I was having a chat with a lecturer recently – we discussed how terrifyingly sad and frustrating it is when languages begin to die out – especially when it’s yours. Language seems to make your identity, somehow. People may scoff at my love for Wales. My little island in the very North West. My little village, and my little family and my little language. I’m not sure why I have such a strong love for my country, or why it is such a part of my identity. I’m not sure why being part of the United Kingdom is not part of my identity. I don’t really identify as “British”. Possibly, it is because of our history of being oppressed – the way our prince’s were slaughtered, the way our language was literally beaten and humiliated out of us, the way our heritage is belittled. Possibly it’s because some people still call us a “Principality”. Possibly it’s because some people complain about our bilingual road signs, our Welsh GCSEs, our choice to put money into our language. Those things make me want to defend the place that means so much to me.
So I always tell people – “I’m first-language Welsh” to make it very clear that that is who I am. That I’m proud of being Welsh – not British, not a monoglot. I’m not saying that identifying as British or only speaking English is a bad thing in any way – it just intrigues me that I find it so crucial to let people know who I am, and that my language is the way I do that.
I wear my silver dragon around my neck to remind me that I have a place to belong, I have a family within Welsh speakers, I have a colourful history to teach my children – and to remind me that however bad things get, I will always be able to see the snow-covered mountains of North Wales. I think that’s why it’s important to me to state my identity in one word – Welsh.