Why I love being bilingual
Comedian and Cynnal Cymru – Sustain Wales staff member Daniel Glyn shares his views on being bilingual.
“My name is Daniel Glyn, I used to be a children’s presenter – this was about three maybe four stone ago. I am from Cardiff, my mother was from London, and my father was from Anglesey, so that’s three reasons to get my head kicked in in Wales straight away.
I was part of the experiment in the 80’s to have a Welsh language secondary school in Cardiff, Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf, who recently celebrated 30 years of thinking we’re better than everyone else. A short history lesson, when Glantaf opened as a Welsh school, there were mass protests outside the school, with Cardiffians, true to form, not wanting the language to have any prominence. I remembered being booed as I walked in, and not just by the teachers. There were locals outside with protest banners, “No Welsh here”, and I swear this is true “Go back to where you came from”. I think they were worried by opening a Welsh language school in the city it would create this weird middle class clique that would get the best jobs. Thankfully, they were absolutely right.
To this day, taxi drivers don’t like it if you speak Welsh. I was out the other night with some friends, and after a while the cabbie said ‘Er, d’you mind not speaking Welsh please’ I wasn’t actually speaking Welsh, but I was so drunk it sounded like I was. I got uppity, and asked him “Why? Why can’t I speak Welsh” He claimed “You could be trying to rob me”. We’re hardly the Resevoir Dogs. But then this got me thinking, perhaps I could use my bilingualism as a way of not paying the fare. So the next time I got in a cab I turned to my friends and said ‘Iawn te bechgyn, pan mae’r cerbyd yn cyrraedd diwedd ei siwrnai, pawb i neidio allan a neud runner ‘ . Drat, no Welsh word for runner is there?
Despite all this, the Welsh language is on the up in the South East, something people seem to ignore when they are blubbing about the census results. I am fully bi. What does that mean? Well to me, this means that I can speak English and Welsh, but neither particularly proper, bach.
People seem to think language is a cultural thing, but it’s so much more than that. Welsh is the language of commerce, of farming, of socializing, social networking, births and deaths, sad times and good. Some people can speak it, others can’t. That’s not anybody’s fault, that’s just history’s fault. The Welsh Not meant that if you were caught speaking Welsh you would be beaten in front of the class. For centuries, Welsh was not acknowledged as a language of commerce. At one point, poets were banned by the English gentry from writing anything that rhymed. I have to say, I’m with them on that one.
So what’s the answer? To me, everyone should be bi. Let’s all be Arthur And Arthyr , Martha and ….Martha. It would certainly help me when I do Welsh language standup, my Welsh can be so slangy that no knowledge of Welsh is necessary to enjoy it. Or English either. C’mon Wales, let’s be bi-lingual, Let’s give it a try-lingual!”