Where Can I Find Bilinguals?

There’s been a fair amount in the news recently about the number of communities in Wales where the proportion of bilinguals is >70%, >50% and so on. But I’ve been thinking about these figures. Why are 70% and 50% such important figures?

Then it struck me.

If you assume that conversations between individuals take place at random, then 70% takes on tremendous significance. Because it’s the level of community language competence at which you’d expect the number of Welsh-language conversations in the street to dip below half. How can that be?, I hear you ask.

So 70% of the population is bilingual, and 30% is monoglot English speakers. The proportion of conversations in this hypothetical community is as follows:

  • 0.7 x 0.7 = 0.49 (49%) between two bilinguals – which for the most part means they will speak Welsh to one another.
  • 0.7 x 0.3 = 0.21 (21%) between a bilingual and a monoglot (conversation in English)
  • 0.3 x 0.7 = 0.21 (21%) between a monoglot and a bilingual (conversation in English)
  • 0.3 x 0.3 = 0.09 (9%) between two monoglots – conversation in English

This shows the power of deferring to English as the common language. People have commented for donkeys’ years that the willingness of bilinguals to defer to English has been (at least partly) responsible for in-migrants not bothering to learn Welsh. Perhaps here’s a statistical demonstration of why that might be detrimental to bilingualism in a community – because all of a sudden more than half the conversations in an overwhelmingly bilingual community are in English.

As it happens, conversations don’t just happen at random. According to bilingual friends of mine, it’s common for bilinguals to tend to preferentially socialise with other bilinguals – and to do so through the medium of Welsh. The scale of that preference varies according to the level of bilingualism in a community, so I’m told. But I can’t help thinking there’s something in this simple statistical model that should ring warning bells in communities in the west and north.

And the significance of 50%? Well, this is a bit easier. Clearly if you’re one of the 50% who is bilingual then where you live in a community of majority bilinguals it makes sense for you to start conversations with unfamiliar people in Welsh. As soon as it dips below 50% then the hassle of more often than not being told that the recipient doesn’t speak Welsh means that you’re unlikely to bother starting conversations in Welsh. Which leads to Welsh not being heard on the streets and an increase in the perception that it’s not a community language. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for the apparent failure of the (former) Welsh Language Board’s “Start all conversations in Welsh” campaign.

But back to the Vale. Ward-level results have been published for Welsh language competence. So let’s delve into the data…

  • Llandow/Ewenni – skills 23.6% – speak 14.8%
  • Baruc – skills in Welsh 19.8% – can speak Welsh 13.4%
  • Wenvoe – skills 18.6% – speak 13.3%
  • Peterston-super-Ely – skills 18.8% – speak 12.6%
  • Cowbridge – skills 19.1% – speak 11.9%
  • Stanwell – skills 17.4% – speak 11.8%
  • Buttrills – skills 17.0% – speak 11.8%
  • Plymouth – skills 16.6% – speak 11.4%
  • Illtyd – skills 16.4% – speak 11.1%
  • Cornerswell – skills 17.0% – speak 11.0%
  • Dyfan – skills 16.2% – speak 10.9%
  • Cadog – skills 15.1% – speak 10.9%
  • St. Augustine’s – skills 16.8% – speak 10.8%
  • Court – skills 15.3% – speak 10.7%
  • Rhoose – skills 15.8% – speak 10.5%
  • St. Bride’s Major – skills 18.0% – speak 10.4%
  • Dinas Powys – skills 15.2% – speak 10.0%
  • Gibbonsdown – skills 14.2% – speak 9.7%
  • Llantwit Major – skills 15.2% – speak 9.6%
  • Castleland – skills 14.0% – speak 9.4%
  • Sully – skills 13.6% – speak 8.7%
  • Llandochau* – skills 14.1% – speak 8.4%
  • St. Athan – skills 12.8% – speak 8.0%

*I will call Llandochau by its proper name henceforth (reasoning by Dic Mortimer)

So for the many people who are thinking of moving to the Vale (4,400 annually) but who want to live in as Welsh-language a community as possible, the answer appears clear. In Llandow/Ewenni ward in rural western Vale a shade under one in four people has Welsh-language skills, and more than one in seven people speaks Welsh. The chance of a random conversation in the street being bilingual? Slightly greater than 2% in Llandow/Ewenni – although of course for people who are bilingual it’ll be 14.8%.

