Wales is approximately 150miles (242 km.) from north to south. About two – thirds of the total population of 2.8 million people live in the South Wales coastal area, where the three biggest towns are located: Swansea, Cardiff and Newport.
The Welsh are very proud of their language and culture. These are best preserved in the north and west of the country, for in the south and east they have been more challenged by industrialization. The west coast, mid Wales and North Wales are wild and beautiful !
Although visitors don’t need passports to cross the border from England into Wales they soon realise that they are entering a country with its own distinct geography, culture, traditions and, of course language.
Welsh is one of the Celtic languages, like Scottish and Irish Gaelic. It is estimated that Welsh is spoken by 16 to 20 per cent of the population, although in North and West Wales 50 per cent speak the language. The Welsh Language Act of 1967 said that all official documents should be in both languages, and most road signs are printed in English and Welsh.
Since the 1960s there has been increased interest in Welsh. At secondary schools almost 50 per cent of all pupils learn Welsh as a first or second language. Since 1982 there has also been an independent fourth TV channel broadcasting mainly in Welsh.
Although not many Welsh words are well known in England, the word eisteddfod is understood by almost everybody. This is the Welsh name for an annual competition where people meet to dance, sing and read poems. Usually, only Welsh is spoken and in recent years they have attracted people who wish to protest against the influence of English on the Welsh language and culture.