Gorseth Kernow: Submission to the CoE Committee of Experts,
8 December 2005

First of all I would like to express our thanks to the ComEx for visiting us here in Kernow, saving us the journey to Cardiff which we had to undertake nearly 3 years ago. In addition we note some of the same members which gives necessary continuity.

Much of a positive nature has happened since the last visit: official government recognition under the Charter, the public consultation and publication of the ensuing Strategy, the announcement of finance for a Cornish Language Development Manager for 3 years and the initial stages of the establishment of the Partnership. The Gorseth commends the various authorities involved in these steps.

Cornish Signs

Of the working documents for this meeting, the Addendum and the Annexes do not mention Cornish. The Addendum to the First Report is simply an assessment of the situation in 2002. So we are basing our comments on the 1st Evaluation Report of the ComEx and the 2nd UK Government Report.

With reference to Part II of the Charter, Art.7, Para. 1b, the Gorseth notes that the ComEx in Para. 49 of its 1st Evaluation Report states that the establishment of a SW Region “.. could have serious effects on the situation of the Cornish language in Cornwall”. We submit that the situation regarding the MEPs is already having such an effect. This has been evident for some time and has recently been highlighted at a symposium on EU grants held recently in Redruth by Eurolang. Attention was drawn to the various language development programmes of the European Union and the very unsatisfactory situation vis-á-vis minority languages, especially the smaller ones such as Cornish.
  • partners are required in two other member states
  • the criteria are very demanding and typically an application for funding can take more than a year to prepare
  • match funding ‘in kind’ is not permitted
  • deadlines are typically just 3 months after the call for applications.
All these requirements favour the more widely spoken ‘regional’ languages, which have an infrastructure of universities, full-time employees and proactive regional or local authority support. As a result, only 1% of language programme finance goes to minority languages: only 10% of all applications are successful: projects costing more than €1m are most likely to succeed. Small language movements with voluntary staff and limited resources have to ask themselves whether such applications are worthwhile.

Cornish Signs

The Gorseth understands that the European Bureau for Lesser-used Languages has for some time been lobbying the Commission for the restoration of a budget line specifically for minority languages with more reasonable criteria. We in Cornwall would like to lobby for change through our elected representatives, our MEPs. However, Cornwall has now been subsumed for European elections into a vast ‘Southwest Region’ covering six counties of England, plus Cornwall and now Gibraltar. It is difficult for sufficient attention to be given to the complex problem of developing a minority language. Cornwall is effectively disenfranchised and has to lobby direct, which is neither easy nor effective for a voluntary movement.

With regard to 1c, the Strategy is now in place and hopefully a Language Development Manager will be in post early in 2006 for 3 years with the express remit to implement the Strategy. The Gorseth believes that this is the time for ‘resolute action’ to support the work of the Manager, as mentioned on Page 30 of the Government’s 2nd Report: “All levels of Government will be involved in developing and supporting actions included in the Strategy”.

Para. 1d: The Evaluation Report states in Para. 57 that implementation of this section “would evidently require a proactive approach. The Committee of Experts is especially concerned about the relative lack of visibility of Part II languages in broadcasting”. We strongly concur with this statement as regards Cornish and, having lobbied the BBC at local, regional and national levels to no effect, we believe it is time for the Government to be proactive in making this Public Service Broadcaster fulfil its own charter as regards Cornish culture and language.

Road Signs

Para. 1f&g are particularly critical. A fact-finding visit to the Isle of Man last year and presentations by senior language planners to the Conference at Tremough in September all emphasised the advice that the development of Cornish should start at the bottom and work upwards—with the pre-school groups, following those cohorts into primary and junior schools, gradually building the provision. The Cornish movement has put a lot of effort into Adult Education over a period of 50 years with only limited success. The Manx have concentrated on the young over about 10 years with great success.

In Cardiff in 2003 we emphasised the need for teacher training and this is mentioned in the Evaluation Report Para. 70, commenting that “there is no official policy”. The Gorseth commends the Cornish Language Board on organising Teacher Training Days for Cornish speakers, CCC for supporting the venture in kind by arranging premises and the potential teachers themselves for paying a modest fee. However, the Gorseth sees this as a core issue: the Government has made it clear that the door is open for teaching of the language in schools but a robust programme of teacher training — both Cornish speakers to become teachers and experienced language teachers to learn Cornish — needs to be put in place as a matter of urgency, or Paras. 1f&g will not be fulfilled. Commendable though it may be, teacher training on Saturday mornings without proper funding will not achieve the objectives of the Charter.

Cornish Signs

Para. 1g: the need as regards adult learners is for more effective speakers. Many have learned the language without achieving a real degree of fluency. The ComEx Evaluation Report rightly states that “there is a real need for the authorities to create and maintain a programme that would provide financial support for these activities [i.e. adult education]”. The Gorseth would emphasise the need for immersion / ULPAN courses to get quick results.

Para. 1h: The Institute of Cornish Studies, part of the Combined Universities in Cornwall, has no policy on Cornish, does not carry out research on the language and has no dedicated Cornish courses. At a recent meeting of the Cornish Language Partnership, the ICS representative actually questioned whether he should be there at all. The feeling of other members of the Partnership was that he should remain and that the ICS ought to be taking an active part in study, research and advanced teaching. This is an area where CCC could use its influence as co-funder of the ICS.

Article 7, Para. 3 is concerned with respect, understanding and tolerance. In 2003 the delegation to Cardiff mentioned the ridicule and negativity in the mass media and sadly this continues, if anything more vehemently in reaction to the progress the language has made since then. Recent comments by columnists in the Packet Newspapers and others have verged on the racist. The Gorseth is pleased to note the conclusion of the ComEx that “more could be done” to encourage the media to refrain form contributing prejudice…”. The Government has undertaken to encourage the mass media to pursue the objectives of understanding and tolerance, but sadly there has been no action on this.

Cornish Signs

I would finish by quoting the Minister when he announced the funding for the Cornish Language Development Manager in June this year: “It is right that we nurture the Cornish language”. Well, nurturing implies action and the provision of sustenance, and the Gorseth believes now is the time for the Government to act on the points mentioned.

Representative of Gorseth Kernow
08 mis Kevardhu / December 2005.

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