Category: Wales - Dreams and Dialects
 
If you've ever been job-searching in Wales, you are bound to have come across this at some point. There it is: the perfect job for you, and you are the perfect candidate! A match made in heaven! Finally! Where do I sign up? I-- uh, oh, great, "Welsh speaker essential". Nevermind.

And no doubt, anyone who has been politely shown the door because of their lack of linguistic ability has probably been left wondering why they are being discriminated against, or why positive discrimination is still acceptable, especially for the Welsh language. "Isn't having the language forced on us in school enough? Now I actually have to be able to speak it?!". I wouldn't really blame you for being angry. 

That is, until I did some reading. A few months ago I would have argued that jobs requiring Welsh speakers are actually pretty discriminatory, but I have now seen the light. So today, I want to give you a summary of why I think it's perfectly justifiable to have jobs that are 'Welsh speaker essential', and why non-Welsh speakers have very little to no reason to complain about them.  

Note: These are the very basics of what I wrote in a recent essay assignment. I have left a lot out for blogability reasons. 


Everyone speaks English anyway, so why do we need Welsh speakers specifically?

I think it's important to get this mentioned before I get started on the discrimination aspect: bilingualism isn't what the majority of monolinguals think it is. Very few people are perfectly balanced in both of their languages; it is completely normal for bilinguals to feel more confident in one language than the other. So, say if you're in hospital and you need to explain to your doctor exactly what's wrong with you, would you rather: 

a) Use your second language, which you have trouble expressing yourself in and have a very restricted vocabulary

b) Use your first language, which you feel comfortable using and feel able to express yourself far more fluently in

This is something that many minority language speakers experience daily, and this is just one of many situations where being able to express yourself accurately and confidently is essential to your well-being. This is why it's important to have these jobs, to help make people feel confident and comfortable in a situation where they are already feeling vulnerable or are at risk. Now, is that really so bad?

Okay, but aren't these jobs just for Welsh speakers a form of racism?

First off, having a job advertised as 'Welsh speakers only plz' is not racist. Why? Because not a single one of these job advertisements have stated a need to actually be Welsh. You could be Welsh, English, Danish, Estonian, Japanese, whatever, it doesn't matter, you just have to be able to speak Welsh. The reason why people think that it's an issue of race is because, being a minority language, the majority of people who speak Welsh just happen to be Welsh

By this logic, you are also claiming that there is an ethnic difference between Welsh-speaking Welsh people and non-Welsh-speaking Welsh people. And to be fair, I'm pretty sure my mother and I aren't two completely different ethnicities. 

But it's discriminating against non-Welsh speakers who apply for that job!

Prioritising a Welsh-speaker over someone who doesn't speak Welsh for a particular job certainly does look discriminatory, and I don't blame anybody for believing so. But seriously consider this for a moment: aren't all jobs discriminatory

Hiring: Personal Assistant. Must have excellent people skills. 
Great, I'm socially inept and have zero people skills. This job is discriminating against introverts!

Hiring: Cleaner. Must have valid driver's licence as job will require travelling to various locations. 
I'm a great cleaner but I don't drive! I'm being discriminated against for being environmentally conscious!

Hiring: Nurse. Must have competent knowledge of Welsh as will be working in the Welsh language heartlands. 
I'm a fantastic nurse but I can't get this job because I don't speak the local language? This is discrimination!

Do you see what I mean?

What about positive discrimination/affirmative action?

I don't know where you stand on the whole 'positive discrimination' front, but it is a tricky topic. Is giving some people an advantage for being in a particular ethnic group really 'equality'? This isn't something I want to get into in this blog post, but I'm just going to argue why giving a Welsh speaker a job over a non-Welsh speaker isn't positive discrimination. 

Positive discrimination is the promotion and inclusion of a certain group in a particular occupation because they have been discriminated against in the past. 

This is precisely what is not happening in Wales with Welsh speakers. Why? Nobody has never been denied a job simply for being a Welsh speaker. The government is not trying to promote the visibility of Welsh speakers in the workplace because of past discrimination, rather they are trying to promote the visibility of the Welsh language so that Welsh speakers in the wider community can live their lives through the medium of Welsh. It's about ensuring that Wales is a truly bilingual country, not about getting Welsh speakers better jobs. 

But prioritising a Welsh speaker for a job undermines the whole idea of equal opportunity. 

No it doesn't. 

Equality of opportunity does not mean that anyone has the right to have whatever job they want. You have to be qualified. Giving a Welsh speaker a job over a non-Welsh speaker in a hospital in Gwynedd is no different to giving a job to a tractor driver over a non-tractor driver on a big farm. 

Being able to speak Welsh in the job market is a skill. It's being advertised in schools as an employable skill. It's not nationalistic or racist. It goes without saying that knowledge of English is necessary for the majority of jobs in Britain, why is it such a big problem when we ask for the same thing in a community of minority language speakers?