The Welsh Government has revealed an exciting new initiative aimed at boosting the number of Welsh speakers in Wales. As a pledge to safeguard the future of the Welsh language, the new strategy hopes to increase the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050; double the current number of fluent speakers.
As part of the initiative, the number of seven-year olds being taught in Welsh-medium schools will rise from 22% to 30% by 2030. The long-term objective is to see 70% of children leave school as fluent Welsh speakers by 2050.
Far from shying away from the size of the task, First Minister, Carwyn Jones, has called on the people of Wales to get behind the initiative, emphasising the importance and benefits of bilingualism.
Mr Jones said:
“Reaching a million speakers is a deliberately ambitious target to so that the Welsh language thrives for future generations. If we are to succeed, we need the whole nation to take ownership of the language. Politicians can’t impose that, but politicians can lead. By raising our expectations and adopting an ambitious vision, we have the potential to change the future outlook for the language.”
To achieve their targets, Welsh Government will not only build new Welsh-medium schools but have also admitted that many schools will undertake a transition from English to Welsh. Remaining English-medium schools will impose an increased focus on teaching the Welsh language to their pupils.
The project has been backed throughout the Assembly, but Conservative spokesperson, Suzy Davies, believes a focus needs to be placed on what learning Welsh can achieve.
“Success will depend on persuading our different communities, different individuals, why it is so valuable to be bilingual, to have skills in both our languages” she says.
Ms Davies added:
“Clearly, the more pupils learn through the medium of Welsh, or hear and see more Welsh as a normal part of school life, the better the prospect of increasing fluency among the next generation of Welsh speakers. So, we do support this. But we also need to look at challenges faced by the current generation – in particular, adults in work – and I want to see more opportunities to upskill the Welsh workforce in their actual workplace.”