Welsh (Cymraeg) is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa (the Welsh colony in Chubut Province, Argentina).
The 2011 UK Census counted almost 3 million residents of Wales. Of these, 73% (2.2 million) reported having no Welsh language skills. Of the residents of Wales aged three and over, 19% (562,000) reported being able to speak Welsh, and 77% (431,000) of these (that is, 15% of the total population) were able to speak, read, and write the language. This can be compared with the 2001 Census, in which 20.8% of the population (582,000) reported being able to speak Welsh. In surveys carried out between 2004 and 2006, 57% (315,000) of Welsh speakers described themselves as fluent in the written language.
Welsh has been spoken continuously in Wales throughout recorded history, but by 1911 it had become a minority language, spoken by 43.5% of the population. While this decline continued over the following decades, the language did not die out. By the start of the twenty-first century, numbers had begun to increase again. The 2004 Welsh Language Use Survey showed 21.7% of the population of Wales to be Welsh speakers, compared with 20.8% in the 2001 census, and 18.5% in 1991. The 2011 census, however, showed a slight decline to 562,000, or 19% of the population. The census also showed a “big drop” in the number of speakers in the Welsh-speaking heartlands.
[Description delivered by Lleuwen Steffan for the Language Fair]