Tourism and minority languages

The other day, I came across an article that discusses the impact of tourism and migration on minority languages, particularly on the Welsh language. While tourism brings a significant amount of money to Welsh-speaking areas, it can also have a negative impact on the language.

When relatively large numbers of non-Welsh speakers visit or move to a Welsh-speaking area, the local people often feel some pressure to speak English rather than Welsh, and English-speaking parents who more to such areas aren’t all convinced of the benefits of education through the medium of Welsh or bilingual education.

Many in-migrants to Welsh speaking areas are apparently those who have been there on holiday before and/or who have a holiday home or a caravan there. Quite a few holiday home owners move to those homes when they retire. One negative aspect of in-migration is on house prices, which tend to rise beyond the reach of the locals.

I suspect similar tensions can be found in other areas where minority languages are spoken, such as the gaeltachtaí in Ireland, parts of Scotland, Brittany and so on.

The original Welsh version of the article can be found here.

This entry was posted in Language, Welsh.

7 Responses to Tourism and minority languages

  1. BnB says:

    This relates to a prior topic about English assimilation… I tend to be something of a language grammar purist (at what point does a grammatical error suddenly become correct usage in a living language as it evolves?) But languages do change, merge, divide, appear, disappear, and always have from the beginning of speech. It makes me wonder whether the desire to preserve languages and arrest change is a modern phenomenon or whether it’s always happened throughout history (and without success…). Do we really think we can freeze things or even turn back the clock? Is it a good thing? Futile?

    I have to say I’m ambivalent… I like to think that the time I spent learning grammar in school wasn’t wasted as a result of the majority of people who don’t remember their grammar lessons trumping the few of us that do and turning mistakes into common usage… but is that really a form of elitism? And are the attempts to check the influences of languages on each other equally in vain?

  2. Declan says:

    In the gaeltachtaí, tourism is having an impact. Not on the older generation, but the younger. In Kerry, the people are refusing to call the town, “Daingean (Uí Cúis)” wanting to call it, “Dingle, Daingean Uí Cúis”. It is in a Gaeltacht, and it is a pity that the people will not accept that.

  3. Ben L. says:

    BnB said: “I like to think that the time I spent learning grammar in school wasn’t wasted… but is that really a form of elitism?”

    I think in human history writing has been a means of defining the elite, grammar being part of its method. While many nations are now more democratic and inculcate some skill in writing to a much broader swath of society than ever before, the ability to write in an “educated” way (and by this I feel people mean college-educated) is still an important discriminator in seeking any job that requires one to use complete sentences.

  4. Josh says:

    This makes me wonder about something else. If Welsh natives feel pressure to learn English when a large number of English speakers move there, why is it that foreigners who move to America often show no interest in learning English? I can think of three or four Mexican families who live near my home, and they speak very little English. They’ve lived here for four or five years at this point. I think it might be because there’s enough of a Mexican presence here (complete with Mexican restaurants for the people to work at), they have an enclosed world, where they mostly just need to speak Spanish.

  5. Polly says:

    Josh: I think it’s also partially pride and fear. I’ve noticed that there is a strong Mexican nationalism that doesn’t just get left behind at the border. The fear that their children will “forget where they came from” is another reason they may reject the wider culture. Not everone puts a premium on material success, I’ve noticed. English may be good for your future job prospects, but taking the long view, it ranks well below maintaining your culture and passing that heritage on.
    This affects other ethnicities, too. My wife was forbidden to speak English at home when she was really young. But, now she speaks English with no accent. So, despite parental disdain for English the kids assimilate anyway.

    As you alluded to, the size of the hispanic community supports this quasi-isolationism much better. But, there has always been the fear that newcomers were too insular and would never mix into our melting pot.
    Maybe this wave is different, but I doubt it.

  6. Colm says:

    It’s really sad and complicated. In the case of An Ghaeltacht in Ireland on the one hand had the government wants to establish industry to stop the outward migration. Outward migration of people (especially the young) looking for jobs has destroyed much of the West coast of Ireland, particulary the Irish language areas.
    However when indutry moves in very often the business is conducted through English and the business attracts and inflow of English speakers and also a return of those that had migrated in the past though now many with English speaking families, after having raised a family outside An Ghaeltacht.
    It’s a serious problem for all minority language areas and it seems very much like a lose-lose situation. 🙁

  7. Travel Diary says:

    I think in human history writing has been a means of defining the elite, grammar being part of its method.

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