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Shocking a language back into life

“WITH THIS SHORT film, director Paul Duane and I are hoping to accomplish the near impossible,” writes Eoin Butler in TheJournal.ie. “That is, to start a conversation about the Irish language that is rational, unswayed by emotion, dogma or any political agenda, and informed by the facts as they are, rather than how we might wish them to be.”

Here’s a link to the article, and click on the video link within to see the film, which is twelve minutes long.

“We spend mind-boggling amounts of public money on the Irish language. Cén fáth?”

The film is well worth a look to libertarians and people interested in revitalising minority languages, and practically compulsory* (OK, not literally compulsory. Libertarian purity police, stand easy!) for anyone like me who is both. It starts off in nostalgic sepia with Butler speaking in subtitled and platitudinous Irish. Thirty seconds in, the colour comes on and he switches to English and says, “Actually everything I just said there is an easily debunked lie.”

I’d like to zoom in to a section near the end of the film. Starting at the ten minute mark, Mr Butler argues that compulsory Irish is a failed policy but a network of vested interests has grown up around it. This network, he says, “does nothing to really promote the language or broaden its appeal. Switching off the life support could shock the language back into life.”

At this point I would imagine that most of those anxious about the future of Irish shrivel a little inside and think, that sounds like a strategy of last resort. To which I would respond, it is. Irish is at the point of last resort. As detailed in the first few minutes of the film, the strategy of compulsory Irish lessons in every state school has failed utterly to stem the decline of Irish as a community language, as have other state measures such as making the Irish rather than the English version into the definitive version of each of Ireland’s laws. Quite soon the legal texts and the schoolbooks may be the only places where Irish lives on. When all else fails, why not try something crazy, like acting as if the Irish language were a good thing that people might choose to have?

And as a matter of fact, Mr Butler does give an example of an aspect of Gaelic culture that turned off the pressure and thrived thereby. He says, “I mean, look at Gaelic games. For seventy years the GAA [Gaelic Athletic Association] had a closed, defensive mentality. Its members were banned not just from playing but even attending rugby and soccer matches Today the ban is long gone […] the GAA, with minimal state subvention and zero compulsion on anyone to participate has never been as popular.”

It is not a perfect analogy. The GAA is a private club, not a state, and I would defend its right to impose whatever rules it wishes on its members who joined it voluntarily. But it is notable that when the GAA changed from a strategy of “push” to one of “pull” its fortunes revived.

A hat tip for the finding of Mr Butler’s film to the Irish Republican site, An Sionnach Fionn (The White Fox) although the writer of that site was not such a fan of the film as I was, describing it as “simply a modern form of “settler racism”, part of the poisonous legacy of several centuries of foreign colonial rule in this country.”

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34 comments to Shocking a language back into life

  • Paul Marks

    Ironically the Irish language was saved from decline by Irish Protestant intellectuals in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

    Today it is very much a political weapon – especially in Northern Ireland.

    It is an open “secret” that Sinn Fein (the IRA) intend to demand that all “public employees” are fluent in the Irish language in the long term – and that they (Sinn Fein IRA) will control the boards deciding who is fluent.

    Most Ulster Unionists (both Protestant and Catholic – oh yes there, and have always been, Catholic Unionists) are Celtic – they are not really “English settlers” (and the Scots were an Irish tribe who always lived on “both sides of the water”).

    However, the language of Unionism is English – attack that language (south or north) and you attack the Union under the Crown. That has been the plan for a very long time – although these days in the South (in the Republic of Ireland) it is really not all that political – it is just a way of robbing the Irish taxpayers to fund lots of people involved in the Irish language.

  • Paul Marks

    These days would Irish survive without state intervention – of course YES, just (to repeat the example of the post) the GAA (sports) not only survive but flourish.

    The same could be said for Irish dancing – although I am reminded of a little film (I can not remember the title) that Americans (and many people from the “big island” to) found baffling.

    A little girl takes up Irish dancing – but she wears an orange coloured dress (which other people in the Irish dancing set are disturbed by – although it is otherwise just an ordinary dress, it is just the colour that disturbs them) and her father says at one point (when the girl is getting a bit obsessive) “we do not dance”.

    I doubt that many Americans understood who the “we” are – clue “settlers” is not what is meant, as the Scots of Ulster are an Irish tribe (some of whom moved to what is now Scotland – and then moved back again).

