Friday, 10 February 2012

Writing in English and Welsh

Playwright Marged Parry writes: 
As the launch night for Agent 160 presents draws closer, I find myself becoming nervous and excited. .. which I believe is only natural. But then another more curious emotion creeps in… guilt. Don’t worry, I haven’t written about a specific person or ousted anyone’s secrets in my piece. My guilt is a linguistic one. Should I have written in Welsh? I don’t know. I have two languages at my disposal. I shouldn’t feel bad about using either. Perhaps it’s because English doesn’t need a leg up or need to be “represented”… do I feel that Welsh does? No, I don’t think so. The language is thriving… so this guilt about writing in Welsh shouldn’t really exist… maybe it’ll subside. Or maybe I’ll just get over it.

Marged Parry

When I sit down with a blank page in front me of me, I don’t decided there and then whether I’m going to write in Welsh just as I don’t decide whether I’m going to write a romance or a sci-fi. It all starts with an idea written hurriedly in my iphone (yes, I said it, my iphone, I’m one of those!). Depending on where I am, my mind set and my mood when I had the idea, the note will have been written in either English or Welsh. I find it can be rather dangerous to give the choosing of the language too much thought… when I have thought “I should write a play in Welsh” and tried to do it, I’ve got stuck in a political cobweb and failed miserably. If I stumble upon a Welsh idea, then that’s ok. However, having looked at the work I’ve produced in either language, there’s definitely a pattern.

If I’m writing about my family or my past, my childhood etc, I tend to write in Welsh. I prefer my Welsh poems. My English ones always sound like I’m trying to be Dylan Thomas but come out as an existential Barney the dinosaur. I can be a bit more philosophical in a Welsh poem and I think I’m stricter with myself when it comes to following a poem’s rules. I don’t write strict meter poetry but I place parameters on myself with syllable numbers, rhyming scheme etc . I like the uniformity of it but I’m not as strict with myself in English which means that my poems become a bit of an uncontrollable mish-mash. But I’m the one who chooses to do this so go figure. Perhaps the Welsh language makes me more structured.

If I’m writing about a larger idea, or the wider world outside of myself and Wales, I do tend to choose English as a language. I like the vastness of the English language. It’s the language of the globe, of commerce, of popular culture and is pretty much an amalgamation of all the languages in the world in some shape or form.

For my piece for Agent 160, I have actually written a piece that’s based in Wales but written in English. Let’s see how it goes.

I have questioned myself in the past - when I write in English, am I vainly hoping for more readers / audience members? I don’t think so because realistically, one probably has more of a chance of getting seen / read when writing in Welsh in Wales.

As a first language Welsh speaker who was bought up in Cardiff, I consider myself equally proficient in both languages and also feel an ownership over both. I live my life in both languages split pretty much 50/50. I speak Welsh with my family and at work because I work on a Welsh programme, I speak Welsh with my work friends and I also have friends outside of work who speak Welsh. My boyfriend and I speak English at home and I speak English with many of my friends and my boyfriend’s family. I enjoy my life in both these languages and take pride in the fact that I live in a multilingual country.

When people ask me about the “importance” of the Welsh language and how I feel about the use of public money being spent on translation in the public sector instead of hospitals and schools etc, it reminds me of the argument that people sometimes put forward when complaining about the arts receiving any kind of public funding. However, arts and culture (which includes language) are part of being human. They’re certainly part of my soul and when people ask me why I think the language is worth maintaining, the only answer I have is… because I like speaking it, writing it and I enjoy living in the world it provides me. I don’t think anyone can argue with that, can they?

Writing, art and language are how I express myself, be that in English or in Welsh and I think this is true of many people, especially women. I work in a creative industry and women populate a huge part of it. The statistic of doom that we keep going back to which is that only 17% of staged work in the theatre is written by women does sadden me. Women have a voice and it’s not about bra burning or scaring men, it’s just that we like writing and I thank Agent 160 for providing us with a stage… 3 stages actually. :o) 

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