The British government should spend potentially hundreds of thousands of pounds funding a language with just 500 fluent speakers, the Council of Europe has said.
A report on the “protection of national minorities” accused the UK government of neglecting Cornish, criticising ministers for cutting funding of up to £150,000 a year for the language, despite the minuscule number of speakers.
In the 2011 UK Census, a total of 557 people listed Cornish as their main language, 464 of whom lived in Cornwall (out of a total population of over half a million). Around 3,000 people are believed to have some proficiency in the language.
The Council of Europe also expressed concern at a lack of funding for Cornish cultural events, such as St Piran’s Day on 5 March.
Cornwall is a county in the far South West of England which had its own language – closely related to Welsh – until it became extinct in the 18th Century. Various scholars tried to revive it in the 20th Century, with the number of speakers slowly rising.
However, the Council of Europe says the minority language has a “minimal profile”, and the five minutes a week of Cornish language programming on BBC Radio Cornwall are “totally insufficient”.
It also criticised the lack of teaching, saying: “Educational resources in Cornish are limited and there is a lack of teacher training in terms of language awareness, their own language skills and their ability to teach Cornish.”
The criticism came as part of a wider report claiming intolerance and hate speech were rising in the UK, adding that “global political events and concerns about immigration have contributed to anti-immigrant and anti-minority views in politics, the media and society at large in recent years”.
The Council of Europe was set up after the Second World War to uphold human rights and works alongside, but is not officially affiliated to, the European Union.