  • Mr Ed

    My grandmother’s parents emigrated from Gaelic-speaking Ireland to England in the late Victorian era, and had English as their second language, they only spoke Gaelic between themselves, keeping it as a private language so that their offspring would not understand them. Of course the children learned a fair bit, my great-aunt could say a fair bit even in her 90s, but they were mono-lingual English speakers. I would have liked to have kept the language going down the generations, it would have been fun to confuse people by speaking it in a foreign country, but that was a sensible decision on their part.

    People will speak it if it is worth their while. The law should be a shield, not a sword, for those who are monolingual, not those who affect so to be. There is no more reason for the Republic to require teaching of the language and that people be able to speak it than there should be for me to have to speak French simply because I studied it at school.

    Perhaps it is as hard for those who are part of the Gaelic nomenklatura to imagine a world without subsidy as it would be for an Ancient Pict to imagine a discussion about aerodynamics. But BBC staff have the same problem in imaging life without the TV licence fee.

  • […] Mr. Ed, who may or may not identify as a horse of […]

  • Shirley Knott

    As a foreigner and completely ignorant about such matters, I am moved to wonder what, if any, parallels might be drawn between Irish and Welsh?
    I know just barely enough to know that up until something like the middle part of last century, Welsh was suppressed. When I traveled through Wales in 1998, it was on all the road signs, books on the language were available in tourist shops, and it appeared to be enjoying (or suffering?) a revival.
    So, is its story similar to that of Irish, wildly different, or a mishmash of similarities and differences, as one might suspect?

  • NickM

    I get the impression that Welsh is much more a living tongue than Irish in that when I’ve been to North Wales I was quite disconcerted to hear it spoken in like a chippy or pub and such. By kids and that.

    I shouldn’t have been. I can code in Fortran.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Shirley Knott,

    A mishmash. Although the official attitude turned from disapproval to approval later for Welsh, Welsh has done better than Irish. There are many more Welsh speakers than Irish. Both languages now are quite heavily promoted by governments, with bilingual signs etc. as you say. According to UK census data the number of Welsh speakers went slightly up between the 1991 census and the 2001 one, then slightly down again in 2011. In both Wales and Ireland schools teaching through the medium of Welsh and Irish respectively have become quite popular among the middle classes, even, or especially, in urban areas where English is the main language. This is a genuine bright spot in a gloomy picture overall. But the Gaelscoileanna and their Welsh equivalents don’t seem to be stopping the decline in native speakers. And while the schools are provided by the state there will always be political conflict over the issue of what provision should be made for those people who speak another language than the one used in their local school. If the local majority changes, should the school flip over to the other language?

  • Patrick Crozier

    My grandmother was a primary school teacher in the Republic. As a protestant she was obviously not allowed to teach religion but she taught everything else which I guess must have included Irish. With the exception of a half hour lesson she once gave me I never heard her speak a word.

    My aunt is a bit keener perhaps believing that showing enthusiasm for the founding principles of the nation is a good thing for protestants to do. A few years ago she thought she should brush up on her skills and visited the Gaeltacht – that bit where Irish is typically spoken. She was a bit miffed when the locals explained that they were quite happy to speak to her in Irish but she’d have to pay for the pleasure.

    And then there’s the enormous subsidy they had to spend on RTE 2 – the Irish-only channel – to get next-to-no viewers. Is that still going? Probably.

    In all the years I visited the Republic on only one occasion did I hear Irish being spoken. As I understand it there’s even a problem over what “Irish” is. By the time people got round to reviving it there were very few speakers left and there were significant regional differences.

    While ending state compulsion is a good thing I am not sure it’s going to help the language. From what I can gather the switch from Irish to English took place very quickly and with little interference from the British. It’s not like Welsh which is a way of preserving ones apartness – the Irish have plenty of other ways of doing that.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Patrick Crozier,

    While ending state compulsion is a good thing I am not sure it’s going to help the language.

    Same here. It would be dishonest to pretend that anything will necessarily work. Still, as I said in an earlier post, “In almost any field it’s amazing how much more attentively minority tastes are served by the free market (including the free cooperation of people not motivated by money) than by government use of force.”

    From what I can gather the switch from Irish to English took place very quickly and with little interference from the British.

