Language is necessary for full understanding
(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)
Gwllym Level (‘Language not a necessity’, Have Your Say, 24 November) confuses art for culture; an all too common error in the modern world.
Culture is about so much more than things you can go to see in a gallery, a museum or a theatre. These are merely expressions of culture, not the whole of it by a long way.
Culture is about who we are, how we see the world, our whole way of life. Our culture determines, to some extent, what form of artistic expression we will choose; hence the many differences between the western and eastern forms, between aboriginal art and modern art, etc.
It is true that we can “enjoy the works of Chekhov and Tolstoy because they have been expertly translated into English”, but to enjoy is not the same as to understand. As any opera lover or social anthropologist will tell you, the only way to fully appreciate anything that deals with emotional or spiritual aspects of a culture is to be able to understand it in the original language.
Even the nuances of language are difficult to translate from one language to another, let alone the full meaning of emotional or cultural expressions.
Language is central to a culture because it is how we communicate our culture to others and to future generations.
To destroy the Welsh language would be to begin the inevitable decline of everything that is distinctive about the Welsh way of life – and the world would be a poorer place for that loss.
Even the English translation of the Welsh national anthem contains the plea, “May naught befall to mar the old language of Wales”(Bur hof bau, O bydded i’r hen iaith barhau).
Keith M Ross
Edited version of my letter published in today’s Evening Post: ‘Welsh is vital to our culture‘