Gool Peran lowen onen hag oll! (Happy St. Piran’s Day to one and all!)
It’s been a little bit more than two year of on-and-off with Cornish with me.
One thing you definitely should know if you are struggling with a less-commonly-learned language, feel free to take a break for a year or two and then come back to it when you feel like it. You will find that the material has multiplied! Guaranteed! (This happened with Cornish, Irish and Icelandic with me, actually)
Anyhow, for those of you who aren’t aware, Cornish is Welsh’s brother, and is one of two Celtic Languages (the other being Manx Gaelic) that have been “revived”.
That is to say, there came a time in which there were absolutely no native speakers left, and then there was a revival where people were encouraged to speak it again, albeit this has been on a smaller scale to day.
(Oh, and for those of you who want to learn more about Cornish, feel free to click on the category at the bottom of the page and read my articles that I wrote about the language when I was still a “Kernowegor” novice).
Another point worth mentioning is the fact that “Pirate English” an the “Pirate Accent” is heavily inspired by English in Cornwall, and some place names from Cornwall may be familiar to you, some of which are Cornish (Penzance / Pennsans) and others of which are English translations of Cornish names (St. Ives, Land’s End).
The book that started all of this was Henry Jenner’s “Handbook of the Cornish Language” in the very early 20th century. Having a look on English Wikipedia (as well as its Cornish translation!), I came across this quote:
“There has never been a time when there has been no person in Cornwall without a knowledge of the Cornish language … The reason why a Cornishman should learn Cornish, the outward and audible sign of his separate nationality, is sentimental, and not in the least practical, and if everything sentimental were banished from it, the world would not be as pleasant a place as it is.”
I think in a world in which late capitalism is encouraging a lot of us to thing about jobs and economy above all else (a mentality that must be changed and is guaranteed to poison us in too many ways to count if we continue), we should take Jenner’s words about sentimental things very seriously.
Too many people think about languages as “what can I get from it?”
Shockingly enough, even from that perspective, Cornish still wins on many fronts!
Yes, I know this may surprise you, but read on!
- Cornish will help you get a job more securely that almost all other languages.
Yes, you read that right. Granted, note I said “a job” not necessarily “the one”, but keep in mind that with minority cultures on the ascent (again, because of the mentality I described in the preface is going to have to be abandoned), Cornwall will be a place where more and more Cornish speakers will be sought, across many disciplines, and this can mean good things for you!
Teachers, content creators, those who do clerical work and beyond—if you want to live in the UK, Cornish would be an extraordinarily good bet for you to place.
Yeah, I know what you are thinking, “aren’t there about only a hundred speakers?”
As I may have written before on this site, this is one of the problems measuring the “worth” of a language by the amount of native speakers. Most Cornish users are non-natives. For Cornish, you would need to measure the amount of “active users”, which would be:
(on St. Piran’s Day Weekend, 2017, that’s Welsh you’re seeing on the right side of the page, by the way, not Cornish, although they are close.)
You read that right. 19,000 speakers on Facebook, which seems more or less correct to me based on my “gut feeling”.
And you can make it 19,001 if you give it time!
Speaking of the point about Native speakers…
- Not many languages can afford the full privileges of its usage as an L2. Cornish is one of them.
I love languages like Finnish and Irish, but given as I haven’t been raised speaking either, I will always have to realize the fact that, unless I commit 70,000 hours to the task, I will not speak at a native-level (e.g. be good enough to get translation jobs into that language, the native speaker will always win against me, however much he or she might appreciate my ability to speak these tongues). On the other hand, I have the upper hand as a native English speaker, even in comparison with countries that have very high levels of English proficiency (such as Scandinavia and the Netherlands).
Cornish, like Esperanto and Manx Gaelic, is primarily used by communities of non-native speakers, so if you get good enough you can even start getting the “full privileges” (e.g. being able to translate into Cornish), even if you were a learner a few years or even a few months ago.
Ask anyone who has learned Cornish to a high level. He or she will say that it was really hard starting out but then it clicked with extraordinary ease not too far down the line.
Listen to the Radyo an Gernewegva Podcast (my favorite in the world), you may encounter some speakers of Cornish who may stumble or even lapse into English, but they still carry forth proudly…and get on one of the Cornish Language Revival’s flagship podcasts!
Speaking of that podcast…
- The Cornish Revival is Creating an Dizzyingly Diverse Array of Content!
Kernowegoryon (Cornish Speakers) like myself are keenly aware of the fact that there are people out their making fun of or belittling our efforts. I even considered writing a piece about “things people have said to me about the Cornish Language” instead of this encouraging piece you are now reading.
So what do we do?
Try to make the content as interesting and attractive as possible!
And get everyone involved!
I’ve even encountered Cornish-language videos made by preschoolers!
That’s not also to mention Monty Python / Star Trek / Beatles Songs rendered into Cornish as well as original content on Cornish Language media such as “George ha Samantha” or this album which I have put here in full (lyrics and track listing in the description), Philip Knight’s “Omdowl Morek” (Sea Wrestling):
I also recommend “Hanterhir” and “The Changing Room”, as well as all of the diverse goodies you can listen to by poking around RanG as well as the rest of the web.
Who knows? Maybe the next big star on the Cornish music scene can be you.
And this brings me to my final point.
- I’ll just leave this right here…
Radyo an Gernewegva is here to boost the Cornish language and Cornish music.
We play music primarily in the Cornish language, or instrumental traditional Cornish music. We also play music in the other Celtic languages. We are now going to start making a distinction.
We will give emphasis to promoting any musician or group that has a Cornish speaker as a member, or has a member ACTIVELY learning Cornish.
This is meant as an encouragement to groups to learn the language and use it more. Active promotion means we will not only play any music in Cornish or instrumentals, but will help you put together a Cornish language radio ad for the station and talk it up too.
Be aware as well, that RanG is about to go on three of Cornwall’s community stations. It is time that more Cornish musicians got down to learning the language – and we hope this will be an encouragement/incentive.
Like getting yourself out there?
Want to learn a language?
Your choice is made.
I’m done here.
Chons da! (Good luck!)