    The “little interference” bit would be passionately denied by some. But however oppressive the British were, Ireland has been an independent country with an active government policy to promote Irish since 1922.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex) (November 17, 2016 at 8:34 pm): “the number of Welsh speakers went slightly up between the 1991 census and the 2001 one, then slightly down again in 2011”

    Knowing nothing but what I can guess from the overall change of government in the period, I wonder if that means that it went up in a decade where it was less supported and down in a decade where it was more supported.

  • Patrick Crozier

    Natalie,

    I believe that the British never banned anyone from either speaking or publishing the language but I could be wrong. Obviously, there were other incentives in play.

  • I lived in Ireland for a few years when I was young and I think it was “another brick in the wall” that later pushed me into libertarianism. Why? Because it gave me my first exposure to ‘romantic nationalism’, something that fulfils all the requirements to be described as a full on psychiatric disorder. It is something that renders the person infected not only only incapable of rational discourse but actually hostile to the notion. Many years later I subsequently met Irish-Gaelic speakers who were not essentially Nazis-with-a-bodhrán. But back then, I was of the opinion there was a 1:1 correlation between being an irrational homicidal Celtic ethno-fascist and speaking Irish-Gaelic. These days I realise there is not a 1:1 relationship, but the correlation is nevertheless… significant 🙄

  • bobby b

    A movement to take a country back to its roots – to serve its own traditions and its own heritage and its own culture, by preserving and spreading its own traditional language – is the essence of the Alt-R movement.

    By definition, it’s exclusionary. It’s a barrier to entry. It’s very much an “us versus them” concept.

    But it’s considered a noble thing, as long as it’s not pursued by The Interest Group That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Patrick Crozier, so far as I know you are correct in that the Penal Laws never banned Irish per se. They were directed against Catholics and Protestant Dissenters irrespective of language. However, in a pattern familiar from many times and places, the Irish language was squeezed out in multiple ways without an explicit law being passed. For instance the courts brought in a rule that only English could be used in proceedings. Though testimony could be given in Irish via an interpreter, if you wanted to bring a case you had to do it in English.

    The English, or rather the Hiberno-Normans, did unsuccessfully try to actually ban Irish in the Pale by means of the Statutes of Kilkenny. But that was in 1366.

    Niall Kilmartin, I doubt the relationship is as direct or quick to act as that. But in the long term I do think that government “support” harms a language, as it harms much else. It seems to be universally asserted that Irish is badly taught, though the claims as to what is done wrong are contradictory. I have seen endless complaints about the teaching of Irish when lurking on Irish forums. Many commenters say that they learned more German or French in a few years than they did Irish throughout their entire school career. Why should Irish in particular be badly taught? I think part of the answer is that German and French are optional and Irish is not.

  • Marcher

    I think part of the answer is that German and French are optional and Irish is not

    Plus French and German are vastly more likely to be useful beyond the “hobby” value of Irish.

  • Kevin B

    And Gaelic spelling is even more irrational than Emglish spelling.

  • Phil B

    @Parry,

    Irish-Gaelic speakers who were not essentially Nazis-with-a-bodhrán. But back then, I was of the opinion there was a 1:1 correlation between being an irrational homicidal Celtic ethno-fascist and speaking Irish-Gaelic. These days I realise there is not a 1:1 relationship, but the correlation is nevertheless… significant.

    No – it is a 2 : 1 correlation. Anyone loudly, proudly and militantly proclaiming and speaking the Goidelic form of Gaelic (or, here in NZ, Maori which also suffers from being a mishmash of the tribal languages and having a committee to compile a Maori dictionary for such things a DVD, CD, 4G mobile phones etc.) is TWICE as likely to be a nutter.

  • Béal Sásanach

    And then there’s the enormous subsidy they had to spend on RTE 2 – the Irish-only channel

    TG4, not RTE 2 is indeed still going, although it doesn’t enjoy the budget of S4C in Wales, or BBC Alba in Scotland.

    With social media and the internet generally, there’s less need for linear TV (or radio) channels, while not having a daily newspaper in any Celtic language is less of a problem you can upload a PDF file as an e-paper with pages you can flip through.

    And Gaelic spelling is even more irrational than English spelling.

    If you mean Scots Gaelic, possibly, but Irish spelling was reformed in the 1940s – compare Irish údarás with Scots Gaelic ùghdarras. Manx spelling is close to English, hence Ellan Vannin is ‘Isle of Man’ instead of Oileán Mhanann, but that’s what led to its extinction.

