documentation, and there is a Welsh language act. The future of Welsh is uncertain.
The problem is that Welsh has to survive next door to English, and, as we all know, English is a very successful language.