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-quarters million. In the north of Wales is some of the most beautiful scenery in the British Isles, especially Snowdon Mountain. Snowdon is Britain’s second highest mountain. Wales is an not 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, and ever since then all the kings and queens of England have given their eldest sons the title Prince of Wales, and Prince Charles is 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 northern Wales, many people speak English only as a second language, with Welsh as their primary language. For example, in Llanberis, a small town at the foot of Snowdon, eighty-six percent of people speak Welsh as their first language. At the local primary school, children have nearly all their lessons in Welsh. The children are bilingual by the time that they are eleven years old as a result, they have an insight into both cultures, including having all the folk tales of two languages. Children like Welsh because in Welsh, you spell things just how you say them, whereas 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 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. Over the last hundred years, however, the number of Welsh-speakers has fallen very quickly. Now only twenty per cent of Welsh people speak Welsh. There are several reasons for the decline. In the nineteenth century
people, thought that Welsh was an uncivilized language. If you wanted to be successful in life, you had to learn English, the language of the British Empire. As a result, 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 coalmines and steel works, and 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, and most of them did not learn Welsh. This also pushed up the price of houses so that local Welsh-speaking people could 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 fewer than English ones. The decline has been halted, thanks in part to the Welsh Language Act, as well as bilingual road signs and official documents. 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.