  • James Hargrave

    Romantic nationalism as mental disorder – quite agree.

    You understand that in the Celtic Cloud Cuckoo Land that resulted, the ‘Emergency’ (elsewhere known as the Second World War) would have been to the pure demented nationalists ‘all the fault of the English’, just like the awful English propaganda that that nice German national socialist wasn’t a cuddly little chap, and all those lies the English spread about his being a bit rotten towards the Jews, etc., etc.

    The logic may be seen in Mid Wales ca 1980: to get a Welsh language television channel (the ghetto channel as one of my Welsh contacts calls it) the obvious thing to do was to blow up the local television transmitter (which, of course, as well as English, transmitted the programmes in Welsh – then to be found on the Welsh regional version of the two main channels).

    Bilingualism to do down the majority (of whites) – try the promotion of Afrikaans in S Africa after 1948.

    Revival of Welsh – yes, because so much public money is thrown at it (something an independent Wales could not afford, assuming rational priorities). So of course some parents without Welsh put their offspring through the Welsh-language schooling system even in areas where Welsh as a first language had died out generations before. Much better funded (all right, I know that there is little connexion between pouring money into ‘education’ and the production of people who are ‘educated’).

  • NickM

    My Sindarin is better than my Irish. And I am Irish (sort of). Enough to get a passport. And that linguistic difference is down to me. I fail to recall being forced to read JRRT. So from my POV it would seem a fictional language spoken by fictional folk in a place that doesn’t exist manages better. Without the dead hand of Elrond enforcing it through tax. Odd that.

    My Quenya is a bit ropey mind. v

  • Patrick Crozier (November 17, 2016 at 9:15 pm) is quite right as regards Welsh. What happened in Victorian times was no different to what happened in north-east Scotland in my mother’s childhood and in Switzerland today.

    – The Swiss speak the dialect Swiss German. When the kids go to school, they are taught (and must write) German German (so they know how to communicate outside their own enclave).

    – The way they speak in north-east Scotland is an accent you could cut with a knife and uses many dialect words, some from old Norse. In school, the kids were taught to speak English. My mother could switch at a moment’s notice from a broad Moray dialect (incomprehensible to most people south of Forres, let alone to an Englishman) to an ultra-mild accent containing only English words.

    – The ‘Welsh knot’ had the same purpose. The pupils went to school to learn English, because that opened many opportunities for them in the wider world; they already knew Welsh. To motivate them, a pupil who spoke in Welsh in the classroom was given the knot to wear (like a dunce’s cap) until the next pupil was overheard speaking in Welsh and the knot was passed on. By the standards of the time, it was not a harsh punishment – just an effective motivator to the pupils to try.

    As Natalie (November 17, 2016 at 9:57 pm) says, although rule in Ireland was at times much harsher, the Irish language and literature was not targeted after mediaeval times, and hardly ever in theory, still less in fact, during them.

  • Mr Ed

    In Bangor, north Wales about 10 years ago, I had a client with a legal case and one of his staff was a witness. He was a very decent chap, and gave an honest account of an event in dispute. However, at one point his boss asked him about something and a pained expression came across his face. It turned out that he was struggling to explain himself in English as he was raised a Welsh-speaker and had only started to learn and speak English when he was at primary school age. I was pleasantly surprised that English had not become as pervasive as I had presumed.

  • With social media and the internet generally, there’s less need for linear TV (or radio) channels, while not having a daily newspaper in any Celtic language is less of a problem you can upload a PDF file as an e-paper with pages you can flip through.

    Yes I can see how that might be the case. In fact Béal Sásanach seems to point the way to how languages under pressure could fill their niche very effectively without the deadening hand of the state being involved. I have a friend in the USA who is interested in Occitan who said the advent of the internet has made it much easier to find things in that language.

    Manx spelling is close to English, hence Ellan Vannin is ‘Isle of Man’ instead of Oileán Mhanann, but that’s what led to its extinction.

    Huh, interesting. Why was that I wonder?

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Mr Ed wrote:
    November 18, 2016 at 9:44 am

    …It turned out that he was struggling to explain himself in English as he was raised a Welsh-speaker and had only started to learn and speak English when he was at primary school age. I was pleasantly surprised that English had not become as pervasive as I had presumed.