But if someone is dead set on Penarth and wants to find fellow bilinguals, their preference should be Stanwell where 11.8% of people are bilingual. Throughout Penarth town the proportion of bilinguals is greater than 10%, although it’s disappointing to see Sully and Llandochau in single figures, scrabbling around for last place with St. Athan.

Given that the average proportion of bilinguals in the Vale is 10.8%, it’s nice to see that Penarth town is either at or above that figure. Why do I consider that a good thing? Because even if the chance of random conversations in the street being in Welsh is little above 1%, it adds to the recognition that we live in a country blessed with two languages.

Finally, it’s worth the recap that far and away the highest proportion of bilinguals is in our young people. So while just 4.2% of people aged 75-79 in the Vale are bilingual, that figure is more than eight times higher among the 10-14 cohort (35%). This figure is surprisingly high given that 13% of Vale children are in Welsh medium primary schools, and 9% in Ysgol Bro Morgannwg. It seems likely that parents in the Vale are suffering from Torfaen syndrome.

And a final note of disappointment that the Welsh Government has decided to pull all funding from Menter y Fro today.

This post has been modified to rectify my error that indicated Baruc to have the highest proportion of bilinguals. My thanks to IJ for pointing out this error.

10 Sylw

Filed under Education, Schools, Vale of Glamorgan Council

10 responses to “Where Can I Find Bilinguals?

  1. Kevin Mahoney

    I do feel real concern for the future of the Welsh language when those who claim to be leading the fight to preserve it are so seriously deluding themselves as to the numbers presented in these census figures.

    Does anyone who lives in the area really seriously believe the figures presented above for the % of actual Welsh speakers in those areas and the Vale as a whole?

    I would offer the suggestion that they are deluded nonsense based on my experience of living in the area for over 40 years.

    Heres a simple question I would like to pose…..If it is claimed in the census that 10,8% of the population of the Vale are fluent Welsh speakers then how come only 1% of the callers to the Vale C1V call centre use the Welsh language facility?

    Unless over 90% of Welsh speakers in the Vale for some strange reason spurn the opportunity to speak in Welsh when dealing with the call centre which is well staffed with Welsh speakers it would suggest to me that there is something sadly deficient with those census figures.

    Perhaps those charged with saving the language need to rethink their failing policies and stop wasting so much money on providing bilingual everything to those who can’t speak the language and who instantly bin the Welsh literature they are sent through the post for example.

    Surely it would be better to spend this wasted money on free Welsh lessons, in tandem with halting the discrimination against the majority non Welsh speaking population in Wales.

    I throw that out as just one helpful suggeston, the language fanatics on a point of principle appear to prefer to see £millions spent on bilingual literature instantly disappear into the general publics waste bins rather than being spent helping to save the language.

    It must be easy enough to ask those who want their communication in Welsh or English to indicate which they require and the money saved spent on targeted helping of the language.

  2. Llyn

    This is the same Kevin Mahoney who is a member of the extreme far-right UKIP and Councillor in Sully. UKIP who in the European Parliament are in an alliance with the revolting Le Pen’s National Front in the so called ‘European Alliance for Freedom’.

    The rant above perfectly backs up Cameron’s description of UKIP as “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”. Without any evedence, but his bigotry, he calls the census a lie and loses it with talk of “the discrimination against the majority non Welsh speaking population in Wales”.

    Lets remmber that this is the same party that believes that Climate Change is also a lie, gay marriage is wrong, all immigration should be stopped and the Welsh Assembly is the creation of an EU plot. This is also the coward who harrassed a poor Barry School Teacher when she simply wanted to show her support for the Yes campaign a number of years ago. You can see his crazed letter in respect of this on the Christian Doctrine website here – http://www.christiandoctrine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=726:roger-lewis-uses-barry-island-primary-school-children-at-official-event-for-political-gain-is-this-legal&catid=104:politics&Itemid=637 – the same website is run by one of his party members (and a friend of Mahoney) whose views are frankly revolting. If you have a strong stomach have a look. One of the the less extreme points is their spin on last week’s vote on gay marriage which Mahoney friend (and possibly Mahoney) believes “showed that the majority of MP’s are willingly under the tyranny of the homosexual (Sodomite) lobby groups”.

