‘One Million Speakers’ is “pipe dream” without “radical action”, says Plaid Cymru

The latest Census data on Welsh language skills, shows a decrease in the number of people reporting to be able to speak, read, understand and write Welsh. This is driven largely by a fall among children and young people who say they can speak Welsh.

Responding to the data, Heledd Fychan MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for children, young people and the Welsh Language, said:

“This data shows that it’s not enough to simply set a target – it needs to be backed up by action. The reality is we’re now further away from Labour’s goal of one million speakers by 2050 than we were ten years ago.

“While it’s encouraging to see an increase in the number of young adults reporting being able to speak Welsh, it’s extremely concerning to see such a fall in the number of children. This shows how critical the role of teachers with Welsh language abilities is, as well as investment in Welsh medium schools – we don’t have enough of either, so if Welsh Government are serious about reaching their target, they must ensure further investment in these areas.

“The decrease in adults being able to speak Welsh in those areas of Wales which have also seen a large rise in second homes shows the impact on the language when communities are torn apart in this way.

“Plaid Cymru has long campaigned to ensure that access to learning and using Welsh is available to everyone in Wales and it is seriously concerning to see this demise in Welsh speakers under Labour’s watch. Cymraeg belongs to everyone in Wales, but we need more than warm words to ensure our language survives – we need radical action.”


Main points (source: Welsh Government statistics)

  • On Census Day, 21 March 2021, an estimated 538,300 usual residents in Wales aged three years or older reported being able to speak Welsh, or 17.8% of the population.
  • This is a decrease of around 23,700 people since Census 2011, and 1.2 percentage points lower than Census 2011
  • The percentage of people aged three years or older able to speak Welsh in 2021 was the lowest ever recorded in a census.
  • Children aged 5 to 15 years old saw a 6.0 percentage point decrease in the proportion reported as being able to speak Welsh between 2011 and 2021. A similar decrease was seen for 3 to 4 year olds.
  • There were small increases in the percentage of people able to speak Welsh in the younger adult age groups (people aged 16 to 19 years old, and people aged 20 to 44 years old respectively).
  • There were decreases for the older age groups.