by Sara Peacock
This is the twenty-ninth contribution to our Welsh Keywords series – inspired by Raymond Williams’ Keywords – which offers contemporary perspectives on contested meanings of words in Welsh and how these shifting meanings continue to shape our society.
In April 2018, Duolingo announced that there were now one million people learning Welsh through its platform, a statement that attracted comparisons with the Welsh Government’s current language policy and its target to have a million Welsh speakers in Wales by 2050. In the ensuing discussion of this milestone in the press and social media, there was celebration, certainly, but also a distinction drawn between ‘speakers’ of a language (the government’s aim) and ‘learners’ (e.g. the Duolingo community).1 ‘The challenge’, the discussion suggested, ‘is ensuring that learners reach fluency.’ According to this perception, then, the ‘learner’, or ‘dysgwr’ in Welsh, is on a journey to an agreed end-point (‘fluency’) at which point, presumably, they will undergo a transformation into a ‘speaker’(‘siaradwr’). Who confers this accolade, one wonders; is there a presentation ceremony? A ritual binning of the ‘L’ plates?Sign in to read more
Towards the end of a successful editorial career, Sara Peacock started to learn with Say Something in Welsh, and then took time out to study for an MA focused on language policy and planning in the School of Welsh at Cardiff University. She now works to help small businesses develop their use of the Welsh language.