Thursday, August 28, 2008

Welsh politics for all of us 

The prospective struggle for the leadership of the Welsh Liberal Democrats is not the only Welsh-related development that may transfix the rest of the UK in the coming months. The Open University is weighing in with two (count them) courses on Wales and Welsh.

First up is an introductory course in the Welsh Language that begins presentation in November 2008. ‘L196 Croeso: Beginners Welsh’

Now this sounds very welcome, and my contacts in the OU say there is great interest outside Wales – people in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire for example are showing so much interest that local tutorial provision may have to be stepped up.

However I do wonder whether the OU planners have quite grasped what political hot potatoes may be found along innocent-looking byways of Welsh cultural politics. The OU in Wales is based in Cardiff and the Cardiff worldview may just explain this note in the prospectus.

The main teaching text will present a form of South Wales Welsh, but the website will give you an opportunity to hear speakers from different parts of Wales, and will provide notes on significant regional variations in the language.

South Wales Welsh? So this dialect of yr hen iaith y cymru , which has relatively limited spread as a living language, is being promoted by the UK Open University as the standard for new learners, leaving North Wales Welsh, (an actual living dialect upheld continuously by determined communities) as an interesting dialect variation. I suspect there are differences of opinion on this in Welsh cultural circles which some people may want to explore. I do hope the OU does not get too much flack though…

I wonder if this course discusses the Treason of the Blue Book? Oh look it up, and if you are in Welsh politics and are puzzled by the reference what are you doing not knowing about this?

Perhaps some light on these political currents will be found in the second OU Course A182 ‘Small Country, Big History: Themes in the History of Wales’. The course starts in April 2009 however, so not much use as a crib for our Welsh leadership candidates or others hoping to comment constructively and currently on events in Cymru.

Disclosure note: I am no longer an employee of the OU and have no financial interest in you signing up for courses.

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