Welsh not

Quite an interesting, although sad, piece of Welsh history, where England wrote with disgrace on its pages. The assimilation of Wales and England reached its climax in 1536 and 1543, when Acts of Unions were signed. 17th century. By the end of 19th c. (1870s) only 34% of the Welsh population used English as their first language. And now? Different numbers are provided by different sources, but only about 30% of the Welsh are actually those who do speak Welsh.

welsh not

Original “Welsh Not” table. From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/

Welsh not was a practice in Welsh schools in Wales, in 1870s, to make Welsh children use the English language only, also when communicating with one another. A pupil caught speaking Welsh was given a wooden Welsh Not or W.N. to hang on their neck. They would pass it to the next child who was overheard speaking Welsh. At the end of the day or week, the last child wearing the ‘W.N’ was severely punished.

Ogloszenie pl w Cardiff

Cardiff. An advert on a lamp post. Is it in Polish, though?

When I hear a different language being spoken when I’m in Poland, I smile to myself, as it’s always something exotic. Especially, when I don’t understand a word. The English sometimes put up notices in their workplaces that they forbid the Polish to communicate with one another in a language different than English.

And what about the Welsh?

My brother, as a student then, came to visit me in Wales once to find a summer job. We were looking for a temporary work for him, going from one factory to another, and we somehow ended up in an abattoir. Not a particularly pleasant work, and not particularly high wages. Hence the workforce consisted mostly of Polish people. We walked into the main office and … were greated by a smiling Welshman speaking fluent Polish:
“Almost all workers are Polish so we’ve learnt their language.”

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1 Comment on "Welsh not"

  1. I truly appreciate efforts of the Welsh people, who learnt Polish! The repressions against the Welsh language in the 19th cent. corresponded with the Polish experience in that time, in both Russian and Prussian part of Poland. I once wrote an article on the contacts between Polish and Celtic linguistic rights’ activists early 20th cent., in Polish-Anglosaxon Studies, vol. 2003, 10/11, but i believe the subject is far from being exhausted, especially that I do not speak Welsh, and someone other could do more research in this language…

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