I’ve always thought it peculiar that the Welsh language in Wales should be seen by so many people as a divisive issue. Surely this is one thing that just about everyone can be proud of, whether or not they command it themselves?
But I’m hopelessly naive, as ever. People frequently ask why money is wasted on translation, or supporting the Welsh language or the Eisteddfod etc. So something I saw on the Plaid Wrecsam blog a while back really got me thinking. To paraphrase their argument: the costs for translation of material from English to Welsh are costs specifically resulting from most people’s monolingualism. “If there are costs for translation, it’s a problem for people like Councillor Mark James who isn’t interested in learning the language, not bilinguals”.
Following the line of thought – which has an agreeable ring of logic to it – given that the costs of translating everything to English are the real costs (because everyone who speaks Welsh is bilingual), we should look to the 19% as having a cost-reductive benefit to society. That being the case, and recognising the political will (if not practical support) for a bilingual Wales, I’m proposing a language tax. A 1p additional tax on all people in Wales who aren’t bilingual (English/Welsh in this case).
Now, I’m skilled in the dark arts of communication. I recognise that increasing someone’s tax burden is somewhat unlikely to please them. So perhaps a better alternative would be to reduce bilinguals’ income tax by 1p in the pound. You want to dramatically increase the number of bilinguals? Hey presto – I just did it.
Is this fantasy? Happily it is. The European Court of Human Rights prohibits discrimination (including things like differential tax rates) based on race or language.
Because this proposal could go another way. Picture the scenario. A country where a small minority of people speak a monkey language, where there are plenty of swivel-eyed loons, fruitcakes, loonies and the like foaming at the mouth for ‘small government’, where austerity stalks the land. Why not introduce a tax on those who cling on to a language that just imposes costs on society?