    ___________________________________________________

    Interesting comment. However, apparently patronising and grossly ignorant and with no apparent comprehension whatsoever of the history of the Welsh Nationalist Party and its highly intelligent and successful strategy for democratically and peacefully enabling Welsh independence and the preservation and development of what was left of the Welsh language and culture, within the framework of the British/Anglophile culture, and despite the overarching English State/Government Establishment control.

    Some people (not me, you understand) might say that they don’t give a flying f##K about the so-called “Irish language”, because the Irish apparently didn’t, as they were too ignorant to pursue a peaceful and democratic approach and did SFA to further the development of their culture because they were moronically preoccupied with terrorist activity and bombing themselves back into the Dark Ages and killing and maiming their perceived religio-political opponents, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

    Those same people might say that, whilst you are scurrying around desperately trying to understand this, you could do worse than read up on “What’s black and goes to school on Fridays?”, but again I couldn’t possibly comment.
    Sheesh.
    Cymru am byth.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Slartibartfast, this is probably related to me getting old but I don’t understand your post. I can’t tell which parts of it are sarcastic and which aren’t.

  • Shirley Knott

    Natalie, et al, thanks for the information.
    The part I continue to find curious is how outright oppression of the language worked out better for said language than the ‘cultural appropriation’ approach.
    But Slartibarfarst makes an interesting point about the divergent paths of the language supporters. One tends to suspect that the cultural impacts of sectarian religious battles played very different roles in Ireland and Wales.
    Ultimately, we’re up against the Hayekian knowledge problem even for history.

  • Mr Ed

    I associate Slartibartfast with being ‘drunk’.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Shirley Knott writes,

    One tends to suspect that the cultural impacts of sectarian religious battles played very different roles in Ireland and Wales.

    Yes indeed. I had known as a child that antidisestablishmentarianism was the longest non-technical word in the English language, but only discovered much later some of the interesting history of antidisestablishmentarianism and its baby brother disestablishmentarianism in both Wales and Ireland. (Scotland’s disestablishment wasn’t that contentious so far as I know and England remains in the soggy grip of antidisestablishmentarianistically-minded folks.

    Who knows, it may once again be a live political issue, though in this Twitface age I doubt we’ll get as much fun out of making a political point about the passage of the English Disestablishment Bill as G K Chesterton did with its Welsh equivalent in this poem.

  • bobby b

    ” . . . and did SFA to further the development of their culture . . .

    The Urban Dictionary defines “SFA” as an “(a)cronym for WELSH prog/psychedelic/experimental/rock, band, Super Furry Animals.”

    Forget Irish or Welsh. Apparently I need to start shocking my English back into life.

  • Slartibartfarst

    Natalie Solent (Essex) wrote (November 18, 2016 at 11:44 am):

    Slartibartfast, this is probably related to me getting old but I don’t understand your post. I can’t tell which parts of it are sarcastic and which aren’t.
    _________________________________________________

    The first para: was a fairly clear (I thought) and direct comment regarding @Mr Ed’s seemingly patronising/condescending and grossly ignorant one. The thing is that history shows that English had been pretty much all-pervasive in Wales, and the Welsh language was pretty much on the point of expiring through an increasing lack of relevance, when the Welsh Nationalists belatedly took up the cudgel on its behalf – and they eventually restored the language to a dominant position.

    How they achieved that was a struggle. They went through a creditable, exemplary and intelligent use of the democratic process, against huge resistance from a complacent English Establishment which appeared to have little or no interest in, or regard for Wales or the Welsh or their ruddy stone-age language – and I return to that point, below.
    Briefly (from memory, so please forgive any inaccuracy): The history was that the Romans had all but wiped out the Celtic people and Druidic culture (they had to be wiped out because they wouldn’t stop fiercely resisting the Roman invasion of their lands), with Christianity finishing off the erasure of the residual annoying and Druidic religio-cultural aspects, and language. Fortunately, the language was later able to be reconstructed, apparently aided immensely by means of a forgotten translations into Welsh of the St James Bible, or something, which had apparently originally earlier been used to communicate Christian ideology to the Welsh in their own language.

