Language is a powerful tool: Wales must make the most of its multilingualism

Wales must not waste the political and cultural advantages of its bilingualism; a language festival and conference will hear later this month.

This virtual international symposium will explore how Wales can make the most of its unique language heritage. It will consider how Wales can meet its wellbeing goals to create a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language to achieve a million Welsh speakers by 2050.

‘Through the Language Prism’ runs online from 23-25 November. The free three-day online event, organised by the Learned Society of Wales, will feature lectures, panel discussions, debates and the chance to network with speakers from academia, politics, education and the arts.

Professor Mererid Hopwood, an academic and poet who has helped organise the conference, says Wales must discover a sense of urgency if it is to make the most of its language advantage.

“We need to think again about what it means to be able to understand and speak more than one language,” she says. “It’s not simply a matter of having more than one label for the same set of objects. It’s about an opening of the mind to a world of different possibilities. Language is more than policy and pedagogy and narrow fields of expertise, it’s about people. It’s at the heart of human experience and understanding.” 

The festival brings together speakers from around the world and will look at how language creates a sense of identity, belonging and cultural diversity. It will ask what practical policy steps are needed to avoid the risk of language extinction. It will point to the lessons learnt in Wales and the lessons Wales can learn from other countries.

Professor Hopwood said: “This conference, in the way it brings so many aspects of language research together will, we hope, act as a prism that will enable us to see more of the spectrum of possibilities that bi-and multilingualism can offer.”

Free tickets for the conference can be booked via the Learned Society of Wales’ website.

A three-day pass will allow attendees to drop in and out of the festival to attend the sessions that most interest them.

Details of the programme are here.