Wales has exported an awful lot over the centuries: we’ve churned out of coal, a lot of water has been extracted out of us and we now do a good line in pop singers, sports personalities and cheese. Since living in London and working as a Welsh tutor, I’ve noticed another one of Wales’ primary exports: the Linguistically Bereaved Welsh.
The Linguistically Bereaved Welsh are a group who left Wales in their early twenties to study or work in England or further afield and who don’t speak Welsh. Their linguistic bereavement doesn’t come directly and necessarily from an absence of the Welsh Language. We know that you don’t have to speak Welsh to be Welsh. Political analyst Dennis Balsom’s Three-Wales Model may now be approaching 35 years old, but it probably still holds a lot of water. The Three-Wales Model chops the country up into three broad parts:
- Y Fro Gymraeg: Welsh-speaking, Welsh-identifying Wales (North Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Gwynedd, Anglesey)
- Welsh Wales: Non-Welsh-speaking, Welsh-identifying (Swansea, Gower and the Valleys)
- British Wales: Non-Welsh-speaking, British-identifying Wales (South Pembrokeshire, Cardiff, Newport and the rest of the country)
The point is that we’re quite flexible when it comes to the language and our identity. For some of us, being Welsh is inextricably linked with speaking the language, for others not speaking Welsh is as much a part of their Welsh identity as screaming at the television during the Six Nations.