Whether you’re Welsh or not, you may have come across a certain hashtag that trended this weekend. #DespiteBeingTaughtInWelsh is the result of an article published by Western Mail and Wales Online. The article discusses a television documentary in which Lucy Owen debates whether she and her husband should send their child to a Welsh language secondary school or an English one. In the programme, Lucy Owen speaks to Jamie Roberts, who, in the author’s words, ‘despite being taught in Welsh until he was 18, is now a qualified doctor’. Not to mention an absolute beast on the rugby pitch. Here’s the actual piece:
It is no surprise that this sparked controversy across Wales, particularly among students. It suggests that Welsh education is harmful to those who wish to continue with higher education at English universities, and that Jamie Roberts’ type of success is rare. As someone who studied up to the age of 18 through the medium of Welsh and currently studying at the University of Leicester, I am one of many who prove this idea wrong.
I try not to thrust it in people’s faces that I’m Welsh. It’s like when a vegan constantly announces that they’re vegan. It gets annoying. All I ask is that people acknowledge the fact that I’m Welsh, not English. But I am very proud of my Welsh background and education. After all, it got me to where I am now. I was bilingual before I even got to university to study French. I love how it still baffles my friends to this day how I learnt French through the medium of Welsh.
What is special about this controversy is the creativity that it has encouraged. If you search the Twitter hashtag you will find endless tweets in which people either share their successes #DespiteBeingTaughtInWelsh or they respond in the best way possible, through humour. While many speak of their academic achievements one young man simply states ‘I have a girlfriend #DespiteBeingTaughtInWelsh’. That one is my particular favourite. Someone else has written a poem which seems to be making the rounds on Twitter and Facebook. The response has been quite phenomenal. So much so that Wales Online were forced to issue an apology. They also edited the article by rephrasing the sentence that has caused so much anger across the nation. Of course the word ‘despite’ has been withdrawn, but I think it’s a bit too late for that. I bet the author never thought for a million years that this sentence of his would become a cry of a nation, nor that it would be printed on t-shirts and mugs. Maybe people are just milking it for what it’s worth, but one thing’s for sure: you can’t edit a published document in the hope it will be forgotten. Especially if you’ve annoyed us Welsh.