Us hanter-seythen Kows Kernewek
“Speak Cornish Week is our annual event where we encourage everyone to have some fun trying out a bit of Cornish language. We are hoping this year, we can also be a part of emerging from what feels like hibernation and starting to connect up our community life again.
When the lockdown first started, it was striking that a concern from Cornish language students and speakers was isolation and boredom. Some people need social interaction generally, some wanted their regular routine to continue – and some just wanted something else to think about.
Within the first week, a lecturer from Exeter University provided a training session for our Cornish language teachers on how to run classes using zoom and most of our Cornish classes have continued across Cornwall through the spring. An unforeseen benefit was that many of our teachers are members of other community groups and have helped those groups to shift meetings and activities online where that was possible.
This embrace of technology didn’t come out of the blue. One of the main problems for the Cornish language is that its speakers are scattered all over Cornwall, and indeed the world. But email and social media have connected the Cornish language community, we have apps to help learn Cornish and we have an online dictionary and other online databases so we can develop and share our knowledge. So the Cornish language community has had to move online to survive, and in many ways it works well for us.
Wherever possible, we have found ways to continue Cornish language activity, with business and research meetings moving online and our yeth an werins – social gatherings for speaking Cornish. And one of the interesting positives, apart from a lot less driving, is being able to involve Cornish speakers from Wales, London and across Europe.
The main losses have been stopping work with schools and no festivals and events to be a part of, which has particularly affected our voluntary groups. More fundamentally, we are concerned that we are making the digital divide wider than ever. We have been sending printed class sheets and phoning those without a computer, but this is clearly a second-rate service and we have lost some students.
After three months, the idea of a meeting or class in person seems
exciting. Once this is all over, I hope we can keep routine meetings online to save on travel and some of our classes so that they are easier to access, especially in winter. But to use meetings and events to really savour what happens when humans come together, for easy conversation, free flow of ideas, and the unpredictability of people enjoying themselves.”