Welsh is a Celtic language spoken as a community language in Wales (Cymru) by about 659,000 Welsh people, and in the Welsh colony (Y Wladfa) in Patagonia, Argentina (yr Ariannin) by several hundred people. There are also Welsh speakers in England (Lloegr), Scotland (yr Alban), Canada, the USA (yr Unol Daleithiau), Australia (Awstralia) and New Zealand (Seland Newydd).
Number of speakersEdit
At the beginning of the 20th century about half of the population of Wales spoke Welsh as an everyday language. Towards the end of the century, the proportion of Welsh speakers had fallen to about 20%. According to the 2001 census 23% of the population, 659,301 people, can speak the language and a total of 797,717 people, 28% of the population, claim to have some knowledge it.
According to a survey carried out by S4C, the Welsh language TV channel, the number of Welsh speakers in Wales is around 750,000, and about 1.5 million people can 'understand' Welsh. In addition there are an estimated 133,000 Welsh-speakers living in England, about 50,000 of them in the Greater London area.
The earliest known examples of Welsh literature are the poems of Taliesin, which feature Urien of Rheged, a 6th century king in what is now southern Scotland, and Aneirin's Y Gododdin, a description of a battle between Celts and Northumbrians which occurred in about 600 AD. Nobody knows for sure when these works were composed or when they were first written down. Before then, whenever then was, all writing in Wales was in Latin.
Today there are radio stations and a TV channel, that broadcast entirely or mainly in Welsh. There are also weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines. About 500 books in Welsh are published annually, and there is a thriving Welsh language music scene. There are a number of Welsh language theatre groups, and regular eisteddfodau or cultural festivals are held throughout Wales.
All school pupils in Wales study Welsh as a first or second language for 12 years, from the ages 5 to 16. The first school to use Welsh as the medium of instruction was set up in Aberystwyth in 1939. There are currently about 448 primary schools and 53 secondary schools in Wales that teach entirely or mainly throught the medium of Welsh. There is also a Welsh-medium school in London. Some courses at Welsh universities and colleges are taught through Welsh, and there are numerous Welsh courses for adults throughout Wales.