A good friend of mine recently returned from a weekend in north west Wales. I asked him about his trip.
“It was fine” he said, “though of course the locals did the usual thing of switching to speaking Welsh whenever we walked in a pub”.
It is amazing how many intelligent English people are of the belief that the Welsh only really bother to speak their own language in order to annoy eavesdropping Englishfolk. For a while, I too thought that there may be a shred of truth in this idea, until I was put straight by a native Welsh-speaking friend.
If two Welsh-speakers in a pub are chatting away, why on earth would they speak English? Just to give them the satisfaction of switching to Welsh when an Englishman walks in?
It’s about as ludicrous as suggesting that those of us in Brighton, close to France, like to chat to each other routinely in French, only reverting to our native tongue in order to frustrate any Frenchman who dares walk into our local boozer.
Perfectly reasonable people genuinely believe that they have been the victims of this supposed Welsh conspiracy. They speak with absolute conviction of the linguistic switch being made in their presence at bars in Aberystwyth, Pwllelli and Capel Curig. I can rarely make out the conversations around me in English pubs, let alone Welsh ones. Then again, why would I try to?
I found an interstesting analysis of this on the BBC website, accompanied by some lively debate.