    It is truly sad that 60 years after the end of WWII a fellow traveller of the far-right that tried to destroy Europe is now a Councillor in my own County.

  3. Kevin Mahoney

    Well I feel that you’re being a little unfair there Lyn and obviously whilst conducting your little dishonest misinformed rant completely missed my point about not helping the Welsh languauge by being in denial and wasting money that could be spent on helping save the language.

    A regular feature of those who support various political parties is a compulsion to make up other parties policies which don’t actually exist and to invent supposed associations that also don’t exist.

    Might I be allowed to enlighten readers as to a number of major inaccuracies in Llyn’s fabricated character asassination.

    1) UKIP are not a far right party nor racist except in the fevered minds of fanactical political opponents as of course Ed Miliband and David Clegg pointed out following the disgraceful Riotherham care scandal.

    2) UKIP does not have a policy halting all immigration but one that would require work permits similar to those operated in other countries such as Australia and Canada (presumably the governments of those countries are racist bigots according to Llyn)

    3) Many people presumably have their own thoughts and opinions on Global warming including those staffers at the Met office who recently gave their public opinion that there has been no appreciable warming for the last 20 years.

    4) There are many differing opinions on gay marriage within UKIP and each person is entitled to hold and publically announce their own as they wish.
    I hold no particular strong views at present on the gay marriage issue despite you having decided that I do for some particular self serving reason.

    5) I certainly would not describe myself as a coward in but I am proud of the fact that I made a formal complaint against (not as described a poor teacher) but the headmistress of Barry Island primary school who allowed several 9 year old pupils to be taken out of school and to be used in a political stunt promoting the Yes campaign during the recent Welsh Referendum.

    This is illegal under the Education act and must never be allowed to be carried out by any unscrupulous political campaigners.

    The Headmistress rightfully fell on her sword after her actions were exposed and withdrew from the campaign and in my view should have been disciplined.

    6) I do not have a friend or associate in any christian doctrine movement ot any other christian or other religous movement other than friends of mine who may or may not attend mainstream religous places of worship, and would thank you once again not to invent unsubstanciated claims just to suit your own rather bitter agenda.

    In fact I personally hold no religous views which is on record as I have declared publically at various hustings all over the Vale over a number of years.

    Which rather exposes your dishonest nature and calls into question for readers the veracity of all your wild untruthful claims.

    I am always only too happy to engage in political debate and unlike yourself do not engage in wildly dishonest made up ranting claims in order to make a point.

    I’m afraid that your rather poorly researched inaccurate and dishonest posting doesn’t really serve your argument well.

  4. Llyn

    Replying to some of your points Mr Mahoney.
    1. You say that the anti-multiculturalism, anti-immigrant, anti-EU, climate change deniers that are UKIP are not a far-right party. However, the facts speak for themselves
    • Look at the friends they keep – UKIP are enthusiastic members of the far-right ‘European Alliance for Freedom’ which also includes the Austrian Freedom Party (of Jorg Haider fame) and the Le Pen’s French National Front – you don’t have to have a “fevered mind” to know that these are both far-right parties.
    • UKIP Wales’ members include the man behind the Christian Doctrine website , which maintains that Jews have been persecuted because they are opposed to God’s will and that “homosexuality is an abomination, deserving only of death” – not far-right Mr Mahoney? You can read about this gentleman’s first night at his UKIP meeting in Cardiff here – http://www.christiandoctrine.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=731:first-night-at-a-ukip-branch-meeting&catid=104:politics&Itemid=637 – he sounded as if he was right at home with the opinions expressed.
    • Research by Matthew Goodwin, of the University of Nottingham, and Jocelyn Evans, of Salford University found that UKIP’s support base did not see any positive effect from diversity, and 85% disagreed with the claim that Islam does not pose a direct threat to the West while 34% of UKIP supporters believed that armed conflict may be necessary between groups to ‘defend the national way of life’ – http://www.channel4.com/media/c4-news/images/voting-to-violence%20(7).pdf
    2. You quote the Met office to back up your climate change denial. But here is the statement from the Met Office refuting the climate change deniers nonsense that was spun regarding their recent statements – http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2013/decadal-forecasts – As Barak Obama said yesterday “We can choose to believe that superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science”.
    3. You say that “there are many differing opinions on gay marriage within UKIP”. I find that surprising considering as the Independent of 12/01/13 wrote “Richard Lowe, UKIP’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Chester, says he was forced to resign after local party leaders said they would not campaign for “anyone who publicly supports same sex marriage” – http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/another-ukip-public-figure-leaves-party-amid-same-sex-marriage-row-8448179.html. Is that why you have “no particular strong opinions” on the matter? For fear of being booted out of your own party?

