For the past couple years, I’ve been noticing a considerable rise in the representation of Welsh (Cymraeg), Irish (Gaelige) and Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) in major film and television productions and here’s why these representations matter.
This occurred to me today while watching Netflix’s look behind the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, The Crown in which Prince Charles is preparing for his investiture of the title of Prince of Wales. Charles is sent to Wales to somewhat learn the Welsh language under Dr. Tedi Millward, a Welsh nationalist and politician and to recite a speech in the language in order to pacify the rising Welsh nationalist movement during the time. This made me think back to all the recent times I saw these languages represented: Irish, in The Nightingale, and Black 47′, Scottish Gaelic in Outlander, and now Welsh in The Crown. These wide scale representations matter as if you want to really know a people, you must first know of their language and then you can understand their history, culture, and national identities, especially with these languages. However, if their languages are extinct or are endangered of becoming extinct like Welsh, Irish, and Scottish Gaelic are, future generations will never be given a chance to know their historical or cultural impact, if they are not given a large enough platform for people to learn about them.
These languages are often not discussed enough outside of Britain and Ireland, without either stereotypical, or supposedly comedic manners. An example of this is the constant use of people trying to pronounce “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” a Welsh train station stop and people making comments on how Welsh uses so many vowels and other terrible comments like ones said in this BuzzFeed video from a few years ago. There are a lot of people that don’t even know that Wales is a country, let alone knowing that it’s people speak one of the oldest spoken languages in the world. By having international representations of these languages, film productions, and their works of art are sparking an interest in these languages, as well as the history and culture the language surrounds. Thus, giving hope to those that have striven to keep their ancestors’ culture and traditions alive despite the outside influence the language and its people were subjected to.
We see this in The Nightingale as the main character, Clare, an Irish ex-convict in Tasmania who is a native Irish speaker, communicates with her husband and child only in Irish as to stay connected to the land and people she was likely ripped from. In Black 47′ we see Feeney use the language in defiance of his enemies,and to stay closer to his and Ireland’s roots in spite of the increased physical and mental oppression English culture and the British government put on the Irish during the Famine, and in Outlander, we see the characters accurately speaking their native language and by doing so are also fighting for the survival of their culture. If we want to fully and accurately depict how people feel through the medium of film it should be, if it can be represented by their native languages as it more accurately represents who they are and how they feel. Just ask any anime fan, they always say its better to watched the subbed version, not the English dubbed.
These productions take their material seriously enough for them to be decently accurate as it garners the respect of these language communities enough to support them as they being the filmmakers are supporting their cause. If we are calling out for more representation in Hollywood, this representation can and should be used much more often.