News From The Celtic League
Last week it was announced that Cornwall Council staff will be encouraged to use the Cornish language when engaging with the public, amid a torrent of criticism levied at the Council from the media in response to their initiative.
Below the General Secretary of the League, who is based in Cornwall, sets out why he thinks it is about time that the Council ‘upped their game’ in their support of the Cornish language.
“The news that Cornwall Council will encourage and support staff to use the Cornish language as part of their role is to be enthusiastically welcomed. The unfounded media hype and criticism in the press surrounding the announcement, which has occurred primarily outside of Cornwall, shows that there is very little tolerance or understanding for the importance of helping to promote and protect the linguistic heritage of the peoples native to these islands…on the other hand, perhaps there is more understanding among the critics of the Cornish language than supporters of the language could imagine, stemming from prejudice and down right racism.
“Thanks to the inclusion of the Cornish language and people under the terms of a European Charter and Convention (European Charter for Regional and/or Minority Languages and the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities), the Cornish and their heritage were finally given some measure of official recognition and protection in 2002 and 2014 respectively. Under the Charter and Convention, Cornwall Council, has an obligation to help promote and protect the Cornish language and that is what they are trying to do with this idea.
“There are however many people, both inside and outside of Cornwall, who are openly critical of even such minimal support given to the language and would happily see Cornish cut out of the minds and mouths of all who use it. Often these critics use the excuse of the financial cost involved in promoting the language, stating that there is no need to support Cornish, because everyone in Cornwall understands the English language anyway. But the fact of the matter is that the cost for the promotion of Cornish is minimal, costing just 4p per person in Cornwall compared to £2 person for Gaelic in Scotland. Often there is no or minuscule financial cost involved. Take the inclusion of Cornish on street signs for instance, where there is no extra cost to produce bilingual signs compared to monolingual signs, and how much does it cost to train a member of staff to say ‘Dydh da’ as well as ‘Hello’?
“The problem most critics have for the inclusion of the use of the Cornish language on signs or in people’s mouths is that it shakes their perception of what England is and who the English are, because for too long Cornwall and the Cornish have been dressed up as a part of England and English respectively, especially by those from outside. Even if the England rugby team is supported in the Rugby World Cup by many Cornish people, it doesn't mean that they still don’t feel Cornish or are proud of their cultural and linguistic heritage. Identity is a complex issue, especially if a People’s institutions and nation have been subjugated for hundreds of years, as has been the case in Cornwall.
It is almost to be expected that the hard-nosed London media will have little idea about why the Cornish would want their language to be revived and spoken in daily life, when they can speak English, but one of the hardest criticisms to stomach though, is someone living and working in Cornwall who purports to be a supporter of equality and diversity - and who may even have a paid responsibility to uphold such rights of people as part of their job role - stating that they see no reason why the Cornish language should be promoted. In the view of such people, Cornish linguistic entitlement is somehow not worthy of attention for reasons best known to them, which have a rationalist hue that would put the colours of the rainbow to shame, but often stems from their own particular ideas of their English identity and the identities that other people should adopt.
“So there is still much work that needs to be done in Cornwall to change the prejudicial and racist attitudes that shamefully continue to exist, even among the self-styled champions of equality and diversity. The latest initiative by Cornwall Council is a mere drop in the ocean of what needs to be done, but at least it’s a move in the right direction.”
(Article submitted by Rhisiart Talebot)
Issued by: The Celtic News
THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE.
The Celtic League established in 1961 has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It promotes cooperation between the countries and campaigns on a range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, military activity and socio-economic issues
Photo: General Secretary of the Celtic League Rhisiart Talebot