Wales politics

Plaid Cymru's Leanne Wood 'angry' over her lack of Welsh

Leanne Wood
Image caption Leanne Wood said her Welsh-speaking grandfather was made to feel the language was "backward"

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood has said she is "bitter about losing out on all the culture" of Wales as she is not a fluent Welsh speaker.

The Rhondda AM told party activists she was resigned to not being fluent, but would not stop learning the language.

She wanted every pupil in Wales to learn it by having at least some schooling through the medium of Welsh.

Ms Wood launched her campaign to retain the Plaid Cymru leadership entirely in Welsh at the National Eisteddfod.

Ms Wood is being challenged for her job by Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth, who also addressed activists at a leadership event in Cardiff on Tuesday.

Speaking about her proficiency in Welsh, the Plaid leader told party members: "A lack of confidence is a barrier.

"I've lost count of the times I have felt uncomfortable when Welsh speakers turn to English because of me.

"But more than anything, I feel angry. Angry that I have lost something so valuable - something I deserve to have and something my grandfather had."

'Backward'

Ms Wood's grandfather Maurice James lived in Llechryd, near Cardigan, before moving to the Rhondda, where she was then born and grew up.

She said the Welsh language left the family from the moment her grandfather was told that Welsh was "backward".

Ms Wood said she wanted every pupil in Wales to be taught in a bilingual or Welsh medium school.

But she added: "We had compulsory lessons in school that were not particularly enjoyable - there was an inability to see how those lessons were related to the outside world."

Image copyright Plaid Cymru
Image caption Adam Price and Rhun ap Iorwerth are challenging Leanne Wood for the Plaid Cymru leadership

Ms Wood said she had a "cultural awakening" at university, but told BBC Wales of a gap in her understanding.

"I have a lot of friends who speak Welsh," she said.

"They speak a lot about various events, be it [Eisteddfod crown winner] Catrin Dafydd's poetry or a play that might have been on.

"I'm just aware I can't appreciate them - even though I might understand most of the words, I'm not able to get all the nuances.

"There's a big chunk missing in my understanding of the cultural experience of this country which makes me feel very angry."

As she faced a contest for the leadership of Plaid Cymru, Ms Wood said it was important for the party's leader to show a positive attitude towards the language but did not think the Plaid leader or first minister should have to be a Welsh speaker.

About one in five of the population of Wales speak Welsh, according to the 2011 census which recorded 562,000 Welsh speakers.

At the Eisteddfod in 2016, First Minister Carwyn Jones unveiled a drive to almost double the number of Welsh speakers to one million by 2050.

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