Languages of Wales
For the majority people living in Wales, English is their first and only language. This was not always so..
Only 400 years ago English had only 7 million speakers and was mostly unknown outside the British Isles. Welsh was the language of most of Wales, apart from a few Englishries such as South Pembrokeshire and the Gower peninsula. It was even spoken in some parts of Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, across the border in England
Between the reign of Elizabeth I (1603) and Elizabeth II (1952), the number of English speakers increased to about 250 million. Since the 1950s the speed of expansion has been even more staggering. An estimated quarter of the world’s population now has some English, and the number is still growing.
Despite being one of the first countries to experience the spread of English, Wales was not anglicised overnight. Different parts of Wales have a very different history in relation to the English language, and this is reflected in the local English accent or dialect. Some regions became English-speaking many centuries ago (for example South Pembrokeshire), while in areas such as the industrialised south-east, English has taken over comparatively recently. There are still parts of Wales where English is very much a second language with Welsh being the everyday means of communication. In some Welsh accents of English you can hear the influence of neighbouring English counties, such as Cornwall or Herefordshire In others, the vocabulary and patterns of the Welsh language can still be heard in today’s English.
Ray Smith comes from Radnorshire. Listen to the way he speaks. It is very far from the stereotypical Welsh accent, though it has as much claim to being called Welsh as any.
- 5 May 2011
Explore the history and sounds of Wales' languages from Early Medieval to the present