    The second para: It seems (per the OP) that various interests have been, or are, agitating for the Irish language, not because they (like the Welsh Nationalists) had been genuinely interested in it and in Ireland’s culture per se, years ago, but because they have belatedly and more recently perceived the opportunity for some political/financial/commercial gain. I don’t know whether, if it looks like it’s not going too well, “Switching off the life support could shock the language back into life”. I mean, it sounds great, but it’s an absurdity, and people who use absurdity to make a point are generally up to something other than making a rational point and one is generally well-advised to keep one’s hands in one’s pockets when talking to such people.
    If certain factions are indeed masquerading as Irish language backers, then the thing to do would perhaps be to (say) call them out on it, and shine the hard light of scrutiny on them. There might possibly be, after all, some advantage for the language and culture in what these factions are doing, so don’t carelessly throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    However, all this seems to be based on the implicit and unspoken assumption that the Irish language is worth preserving in the first place. I would question that assumption and suggest that the Irish should be the first people to ask about this. I could be wrong, of course, but the point there is that this interest would seem to have been a relatively new thing for the Irish, who would seem to have historically taken little real interest in and made little effort towards preserving their culture/language, particularly in comparison to the strenuous, dedicated, intelligent and very successful efforts of the Welsh brigade (QED) and of which some people seem to be so condescendingly ignorant of.

    The third para: If one had made some effort to study what one was talking about, one would probably be acutely aware of the Aberfan disaster. If one wanted an example as to how a complacent English Establishment appeared to have little or no interest in, or regard for Wales or the Welsh, one would probably have to look no further than that. The enquiry that followed it showed up the reality of the English government’s hubris, incompetence, negligence, greed, corruption and utter disregard for human life, and disdain for the Welsh.
    _________________________________________

    @Mr Ed wrote (November 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm):

    I associate Slartibartfast with being ‘drunk’.
    _________________________________________________

    Nice one. I agree that it’s always better to use an easy ad hom too, if one is unable to address the point. Notwithstanding, as a teetotaller I am unlikely to be drunk except maybe once in a blue moon, if I have been to (say) a wedding reception or some other celebration which I felt obligated a toast, and had overdone the champers. (By the way, when I lived in London, I used to be a “professional” and regular wedding reception attendee at the Hyde Park Hotel every weekend.)

  • Rich Rostrom

    One of the public television channels here in Chicago carries vast amounts of programming from wherever in the world they can get it, to fill up their allocation of cable slots. This includes Gaelic football games with the narration in Erse Gaelic. (Presumably distributed by RTE.) How bloody useless.

    As to Ireland: Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom is a short video about a young Chinese man who, bored with his menial supermarket job, decides to go somewhere else. He spins a globe and picks Ireland. He learns Irish before going, but when he gets there, no one can understand him. Finally he meets an old fella from the west, and ends up tending bar in a pub in Connemara.

  • Laird

    That’s a cute film, Rich. Thanks.

  • john malpas

    Why not face facts – learn Chinese.Why live in the past.
    And let children learn something profitable.

  • Slartibartfarst

    @Rich Rostrom: That was a super little film. Thankyou. I watched a couple of other films from that channel. Rather good.

    The one you linked to actually expresses the other side of the coin that I was ranting on about, above. The Irish do not seem to have historically demonstrated any kind of real commitment to the Irish language, and similarly, neither would the Welsh have to the Welsh language – had it not been, in the latter case, for a Welsh Nationalist political movement challenging the Establishment and pushing for disestablishment. If a Chinaman went to Wales now, only able to speak Chinese and Welsh (not English), he’d probably find himself quite at home amongst the prevalence of Welsh speakers there.

    Of course there would have been consequences to the cultural/language integrity tangent deliberately taken by the Welsh, and I am not saying that they are necessarily good/satisfactory outcomes, but who is to say? At least they (the Welsh) chose it for themselves, in a democratic fashion, when the arrogant and condescending we-know-what’s-best-for-you establishment was saying:

    Why not face facts – learn English. Why live in the past?
    And let children learn something profitable.

    – to paraphrase @john malpas’ comment, above.
    .
    My view is “vive la différence”, bugger cultural standardisation, and don’t try to suffocate diversity with a hegemonic fascistic conformist cultural religio-political ideology. We can already see where that dictatorial approach got the Hillary cultural liberal-marxists.
    Allow and encourage people to take the freedom of choice to choose/determine and work towards their own society’s future directions in a democratic fashion.
    Of course, it rather seems as though this may no longer be so easy/feasible in the UK, now, but – just maybe – in the US it will still be possible. We shall see.