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Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Wales Smithsonian Cymru

Language and Literature:

Alive and Well in Wales

Welsh (Cymraeg) is one of the oldest languages in the world. Despite domination by the English and massive influxes of non-Welsh speakers over the years, the country can still claim that 20 percent of its population fluently speak the language. Some people call Welsh "The Language of Heaven" for its compatibility with music and poetry.

Eisteddfodau (aye-STETH-vod-eye) are competitions and celebrations of Welsh-language literature and music. The annual National Eisteddfod is the largest of its kind, culminating in the "chairing of the bard," which recognizes the composer of the best poem in a difficult strict meter.

Academi is the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency and Society for Authors. It finds inventive ways to encourage and support writers in Welsh and English, including the formation of Young People's Writing Squads, and sponsorship of lively "Poetry Stomps" in which audience members judge the poems. The Academi-sponsored bus tour, "Writers in Their Landscape," brings top Welsh writers, such as the National Poet of Wales, around the country for public readings.

  • In the 1860s, Welsh settlers founded a colony in Patagonia, Argentina, in part to find a place to continue speaking Welsh without the interference of the English.
  • The Welsh-language radio station, Radio Cymru, and Welsh-language television station, S4C (which stands for Sianel Pedwar Cymru/Channel Four Wales), are both available on the Internet.
  • The Great Cardiff Poem/Cerdd Fawr Caerdydd is a huge communal poem written by more than five hundred people in the Welsh capital city of Cardiff between 2007 and 2009.