Dyfodol: A voice for the language – Richard Wyn Jones

The establishment of Dyfodol i’r Iaith is a response to the revolution that has taken place in Wales over the past half century, most obviously in terms of our country’s political institutions but also in terms of popular attitutes towards the Welsh language.

Sadly this revolution  has not so far been mirrored in the attitudes, organisation and methods of the language movement. Too many Welsh speakers and supporters of the language seem to view themselves as being marginal and marginalised. They talk, think and behave as if they still had no state institutions of their own. This is despite the fact that no single part of Welsh society has been more crucial to the process of creating our national democratic institutions than Welsh-speaking Wales.

Indeed, the cruel irony of the present situation is that it is difficult to think of a significant group in Welsh life that has made less use of the opportunities afforded by the creation of the National Assembly and Welsh Government than supporters of the Welsh language.  Although the interests of a myriad of causes are represented by various lobbyists in Cardiff Bay, there is no civil society body there working full time to raise a voice on behalf of the Welsh language.

Dyfodol’s vision is simple. Our aim is to be a constant, energetic and effective presence in and around our national political institutions arguing the cause of the Welsh language.

In making that case, the National Assembly and Welsh Government’s wide range of responsibilities pose as many challenges as they generate possibilities. If we simply consider the present government’s legislative programme, Dyfodol will need to be able to respond on matters of planning, sustainable development, education and more in order to make the most of the opportunities available.   Furthermore, work is required to ensure that the ‘standards’ that flesh out the 2011 Language Measure are truly challenging. And as well as reacting there is also a need for proactive intervention to put positive ideas on the political agenda.

None of this will be achieved without sufficient financial resources to employ professional staff who can continually lobby politicians and civil servants. Intervening successfully across the 20 devolved policy fields will require four or five full time members of staff. In turn that means that an annual income of some £200,000 will need to be generated.

Achieving this will be no mean feat. But those of us who support the Welsh language need to ask ourselves a blunt question: what financial value do we place on seeing the well-being of the language becoming a central consideration in the formulation and implemention of public policy in Wales? Are we really content to play a central and honourable role in establishing Welsh democratic political institutions and then not make use of them to build a truly bilingual Wales?

Since 1999, many opportunities to promote the language have been lost as the language movement has refused to adjust to changing realities. The establishment of Dyfodol offers a chance to step out of this rut and create a genuinely effective language movement. A language movement whose ethos and activities echo the enthusiastic support that Welsh-speaking Wales has given to self government.  But this new venture cannot succeed without the generous and whole-hearted backing of all those people who cherish the Welsh language.  Please consider what contribution you can make as Dyfodol seeks to give our language a voice.