    Finally, going back to the original article, I find it frightening that a Vale Councillor should cast doubt on the Census figures and assert that many of his own constituents lied when filling out their census forms. But if you have evidence (which like your climate change ideology I wager you do not) as an elected official you must alert the authorities to this fraud as it is a legal requirement to truthfully fill out the census form.

  5. Kevin Mahoney

    I’ll make this the last post in reply to the hopelessly inaccurate defamatory and misleading comments of the anonynous Llyn who rather ironically declines to identify himself or herself whilst accusing others of cowardice.

    This blog was created presumably by someone in Penarth to talk and discuss mainly local issues and appears to be on the point certainly of this topic of being hijacked by someone hiding anonymously with a an obvious grudge against a political party that they disagree with so after this post I won’t extend or assist in that hijacking.

    I would however just in passing like to further hilight the appaling inaccuracy of Llyns continued rant.

    1) A simple google search will reveal that UKIP are not members of the European alliance for Freedom group in the European parliament and have no association with either Frances’s Front National nor Austria’s Freedom Party who are in totally different groups to UKIP.

    I trust that this simple fact might inform the casual reader as to the totally inaccurate and false nature of the deluded Lyn’s poorly researched agenda driven rantings.

    2) UKIP nor myself do not have any association with any fringe Christian or any other religous groups.

    3) Richard Lowe was deselected as a UKIP parliamentary candidate not because of his support of Gay marriage as he claimed but because of a number of his other contentious views which were unacceptable to the party.

    4) I have no fear of being booted out of anything to be honest and in fact am extremely proud of being highly influential in the party implementing the banning of any ex members of far right or racist parties such as the bnp, a policy which was first implemented in Wales at my instigation.

    i notice that you have not bothered to answer my question in my original post as to what reason can be offered for only 1% of callers to the Vale’s C1v call centre using the Welsh language facility when the census points to 10.8% of residents of the Vale claiming to speak Welsh.

    Surely there must be a reason?

    As stated I will not response to any more of your frankly ludicrous and misleading claims out of respect to others who read and enjoy this blog.

    However as mentioned my contact details are freely available and I am always ready to debate on any subject and willing to attend any public meeting to put forward my views.

    Perhaps you might like to make use of those contact details if you would like me to correct you on other assertions that you have got wrong rather than having to embarrass you over your lack of proper research and wildly inaccurate claims on a public blog.

  6. Hi Kevin,
    Just one point on your initial post: “Here’s a simple question I would like to pose…..If it is claimed in the census that 10,8% of the population of the Vale are fluent Welsh speakers then how come only 1% of the callers to the Vale C1V call centre use the Welsh language facility? Unless over 90% of Welsh speakers in the Vale for some strange reason spurn the opportunity to speak in Welsh when dealing with the call centre which is well staffed with Welsh speakers it would suggest to me that there is something sadly deficient with those census figures”.
    I’m no expert on this matter, but it seems to me fairly evident that there’s a tremendously low expectation of getting services a) at all and b) at the equivalent service standard through the medium of Welsh. So it could well be that over 90% of Welsh speakers in the Vale spurn the opportunity to use Welsh language services. There’s probably an issue here with publicising the service, along with a campaign for people to use services that are provided in Welsh.
    As for the discussion on UKIP, I think both parties have aired their views.

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