The Survival of the Welsh Language
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It is the eighth wonder of Wales that is the most wondrous of them all, the survival of the Welsh language in the face of almost impossible odds.
Sometime in the seventh century, a Welsh Bishop heard an Englishman’s voice on the bank of the River Severn and was filled with foreboding at the sound.. He recorded his unsettling experience thus: «For the kinsman of yonder strange-tongued man whose voice I heard across the river. . . will obtain possession of this place, and it will be theirs, and they will hold it in ownership.»
The bishop was wrong. More than twelve centuries have passed since the strange tongue of the Saxon was heard on the borders of Wales, centuries during which the ancient tongue of the Bishop and his fellow Britons had every opportunity to become extinct and yet which has stubbornly refused to die. The survival of the native language is truly one of the great wonders of Wales, to be appreciated and marvelled at far more than any physical feature or man-made object, and far more than the so-called seven wonders of Wales.
It is a something of a shock when visitors travel from England west into Wales, for, almost without warning, he may find himself in areas where not only the dialects become incomprehensible, but where even the language itself has changed. The roadside signs «Croeso i Gymru» (accompanied by the red dragon, the ancient badge of Wales) let it be known that one is now entering a new territory, inhabited by a different people, for the translation is «Welcome to Wales» written in one of the oldest surviving vernaculars in Europe. For amusement with the language, after getting used to names such as Pontcysyllte, Pen y Mynydd , or Glynceiriog, one can take a little detour off the main route through Anglesey to Ireland and visit the village with its much-photographed sign announcing the now-closed railway station: